historical fiction and thoughtcrime

I had an interesting discussion recently with someone on LiveJournal (yes LiveJournal still exists) on the subject of historical fiction. She’s a writer and she was advised by a  publisher that if she tried her hand at historical fiction she should be sure to make all her characters modern characters. The advice was that any attempt to make the characters of their time was a definite no-go. The beliefs, attitudes and speech of the characters must be 21st century regardless of the historical setting.

This to me defeats the entire purpose of historical fiction. If there’s no attempt to make the characters think and behave as they actually would have thought and behaved at the time, then why bother?

The problem of course is that the way people used to think and behave is now unacceptable. It doesn’t conform to our official religion of political correctness. So political correctness must now be imposed on the past. It’s all very Orwellian.

And not only do we now get politically correct historical fiction, we also get fiction written in the past censored to remove the more politically incorrect bits. Yes, this is happening, although most people are not aware of it. I recently bought the Wordsworth Editions paperback release of some of the Bulldog Drummond thrillers written by H. C. McNeile (under the pseudonym Sapper) and in the introduction the editor proudly tells us that he’s censored it in the interests of cultural sensitivity.

Never underestimate the obsessive thoroughness with which the Thought Police approach their task. Even dead writers can be convicted of thoughtcrime.


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