Sunday, December 4, 2011

Idea Garage Sale: The Ultimate History Series

I've been feeling a bit uncommunicative this week and I still have to recreate a character sheet before this afternoon's game, so back I go to the "Notes and Experiments" file folder, where all the random stuff I scribbled down on wastepaper while bored at various soul-sucking day jobs wound up.

Man, the pressure of frustrated ambition used to build up back when I didn't have any control over my own time!

Consider this plan for a Texas history series.

I'd start with the Indians, maybe one book about an Indian living before European contact; then, one each for her descendants living in the various phases of Spanish/Mexican rule - shorthanded in the notes as "Mission/Military/Civil." In other words, Texas was administered by the Spanish first through the church, then through the military, and finally through the civil authority. The change of power from Spanish to Mexican was not a significant one from the point of view of the far northern territory of Texas - both Spain and Mexico relied on a centralized authority that never really controlled the fringes of the claimed territory or understood the needs of the people, native or colonial, who lived there.

From there, the stories would get closer together in time and include more overlapping characters as I proceeded to a book covering the Revolution and the Runaway Scrape, then the Republic, then some portion of the Antebellum period, then the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age/Cattle Age/Wild West (which are all the same historical period), World War I and the flu epidemic, Jazz Age, Depression, and World War II.

The notes end with a bunch of doodles and the following thoughts:

Books should be as ethnic as possible - tribes, Mexican, slave, German, various first generation immigrants. Emphasis on the more neglected crises - economic, climactic, medical. Old-fashioned domestic novels, or the traditional juvenile/historical romance? Room for both.

This cries out for pseudonymity. Susannah Long. Jane Dickens. Magnolia Strasse. Antonia Balcones. Kelly Randolph. Sandy Fernando.

At which point either the day ended, I got some work to do, or I realized I was getting silly. Though I really need to name some sims Magnolia Strasse, Sandy Fernando, and Kelly Randolph...

Anyway, had I been willing to devote my life to this and nothing else, I could have been the Rosemary Sutcliff of Texas. And I contend that every single one of these periods merits further fictional exploration; yes, even the Wild West, which is overdue to have its cliches shaken up with some different viewpoints, hard facts, and maverick interpretations of events.

Regular readers of the Garage Sale will have noted that the Impractically Thorough Historic Series is a recurring theme in my imagination. You'll see it again, I'm sure. There's just so much potential - especially in Texas history, but I bet any arbitrarily designated patch of ground would reward the researcher almost as much. Texas wears its history on its sleeve. Just because Iowa is shyer, doesn't mean it's less interesting.

For those of you without my mental network of references, the sources of the pseudonyms are:

Jane Long, the Mother of Texas.
Susanna Dickenson, Alamo survivor.
And of course Charles Dickens, who would have written awesome westerns had he been born a Texan.

Magnolia Avenue, where I live; Strasse of course is German for Street. (Adele Verein would be another good name, since the Adelsverein was the name of the organization that financed the most famous influx of German settlers.)
Balcones Heights, the name of the area where I live, and the Balcones Escarpment, the geological feature dividing Texas in two and on which San Antonio is built.

San Fernando Cathedral.

And Kelly and Randolph Air Force bases. Damon was working at Kelly when I met him, and we were stationed at Randolph when my little sister was born.

We all have these networks in our heads. Exploring them can be fruitful, or merely dizzying.


  1. Should the story end with WW2? What about NASA, the Great Society, Civil Rights, Dubya?

    And so it doesn't end with a whimper, top it off with a speculative rendering of Texas as it will be when petroleum is a substance coaxed from the ground in minute quantities for a few specialized industrial uses, and Galveston is visited only by SCUBA divers?

  2. Continuing it past WWII would depend on sales figures and whether I'd succumbed to Alzheimer's yet. :) I automatically ended it at that point because later than that doesn't feel like history to me.