Monday, May 21, 2018

Technology in Stories

Did I really opt to talk about that? Was I crazy? Moi?

Well, part of my DNA is mechanically inclined. The Dutch part. If you have the chutzpah to push the North Sea back for a little extra farmland, you better be technologically astute lest you wake up some night, six feet under water. Maybe the spirit of my one great-grandfather, who was a stone mason, will help me with this subject? Nah, all that does is explain my fondness for rocks—especially those that sit, one on top of another and form something architectural.

OK. Let’s try this again.

I write about the medieval period, and, contrary to a few opinions, there really was technology. That trebuchet was pretty impressive. Having watched some TV program where moderns tried to recreate one and badly botched their shattering of a stone wall, I concluded that successful use of the weapon required more knowledge of math and science than most of us have. (For me, that would be near-zilch.) And, if you have watched any of the House of Windsor marriages, you saw some great views of Westminster Abbey. Now that place required some impressive technology. Yes, a medieval cathedral or two is sinking due to bad site positioning, but few of us can quarrel with the skill required in building gothic churches, many of which were capable of surviving longer than innumerable modern structures.

For those of us who write historicals, we often run up against the modern reader assumption that all the complex stuff was done by us while our distant ancestors were pretty much mud and wattle types. That allows writers the fun of putting a few technological surprises in our stories. Remember the pyramids or Stonehenge? We may have some theories about how those structures were built, but, for all our great knowledge, we are still terribly clueless. And one of my favorite stories is that of Filippo Brunelleschi who built the cathedral in Florence during the 15th century with no concrete and only three construction deaths in sixteen years. The recipe for making concrete, by the way, was lost after the fall of Rome for several centuries. How much more have we lost or forgotten in technology that might improve on what we have? Now that is a perspective just dying for a good story!

So have I included lots of fascinating technology in my mysteries?

Now is the time to quietly slink off and do some research…

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