The problems with changing history. A look at The Revisionists
My newest novel comes out one week from when I am writing this blog post. For those of you coming late to this post, this means March 19, 2019. The novel is called The Revisionists. The plot of the novel gets summed up this way: a brilliant, but disturbed, man invents a technology which can actually alter history. It's about as close as I will ever get to writing a time travel book.
It was a fun book to write. With technology the way it is and learning about things like collective consciousness and unconsciousness as well as something called the Mandela Effect, it was a perfect storm of ideas. It was also fun to play with the idea. If you had access to technology which could change the world, what would you change and what would the effect be on the present?
I wanted the characters in the book to change something big in history. I struggled with this. It seemed like reaching back to Hitler, for example, would just be hard. Since the technology I had my character invent involved tapping into collective unconsciousness "influencers" via various means to make the change, reaching so far back seemed hard to do. This is the tricky part about drifting into science fiction.
Scifi can be fun. I tapped it a bit on my novel RIG. Back when I wrote that, I couldn't find any information about what an oil rig looked like or did. So, I simply stated within the book that the rig in the novel was "the most advanced oil rig ever, with technology never put onto an oil rig before." Bam... I now had an oil rig that if I wanted friggin' lasers on it, I could have put friggin' lasers on it.
When you decide to sort of plant your feet in the genre, now you have to invent rules around the technology you have created. It's the same with time travel. If you look at time travel movies, TV shows and literature, each writer has to create their own rules around it (time travelers can only go ahead, for example, or cannot run into themselves, etc., etc.).
I did not want to change the same thing Stephen King did in 11/22/63. King did a great job of looking at what might happen if you stopped the assassination of Kennedy. However, I couldn't find another key point that I also felt was still reasonably recent to work within the rules I had created for the novel.
So, I did it.
I won't tell you how, but trying to think about changing the past led me into rabbits holes I did not imagine. They led me so far down, I had to include them in the book itself. Imagine figuring out your technology works and you can change the past to change the present and just wanting to change all of the bad things. Then, imagine having people saying - whoa there! If you change this thing, what about this thing?
I mean, think about it. For every huge horrible thing in history, there was often some sort of change which made things better. I ran into this writing non-fiction about various natural and man-made disasters in the Chicago area. I realized after the Great Chicago Fire, new fire codes were put into place to make Chicago homes safer.
When Kennedy died, a lot changed. It was horrible, of course. There are rumors Kennedy was making plans to pull the U.S. out of Vietnam before it had really begun. Johnson was more in favor of increasing the U.S. involvement and this is where conspiracies start. So, if you work in fiction and take this as truth, then saving Kennedy might mean no Vietnam.
So, you say, that's good right? Sure...but then there would be no hippies. No protests. No Woodstock. What would happen to rock and roll? Would it still be the stuff of the late 50s, early 60s? No psychedelic rock? Johnson might have stayed president longer.
Again, maybe that's a good thing. Then no Watergate? Well, maybe not. Maybe Watergate just gets delayed. Maybe it happens in the 80s? Without Watergate, no All the President's Men? No Woodward and Bernstein? No realization of the importance of the press.
I realized the dangers of changing history were actually very real and very true. Which, of course, is the entire point of the book. How many people would not be born if history changed? How many would die because a certain person was not born? What inventions might not have been invented if there was no war? No space race?
It was an interesting exercise and, again, I wanted this in the novel, too. I wanted our people in the story to have to wrestle with this and then try to find a way to change history with minimal damage. Except, there was likely no way to stop the damage entirely. Thus, the thriller aspect, the suspense and the horror of the novel was born.
I think history is as it is. Yes, of course, there are things about my life I wish I could change. I talk about it a lot. However, I also remind myself I am where I am due to the mistakes I made as well as the successes I achieved. The sadness I have experienced colored my life and how things came together as much as the joys.
I hope I kept the rules of my own book as best I could in The Revisionists. I hope you like the story, too.
The Revisionists is coming March 19. A techno-thriller about technology which can change history and the effects such a thing would have on today - and the future. Available for pre-order at Amazon today!