Wednesday, August 6, 2008
JM Snyder :: Why the Civil War?
Why the Civil War?
The next thing people want to know is, why did I set the stories during the Civil War?
Well, this originally gets back to the anthology I planned to submit the first story to ~ it was a collection of historical shifter stories, so I needed to set these cats in a time period not my own. The Civil War was a natural choice for me, simply because I was raised in Virginia, where the history is still very much alive. We don't have history classes in middle school; we have Virginia History. Our capital city of Richmond, where I currently live, was once the seat of the Confederacy. We have statues of Civil War heroes all over town; we have museums and battlefields and earthworks, historical markers lining our roads and highways, whole sections of our cemeteries dedicated to those who died fighting the War of Northern Aggression, as some people call it around here.
I definitely consider myself a Civil War buff. Military history intrigues me, particularly that pertaining to American forces. I'm not pro-war by any means, don't get me wrong, but I am very much in awe of the courage it takes average citizens to take up arms to fight for my freedom. I know I can write the stories I write only because someone somewhere died for my right to say what I want. I am very grateful to those men and women who have given up their lives so I could live mine.
The period of the Civil War is very romantic to me. Not the war itself, because wars are brutal and bloody and destructive. But the time period of the 1860's appeals to my sense of romanticism and nostalgia. It's a simpler time, before big business came into the farmland and took over the country. A time when things like honor and love mattered above all else, or so it seems to me. Add to that a land divided in the midst of battle, fighting amongst itself, and you get a turbulent, exhilarating time to be alive. A time when the only choices available were do or die. A time much more volatile than the staid life in which I live, a time more exciting, more daring. How could you not want to capture some essence of that, to savor a life lived on the edge, when all you've known is the comfort and quiet of today's society?
Given my predilection for all things pre-1900's, I didn't have to do much research for these stories at all. I already know Civil War history better than the average person; I've probably forgotten more names and dates of battle than most school kids learn nowadays. I have a few research books to help with the words and phrasing used in everyday life during the 1800's, but that was the extent of the research I had to undertake. These stories flowed from me like a river, each word tumbling over the last in its haste to get down on paper.