Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Interesting TV Show for Historical Fiction Writers

Twice last night I watched the first half of an interesting show on the History channel. The first time, I turned away because something else was on, and the second time I fell asleep at about the same point where I had turned away.

The show is called "Afraid of the Dark." It went into detail about life used to be like after dark and why we are wired to be afraid of the dark. We historical fiction writers often forget or don't understand how dark night used to be, and how long night was because of how dark it was. It's an older show, from 2009 or earlier, so you might have seen it before.

If you write historical fiction, you might want to watch for this to come on again. I don't see it listed as coming on again soon on the channel's Web site, but it is available on DVD at

I wish I had written down the title of a book by an author who was one of the commentators. It might be an interesting addition to my reference shelf.


Lana said...

Another interesting thing to think about is the way modern heating has changed human interaction. Family dynamics are different when people have to huddle together close to the fireplace or the pot-bellied stove and children sleep nestled together for warmth.

Scott said...

Right, Lana.

Imagine living in, say, Northern England in the 16th Century. It's wintertime. It's bitter cold, and your house doesn't keep out the cold or damp very well. You have about 16 hours of darkness, and that means almost total darkness. Even though the stars and moon lit the earth more than they do now that our own light blocks that light, it's not much. Besides, this is an English winter and the clouds are blocking the sky.

There is a hearth to huddle around, but the flame is kept small out of fear of a spark lighting the thatch roof on fire, and because the fuel for the fire has to last all winter. Candles are expensive, so you use them, but no more than necessary. They don't give much light and no heat anyway.

The wind howls outside and whistles through the gaps in your home, especially in the rafters, and there is the constant threat of animals and thieves. You're shut in as securely as you can manage, but it's still cold and damp and it will be dark for the next 16 hours.

What do you do?

Tiffany Dominguez said...

Holy crap, I'd die of boredom. I get twitchy when I forget my cell phone at home, or my laptop when I'm on a trip. I think driving is a waste of time (imagine if I had to walk???). I think about these things when I dream of living in the time of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.