We’ve all seen them: the historical novels where heroines are horrified about entering into an arranged marriage, even though it was the accepted practice among their social class; where the hero despises blood sports; where even mild corporeal punishment is viewed in the way we view child abuse. But sit back now, and think into the future, when our own time becomes the subject of historical fiction. Can we count on seeing glaring anachronisms two hundred years from now? Unless human nature changes drastically, I say, you betcha!
And I’ve even given future historical novelists a bit of help.
Anne Neville banged her fist on the steering wheel of her brand-new Mini-Cooper as she neared Harvard University. How dare her father refuse to demand that Richard marry her? Instead, he had told her, “Get a good education first; that’s the most important thing. Who knows? You’ll be meeting all sorts of young men. You might find that you prefer one of them to Richard.”
“But Father, I want to marry Richard, whom I’ve been love with ever since the age of seven! Why won’t you speak to his father, and have us get married right now?”
“Richard is going to MIT,” her father had said with exasperation, his eyes cold and hard. “You can see him every day if you want. And if you want to get married down the line, that’s fine too. Just get your undergraduate degree first, that’s all I ask, before you settle down and get married. I’ll even pay for the wedding, for God’s sake.”
Anne’s eyes filled with tears as she thought back on that horrid scene. Yet there was no way out; she knew it. She would have to go through the soul-searing agony of attending an Ivy League college just to please her cruel father. I shall not forget you, Richard, she whispered above the purr of the Mini-Cooper. They cannot keep us apart forever.
Little Jane Grey huddled in the corner, her green eyes glistening with tears. Time out, her mother had said—the cruelest words in the English language. And what had she done this time? Called her mother a bitch and said that she wished she were dead. Nothing that merited such a vile punishment as this!
She looked at her Hannah Montana watch. Ten minutes . . . ten minutes in hell. She did not know how much longer she could bear such treatment. Someday, she vowed silently, the whole world would know how badly she had suffered, and would weep with her.
Richard stared down at the ice, fighting back nausea. He knew that it was common among men to enjoy spectacles of this nature, but his inner soul recoiled from them. It was a brutal sport, barbaric—almost medieval, you could say.
But he would have to watch this horror; it was part of becoming a man, his father had told him. He would have to hide his emotions, as men in the twenty-first century always did.
The lights went down, as if presaging the destruction to come, and he clenched his fists. It would take every ounce of self-control he possessed to bear the ordeal to come. The cruel crowd, their primitive instincts fueled by overpriced beer, shouted mindlessly as the men skated onto the ice. They couldn’t possibly enjoy what they were about to do, could they? Richard closed his eyes, unable to bear the sight of what came next.
A crack sounded in the air, and a silent scream tore through Richard’s very soul as the men aimed their sticks at the puck in an animal-like frenzy. The hockey game had begun.