Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Guest Post: The Pull Of The Past by MeiLen Miranda

Please help me welcome MeiLen Miranda, author of the Paranormal Erotic Romance The Amber Cross who is here today talking about The Pull Of The Past. 

The Pull of the Past

I often say I can't escape the 19th century, no matter what I do. My favorite writers either lived in or wrote about the age: Patrick O'Brian, Susannah Clark, Georgette Heyer, Anthony Trollope, Jane Austen, and many more. I even live in a house built in 1889, though by the time I got it, any Victorian character had been irreversibly remodeled out of it.

What is it about the past that lures us, both as readers and writers? Pre-mid-20th century, the world wasn't a particularly great place. Women had few rights, people of color even fewer. Medicine was backwards at best. Many, if not most, families lost at least one child. But we return to it constantly.

Sometimes we romanticize it. A lot of medieval-esque fantasy does this; think of Tolkein's Shire. Who doesn't want to visit such a peaceful, happy place? (Me, I want a hobbit house.) But even when the writer chooses a grittier reality, either medieval or 19th century--for instance, George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" books, or Cherie Priest's "Clockwork Century" series--we still feel comfortable somehow. I have a hard time, myself, reading books set in the present day, no matter how fantastical.

My friend and collaborator on the steampunk fantasy series "The Drifting Isle Chronicles," Joseph Robert Lewis, has this to say:

"[T]he power of historical novels, fantasy or otherwise, is the opportunity to explore the very real stories of the amazing people who helped build our modern world, as well as the opportunity to shared that knowledge with our readers, to bring history alive for them in all the wonderful ways that our school teachers so often didn't."

That's definitely part of it. But I think there's more.

I reviewed Tina Connolly's Edwardian steampunk fantasy "Ironskin" last year for Portland Monthly; the book is up for a Nebula award for best novel. "Ironskin" is set in a kind of industrial revolution, where humans are adopting mechanical technology to replace rapidly disappearing fae technology.

Connolly's book is set in an alternate past and is a retelling of the classic "Jane Eyre." In that review, I talked about why we return to classics, reworking and retelling them over and over. Shakespeare did. Heck, the ancient Greeks did. We are drawn as humans to archetypal stories. But I also noted in passing how Connolly's novel directly addresses the stresses of the industrial revolution.

What we think of today as the historical novel didn't really come to the fore as a distinct setting until writers like Sir Walter Scott, whose first novel came out in 1814. That same year, as the Napoleonic War raged on, the first steam locomotive went into service. This is no coincidence. Tolkein's Shire has often been described as his love letter to the centuries-old English way of life rapidly dying under the onslaught of the 20th century, including its two horrifying world wars.

We are still reeling from the 19th and 20th centuries' industrial revolution. The landscape in our collective heart isn't concrete and strip malls; it remains trees and villages. It's the Shire. We're trying to make sense of the last two centuries even as we head into a third, possibly even more confusing one. The more recent past--especially the current fascination with the 19th century in general and steampunk in particular, that first great clash of modern technology--is perhaps our way of integrating the industrial revolution into our psyches.

We are in an information revolution right now, at this very moment. How the generations coming will struggle to integrate that change is anyone's guess, but I'm betting they'll be drawn to the past, just as we are. "Wuthering Heights, 1954" anyone?

Title: The Amber Cross (Aria Afton Presents)
Author: MeiLin Miranda
Page count:  22,000 words

Glamorous siblings Henry and Mary Crawford have captivated the Bertrams of Mansfield Park. The one exception is the Bertrams' shy cousin, Fanny Price. Penniless, plain and raised to believe she has little worth, Fanny has long accepted that Edmund will never love her as she loves him. He will marry another--just let it not be a girl like Mary Crawford!

But when Fanny receives an ancient amber cross, the talisman reveals to her what kind of girl Mary Crawford really is. She and her brother are succubi, out to seduce the Bertrams and consume their life force--and Henry Crawford has decided Fanny is the most delicious of them all. Timid Fanny must find the strength to resist Henry's seductive powers if she is to save her own life and that of her beloved Edmund.

A paranormal erotica mashup of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park," "The Amber Cross" originally appeared in the Circlet Press anthology "Sense and Sensuality."

Where to Find MeiLin Miranda: