Respectable? Probably not

Someone once asked me how I managed to imagine the different cultures and different societies that make up a fantasy world. I suppose the easy answer is that I’ve lived in them.
Now this isn’t entirely true. (In that it’s like most fantasy novels so we’re off to a good start.) But when I look back at the world I was born into, it is a very different one to the one I see around me now. For a start the vast majority of working class men I knew had had military training and had been in the war. But looking back to an even stranger world, I grew up with my father’s stories of life as a farm worker between the wars. Where a lad might earn thirteen pounds a half year, and at night you could hear the rats chewing your corduroy britches because of the milk spilled on them when hand milking. Oh and there were no underclothes because you couldn’t afford them.
As a boy in short trousers (because yes, I’m old enough to remember when you were a teenager before you went into long trousers) I sat and listened to two old men talk about their experiences in Flanders in 1916 and I heard my Grandmother talk about the problems of running a household consisting of her husband, daughters, hired men and a couple of girls taken on to help out.
All this is before we add in the stories of friends of mine who were born in the Philippines, or Nigeria, or India, never mind those who spent their formative years behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ or China.
Then of course there is the past. I’ve just finished reading ‘Marathon, Freedom or Death’ by Christian Cameron. I enjoyed the book; set in the Greece of the Persian Wars it paints a vivid picture of the period. Not only does the author take you into the society, but what I think is really clever is he gives the impression of society changing as he writes about it.
When you keep your ears open you soon realise that reality can be stranger than fiction. Indeed there is so much good stuff out there; it almost seems a waste to go to the length of making things up.
But yes, I make it up as well. If I didn’t I’d be a historian and respectable.

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