While taking a day or two off from the edit, I’ve been working on the Russian novella, set c. 1816.
First of all, I’ll say here that the reason for that setting is threefold:
a) I’ve done a lot more research on Russian culture than most other European cultures,
b) I know more about that time period than, say, 1700, and
c) There’s more nobility in Russia than you can shake a stick at. You need a prince? Well there’s one around every corner in Russia…(if they weren’t killed in the Patriotic War.)
This story takes place in a post-War Russia where some fairy tales are true. For example, the six swans thing? Really happened. Reported in the papers in St. Petersburg and Moscow (which was still standing in 1811.)
But the problem is this: If magic really works, how different would your world really be?
As a writer, one of the advantages of stealing a historical period is that you have a structure to work with already. But you have to try to predict how much different it would be, which is the really difficult part. There would be ripples coming out from every changed event, most of which our brains are simply too small to predict…
In this case, I’m making the magic so rare that
a) It makes little difference in the world, and
b) in general, people don’t believe in it. They would like to, but…
Yet in the novel, I’m making magic fairly common, so that
a) It has made history different (although I’m only dealing with Portugal and its colonies in this story, they’re quite a different place), and
b) in general, people -do- believe in it.
So basically, I guess as a writer I’m making different ripples for different stories. That’s my choice to make….and the readers’ choice to decide whether they approve…
I’ve been rereading “The Englishwoman in Russia” for research. It’s condescending. And while the authoress looks amusedly down her nose at the Russians, her view of some other groups–notably the Polish and the Sami–is downright tacky.