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Sunday, June 28, 2009

What Time (period) is it?

This month has raced by! School is over, I've taken the GRE's (still waiting to see what score I got on the Analytical Writing section) and now summer is in full swing! I have two months until school starts again, and I'm planning on getting the first draft of a new book mostly done before September rolls around.

I have a schedule, but this week it went right out the window, because I had to go and buy a new car. Then I started Tweeting and time just disappeared. But I DID start a new book, and I researched too - it's the Steampunky (I don't think it's going to be a true steampunk, because the machines are going to be more background than vital - well, except for one) Cinderella retelling.

I went round and round with this story before deciding on a time period. First it was going to be 1880 England. I would write about the Season, because what is Cinderella without a ball? Then I though...nah, been done. Then I went to NYC- better. But I finally settled on 1876 Philadelphia. Why 1876?? Doesn't it seem random? Well, no, not really. 1876 was HUGE year in Philly. It was the 100th anniversary of America, and there was the Centennial Exposition in Fairmount Park. You'd call it a World's Fair. This was the very first one. I've spent hours researching it, just to see what was there. The Free Library of Philadelphia has a terrific site with pictures and everything.

What this comes down to is research. I won't bore you with all the details, but it's fa ascinating bit of history that will serve well in the background of my story. And that brings up a question: how accurate do you like your historical fantasy to be? Would anyone but me know much about the Centennial Exposition? Maybe, but probably not. But I like to get the facts right when I can. I could have made up something like a World's Fair for the purposes of my story, but since there is already a real event, why shouldn't I use it? I think it'll be cool if anyone decides to look up the Exposition to find out it really happened.

That isn't to say that I can't bend time a little - I am moving Wanamaker's from it's original location on Market Street (where I think the current Reading Terminal Market is now) to the more well-known location near City Hall, which didn't open until a few decades later. Wanamakers actually DID open in 1876, though. All this research will make the story more real to me, I guess, although I don't know what it will do for my readers. It's one more layer of a time period not many are familiar with. (Never mind I bought a coloring book of Godet's Fashions in order to get the period dress right. We won't talk about that.)

So what do you think: Does research make better fantasy? Not just historical, but any type.

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