Never when I was younger–high school and before–did I like I would salivate about learning. If I was required to plant my butt at a school desk, I was squirming, looking at the clock, and counting down to the bell’s ring. I enjoyed writing and reading well enough, but those subjects were not my obsessions then as they are today.With other subjects I was the kid groaning, “When am I ever going to need this stuff?!” College opened my eyes to how compelling history, philosophy, and other subjects could be. It was also during college that I moved from reading horror novels to fantasy. Creating fantasy worlds an author needs to have a firm grasp of history, politics, economics, language. These things are essential to the make up of social systems and cultures. Writing fantasy an author creates these aspects to give meat to their novel.
History is important to fantasy writers. We have to create lore that never existed and sometimes existing religions, historical events, and people influence that creation. Lots of research is essential before even putting down the first word to paper. Read Saladin Ahmed’s article on the importance for rich fantasy worlds, he goes into greater detail than I am now (click here to visit the article at NPR.com).
As a writer I’m always looking for ways to enrich my understanding of our world’s history, to find inspiration. Textbooks from high school were good sources but they lacked unbiased truth. Government controlled education tends to be and is probably one of the reasons why many students hate being in a classroom. The material is dry, stale, and cookie cutter. It is not filling. A friend of mine–ironically a high school history teacher with a lot of zeal and always looking for ways to engage his students–told me about a history podcast. The podcast is hosted by Dan Carlin, a commentator of politics, amateur historian, and former radio host. I am a handful of episodes in right now and I cannot get enough of Carlin’s show. This is water cooler history, not a lecture. Carlin speaks about history as if he’s having a conversation with his listeners. He is engaging, energetic, and talks to rather than down to his listeners. I find what is best, is Carlin tends to explore cause and effect, how events in history affect how we live today. Usually he focuses on specific events in periods like the Cold War, the Greek and Persian War, the Revolutionary War.
Quick! Before I began rambling incoherently, go and check out the podcast.
I cannot recommend this podcast enough. Lovers of history will enjoy Carlin’s musings and unconventional insights. For those people who’ve thought history is boring and filled only with stuffy dead people and events that have nothing to do with their lives of iPhones and DVRs, this podcast should spark their interests and inspire. It’s a clean podcast so teenagers can enjoy the episodes. Carlin has said many times that know as much about history as he does has renewed fiction for him forever, that’s because the good stuff that is watered down in grammar school class rooms is so much more dramatic and outrageous. He shares that wonder.
Go check out Hardcore History and visit Dan Carlin’s website by clicking here.