History in Fiction and Non-Fiction

The truth is out there. It can just be hard to find.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “history is written by the winners.” Often what we think is history is not.  Facts can be manipulated to make individuals, or a group of people look like heroes.  Sound familiar? As children of the 50’s and 60’s we played “cowboys and Indians” where the Native Americans were always the bad guys bent on doing evil to the innocent settlers. Where the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock and made friends with the natives. Where Columbus discovered America. Where an altruistic Abraham Lincoln freed the poor slaves and instantly made life better for Black people.

Then came the backlash. The cowboys became the villains. The Puritans were hypocrites. Columbus should have stayed home and slavery still existed, just in a different form.

The truth depends on who is telling the story.

In 2014, I wrote The Chronocar, my attempt at the Great American Science Fiction Novel. When I decided to write a time travel story, one that deals with the recent past, I was faced with an unexpected challenge. The Red Summer Riot of 1919 is a major focus of the story with some parts taking place in the post Civil War South. I could have taken the easy way out by making all the White characters evil racists and the Blacks heroic victims. But my research and my personal experience proved that that’s not always the way it was.

A number of books have been written about the Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago. Who were the “good guys” and who were the “bad guys” depended on the writer. Joseph Rulli wrote his book, The Chicago Haymarket Affair (The History Press, 2016), as a definitive account of the events surrounding the Haymarket Riot. One of the things that is different in his book is that he used actual court transcripts and other reliable sources to help establish a clearer understanding of these events, and how they have shaped our current reality.

Joe and I have put together a unique presentation where we look at historical research in fiction and non-fiction in order to tell a fuller, more objective story of past events for the betterment of life today – sort of “History Nerd meets Sci-Fi Geek” to plead for reason and objectivity instead of playing the blame game when dealing with contemporary issues and problems.

History In Fiction and Non-Fiction presentation at Barnes and Noble DePaul Center in Chicago
History In Fiction and Non-Fiction presentation at Barnes and Noble DePaul Center in Chicago

We invite you to attend one of our programs which will be presented at venues across the Chicagoland area. Please check the calendar to the left for times, dates and locations.

–Steve