As L.P. Hartley wrote in The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” It can be hard for us in the present, with our modern sensibilities, to resist the urge to judge those who lived in the past. Certainly, when I’ve been carrying out research for any of my pieces of historical fiction I’ve found myself scandalized by some of the “norms” of the past. (Don’t get me started on Victorian dentistry…) Yet, what unerringly heartens and inspires me is how humans have solved, or overcome, the many hurdles that life on this planet has thrown at them. That, for me, is where the real magic lies. How did we come to inherit the many, many gifts of the present that we enjoy, indeed, take for granted, from all those inhabitants of the past?
For instance, how have we gone from admiring the stars, wondering if there’s any possible way to fly out there and see, close-up, those very distant, marvellous spots of light, to actually doing it?
Indeed, the protagonist of my short story, Cassandra, who is an early 19th century young lady, gazes upon the stars and considers this very question:
“What if, one day, someone were to fly out there, like a bird, and unravel the mysteries of that jewelled night-time tapestry? Could such a thing ever occur?”
I believe that these great leaps come from our imaginations – from “foolish thinking” as my heroine puts it. For when we ask ourselves “what if” or “how can that be done?”, disregarding all the obvious, unoriginal ideas that spring to mind – as well as other kinds of conventional thinking – we can solve any and all kinds of problems. In doing so, we build bridges, metaphorically and literally, to the future.
Cassandra, unsurprisingly, shakes her head at her “foolish thinking”, and yet, the beauty of the stars draws her out of herself, empowering her to break free of propriety and decorum for a few precious hours. And in those few hours she makes her own wonderful discovery…
I hope that you will get to “meet” Cassandra on the launch day of Uncharted Constellations, and come away from the story with a sense of what the future may hold for her.
Check out Teika’s reading of ‘Considering the Stars’ here.