I’m Trying To Write Fiction But History Keeps Coming Out.

William Spivey
Oct 4 · 4 min read

I’m working on a novel, it’s at least historical fiction although it straddles a couple of other genres including sci/fi fantasy. It covers a period of time between the early 1800s and the present so it required a lot of research. It also takes place in four continents of which I’ve only been to two of them so, “a lot of research” is a bit of an understatement. My plan is to be traditionally published which means getting representation by a literary agent, finding a publisher, editing, editing, and more editing. The bottom line is the novel might not see the light of day for two years or more if ever. I’ve found I can’t keep the history I’ve uncovered inside me that long. It’s like the song lyric, “I’ve got a praise and I’ve gotta let it out!”

Most of what is forcing its way to the surface is American history although from time to time I might let a little European, African, or Central American history slip out. I thought I had a good grasp on American history but I’ve found almost everything I thought I knew was wrong, especially if it had to do with slavery. I’ve taken to asking the question, “How did slavery impact that situation?” The answer almost always turns out to be that slavery had a great impact. An example would be the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. The act provides that US Troops cannot be deployed to enforce domestic policies on American soil. My presumption was that it was to prevent a military coup as happens in other nations. I watched an episode of “West Wing” titled Posse Comitatus in which the fictional President Jed Bartlet had to work around the act to assassinate a despot who had visited the United States. No mention of slavery whatsoever. One day I asked myself what did Posse Comitatus have to do with slavery? The answer was it was implemented to ensure that Federal troops never return to the South where they had protected the freed slaves after the Civil War. Another low spot in history, the Compromise of 1877 allowed for the removal of those troops which ended Reconstruction and ushered in Jim Crow.

American history is like that, what’s taught puts the best spin on things so we can still look to the Founding Fathers as heroes and not see them also as flawed men. George Washington didn’t have wooden teeth buy had dentures made of teeth pulled from slaves among other materials. Thomas Jefferson gave each slave family one blanket every three years (except when he was President when the overseer of Monticello gave them none). The Constitution which established that the International Slave Trade could be ended after twenty years was not setting the stage for ending slavery. It was an allowance that South Carolina could keep importing African slaves before Virginia and Maryland slaveowners could implement protectionist measures to keep the value up of domestic slaves, often forced breeding involving marriages approved of by the masters or flat out rape.

I keep plugging away on my novel. But forgive me if from time to time a little history slips out because I can’t keep it contained.

William Spivey

Written by

Writer, poet, wannabe philosopher. I write about politics, race and social justice. Sometimes I change it up and discuss relationships and romance. It depends.

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