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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What is the best time to be alive?

Richard Blake

Historical novelist Richard Blake — engaged with the present, very aware of the past — would seem to be a good person to answer the question, "When was the best time to be alive?" And so Blake answers the question, and sombunall RAW fans may well find that it tracks with with RAW's techno-optimism.  In the ancient world, he explains, life wasn't so great even for the 1 percent:

Look now at the cities. Perhaps one in twenty of those living there were in easy circumstances. The rest were effectively beggars. Their life expectancy was lower than in the country. Or look at the higher classes. They had baths and slaves and pretty clothes. But they had no tea or coffee or proper dentistry, nor any effective pain relief. They had no spectacles. When the black rats turned up with their fleas carrying the Pasteurella pestis bacillus, the rich died just as horribly as the poor.

Related: Blake has a new novel out. I've already bought a copy. 

My interview with Blake (aka Sean Gabb) is here. 

It's one of my better interviews and you really should read it. Here's a bit where he talks about the right language for historical novels:

 This brings me to language, which is a problem in all historical fiction. Let me begin by showing how it shouldn’t be done. Take this:

 The King rose up upon his couch. “Thou shalt, before this night is out,” he quoth, “mount upon thy trusty charger and bring me the head of the false Bobindrell.”

 Whether people may once have spoken like this in England is beside the point. What matters is that it sounds ridiculous now, and it distances a reader from the characters in a novel. Whether your novel is set in England c1550, or some other time and place, here is how I suggest it should be done:

Still smiling, the King leaned closer. “I want the fucker dead,” he breathed. “I don’t care how you do it. Just make sure none of the blame ever drifts my way.” He took another swig from his cup and went back to watching the jugglers.


fyreflye said...

Game of Empires. There's a title that ought to sell a few copies.

Sean Gabb said...

One can certainly hope!

tony smyth said...

What? no Gadzooks, methinks or any other hip mediaeval phraseology allowed?

nakchtra devi said...
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