When we put together The Long and Short of It, I thought I’d write an introduction to each story, telling how and why it came about, what was the thinking behind it and the circumstances under which it was written.
I personally thought this brief glimpse into my thought processes would frighten the living daylights out of normal, intelligent, charming people – i.e. my readers – but not so. The intros proved to be nearly as popular as the stories themselves, and that’s not hurtful at all, is it?
Anyway, I was struggling away at the typeface when the command came down from the cloud-cloaked Accent Press penthouse.
‘The intros went quite well. It might be a good idea to do one for the next book. Only a suggestion, of course.’
As an author, I know on which side my bread’s buttered. As an Accent Press author, I know on which side the electrodes are lubricated, and made haste to comply.
‘Oh, and for God’s sake make the book a bit more cheerful this time,’ was the supplementary command, relayed by a sweating minion. ‘Your last effort traumatised so many readers we had to set up a counselling group.’
While on this subject, I’ve been asked to say that for anyone still suffering the after-effects of that fine book And the Rest Is History, a few places still remain on the Accent Press sponsored Oh For God’s Sake Get Over It and Stop Being Such a Baby Support Group. Sessions are held every Wednesday and are open to all. To enrol, please bring either the deeds of your house or your first-born – whichever can be most easily translated into cash.
So, here it is, the next Chronicle. An Argumentation of Historians – and yes, it is, I think, a little more light-hearted. There are no fewer disasters, but everyone is very cheerful about them because, of course, I’m not lulling you all into a false sense of security at all, am I?
Anyway, to bang on with the intro: there are certain time-travel scenarios I never wanted to get involved with. For instance, the one where the heroine goes back in time and is swept off her feet by a handsome contemporary who, inexplicably, falls in love with a woman with no land, no fortune, no skills and no important male relations either to protect her or give her status. Never mind that she looks strange, speaks even more strangely, is entirely ignorant of the world around her, and seems not to have any idea of her proper place in it. Despite all that their love would cross time itself – she would abandon everything for his sake – and they would live happily ever after.
No heroine of mine – I said – would ever fall in love with a contemporary and, inexplicably, abandon hot baths, chocolate, antibiotics, dentists, central heating, universal suffrage, contraception, tea, Toad-in-the-Hole, bras, soap that doesn’t strip your skin away, Lycra, books, and the safe removal of a volatile appendix, to live in a cold, damp, draughty castle with no plumbing – indeed no comforts of any kind – no matter how handsome and romantic the hero.
And then I thought: well, what if the hero wasn’t romantic at all? In any way. And neither was the heroine. What if they could barely communicate? What if their mindsets were worlds apart? What if he found her behaviour inexplicable? What if, despite all her best efforts to fit in, she lurched from one crisis to the next, astounding and frightening those around her? How long would she last?
Everyone has their own place in time. They may not like it. It might not be pleasant. But it’s their place and it fits them perfectly and to leave it is always to court catastrophe.
An Argumentation of Historians is available to pre-order on audible now here.
And is available for you American audible-ers here.