The Role of History

Recently, I’ve been reading DB Jackson’s Dead Man’s Reach, the latest entry in The Thieftaker Chronicles. Since the series is set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, history isn’t just an impacting force on the story, it drives the setting and immediate events. The latest entry is no different since it includes many of the events leading to the Boston Massacre.

This has made me think what is the role of history in a story?

As with the Thieftaker books, history can directly shape the setting. It’s clear when dealing with something like 1770 Boston, but what about another place? Or another world?

The same idea still applies. Just look at Dune. Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic takes place on a trio of planets, all of which are shaped by a historical war against thinking machines. Siri and Cortana wouldn’t be invited to the palace of the Padishah Emperor, much less to the Sietches of the Fremen.

History touches modern ideals, pushing them one way or another. Even writing something in a modern setting, we’re still figuring out how to deal with terrorist attacks to the point we can’t decide how much freedom we’re willing to give up to be safe.

Fun question: how does history impact your favorite story?


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