Editorial note from Galactographic! Magazine.
Galactographic! is the successor to the National Geographic magazine that proved so popular on the pre space-travel home of humanity.
Monthly, National Geographic was filled with articles about the planet and all its diverse wonders. Little remains of the early editions, the full archive was destroyed in the Holy Wars of the fourth Federation, some records may exist among the Independent Worlds but since few people ever venture there we cannot be certain.
We do know that once space travel began in earnest, the magazine outgrew its roots, with a galaxy to marvel at; it had plenty to write about.
Occasionally Galactographic considers fictional matters, in this article the editor, Lev Alysom, looks at the role of the past in entertainment.
Historical Fiction, its place today.
Everyone loves history. And everyone loves stories about history. It doesn’t seem to matter which part of history or even if it’s based on fact or merely conjecture. I think it’s the escape from the reality of the present, escape into a past which, although in theory was less civilised than the present, offers a vision of life without the lying politicians, grasping corporations and myriad other problems of living in the eighty-third century.
And perhaps the most surprising thing, in this era of 4D holo-soaps and fully immersive virtual reality; the most popular form of entertainment is still the transviewer, the fold up book reader with typewritten pages of text. Its design hasn’t changed in millennia; it just can’t be bettered for function.
And its content is the novel, a story form that’s as old as humanity, a fictional account based on a fact or idea. And the most popular genre of the novel is someone’s interpretation of history.
I must admit to having a vested interest in this subject. My distant forebear Ballantyne Alysom was an adventurer in the early days of the First Federation. With his ship the Far Explorer, he led the way in documenting the wonders of the universe, carrying on the work of National Geographic and expanding it into the new age as Galactographic.
Indeed, the trend for Historical writing was boosted by his account of survival after the Far Explorer crashed on the planet that gave him his greatest discovery. Old copies of “Survive the Savage Wilderness,” are valued and even now; several thousand years after the event, authors still ponder and analyse his actions and motivations.
Many “Alysomettes” still pen pieces of fan-fiction regarding his exploits. A lot of them make me cringe but that’s another tale!
Speaking personally, I feel like I know Ballantyne through the writing of others, the stories mean that he is as alive today as he was then, although if he really did everything that’s claimed he must have lived to be about two hundred.
And the time he lived in was exciting, there was a whole galaxy out there to explore, now that more than half of the galaxy has been settled it seems boring, there’s talk of journeying to Andromeda and even that isn’t met with much enthusiasm. The suggestion is that there are no interesting people to write about these days.
And as well as stories based on the factual accounts of the past there are the writers of heroic battles that never happened and the chroniclers of forgotten settlements on mythical planets. Not forgetting tales both real and imaginary of triumph over the adversities of wild places, places that now are beacons of civilisation.
As there are so many planets to consider, there are so many great authors in the present. People like Sharkti Oni, Constance Fey, and Mitchell O’Johannson are known all over the Federation. They take a known historical event and weave a world around it, whether it’s tales of the Cattle Barons of Plax, with their vast estates and wild parties or the chronicles of the Holy Wars, when the Federation and the Independent worlds separated amid chaos and recrimination.
And who can ignore the “Blessed Saga,” a sprawling series supposedly concerned with the rise and fall of a government based on religion. There is so much truth in the plot that it’s hard to tell which part is the fiction and Kester Haral is both feted and hated, depending on which side you support.
Then there are the legendary writers of the past, Ron Anvil, Geraldine McCall and May Blee, who wrote of the legendary pirates of the Rim. The characters they created; with names like Rixon, Travise, Chenko and Dolmen may never have existed but their exploits in the lawless days of early exploration are based on the odd snippet of fact.
Funnily enough, it doesn’t seem to matter how much blood is spilt or how many shattered spaceships crash and burn in these tales; they still attract those who dream of a better life. It surely says a lot about our present situation that there are so many who long for the violent past.
And as we go further back the evidence is that the great tradition of glorifying history has always been with us. And the popularity of the genre. Many of the ancient fables have no known author, yet they still influence us with their truth and morals.
Right from the earliest days of humanity and the written word, it seems as if we have always longed for a better time, the sad thing is that the more we are told the present is better than ever, the more we try to go back to the past. It seems that when we left the confines of a single world we bought all our vices and emotions with us, the good and the bad.
Of course, there are those, the boring ones, who say the world of the novel is not real, that if we really lived in those times we would see that it wasn’t as good as it seemed. I always thought that they were missing the point in their haste to dissect and disprove. What is the cost of being right? Is it worth sacrificing pleasure because of interpretation? Should accuracy triumph over enjoyment?
People have always needed to escape and the universe has never been perfect. The authors of historical fiction know this and understand it. Reading a good book can help you escape, if only for a while. We don’t read to be reminded of the bad bits, we read to give us the hope of the good bits.
Long may it continue.
Richard Dee’s note.
I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the world of Galactographic, it’s a developing project for me; if you click here you can see another article in the same vein. The world of Rixon, Travise, Chenko and Dolmen is explored in Freefall and its soon-to-be-published prequel Myra.
Survive the Savage Wilderness; the story of Ballantyne Alysom is a work in progress.
Also on my website are pieces of flash fiction, details of my novels and a lot more, why not have a look around while you’re here.