I spent Saturday in Bristol attending various events, some of which were part of the Bristol Festival of Literature. First up was a talk at Bristol Museum on the subject of Romans, factual and fictional.
First up was Gail Boyle, a curator from the museum who was in charge of staging the special exhibition, Roman Empire: Power and People, that the museum currently has running. Having now been involved in created a museum exhibition myself, I found this more than usually interesting. As luck would have it, Farah Mendlesohn was attending an event at the Barbican in London that was also discussing historical fiction. Farah was tweeting in a somewhat annoyed fashion about people who were going on about “truth” in history. I was pleased to hear Gail make it clear that creating a museum exhibit is all about telling stories.
Ben Kane is a local writer and one of the top authors of Roman period historical novels in the country. He gave us a talk abut how he did a walk along Hadrian’s Wall in full legionary dress for charity, and what he learned about Roman military gear as a result. I told him about Sean McMullen trekking through the Australian desert in chain mail so that he wouldn’t feel so crazy when he does it again next year. I’m hoping to have Ben on Ujima at some point, so I’ll need to read one of his books, probably one of the Hannibal ones.
Manda Scott has also written about Roman Britain. In fact I have her Boudica books, I just haven’t had the time to read them. Now I have to, because she’s awesome. She has a passion for women warriors (which means I am going to introduce her to Kameron Hurley), she fights with re-enactors for research, and she’s a practicing shaman. Oh, and she also understands the logistics of mounting a seaborne invasion rather better than many academic historians. And she quoted Neil Gaiman and George Martin during her talk.
Aside from meeting two great authors, what struck me most about this event was that Ben and Manda would fit right in at one of our conventions. Indeed, while I will be at BristolCon, they are heading to Harrogate for one of their conventions. Now I’m trying to work out how to get them to Worldcon in London next year. I wonder if there are any historians involved in putting that on…