One of the most frequent questions I am asked regarding writing historical fiction is how I get my research together. How much time. Where from, etc. While there are of course numerous channels, the most prevalent and the most reliable, is literature itself. No matter what time period or what people your writing concerns, there is always a book, ballad, a poem, a song, something you can dig up and get the very best representation of a time and place as there is in the world.
Archaeology might tell us that Greece really did sack Ilium. But only poetry can tell us why.
Nothing in this world captures a time and a place and a people like the writing they produced. This is why I am adamantly against censorship in this time – we need to leave an accurate record of ourselves in art as well. And as sweet an idea as it may be that everyone gets along, that everyone thinks and acts in a socially progressive and fiscally sensible manner, it just isn’t true. There is homophobia, bigotry, racism, religious extremism for every faith, misogyny, transphobia, Nationalism, speciesism, Conservatism, and every other kind of hatred and irrationality in the world today. Alive and well. Rife, in fact, in a lot of circles and places. And as much as we may hate that – as ashamed as we may be that we haven’t accomplished this or that yet as a species and a society, we need it to be represented in literature.
Just like we need Mark Twain’s excessive use of the n-word, Shakespeare and Dickens’ anti-Semitism, and Ian Fleming’s misogyny to remind us how far we’ve come, we need the regressive ideas of contemporary writers to remind us how far we still have to go and for future generations to know where we were in the struggle for liberte, fraternite, et egalite.