Thursday, November 11, 2021

Crichton & writing history


Michael Crichton sets the bar very high for historical fiction, esp. for Timeline and the book I'm reading now, which is better known by the title The 13th Warrior (there's a movie starring Antonio Banderas). It's the true story of a Muslim diplomat who gets sidetracked from his mission, and ends up "adventuring" with a group of Norsemen for several years and fighting "monsters."

This story is based on translations of that ambassador's accounts, which he wrote down after returning to Baghdad. It gave a dramatically different version of the Norsemen, who had previously only been portrayed by the clergy of the town's they raided (cuz they were who could write it down) and Roman historians who simply termed them "Barbarians."

You can learn a lot just from reading the intros. to some of his books, the history to put the story in context. He's one of my favorite fiction writers and the only one I know of to have these types of intros. and a full bibliography at the end of his books.

Sure Stephen King (one of my favorites) says in his book On Writing, that you shouldn't focus on research, but storytelling, and basically worry about sorting out facts when you edit (to paraphrase). And, Yes, Mr. King is a master storyteller. But I cannot discount the high-quality products that come from a writer who so heavily researches all of his historic fiction and sci-fi stories (like Jurassic Park & The Andromeda Strain).

(as an aside, The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova also had a good amount of historic research, yet still wove an intriguing tale)

It is undeniably good stuff. I'm also sure that Crichton is an anomaly among writers and that I stand little chance of living up to such a great researcher/writer.

But I will sure try. 
— reading Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton.

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