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5 Reasons I Don’t Want to Travel Back in Time

Historical romance wasn't very romantic.

by
Hannah Sternberg

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March 5, 2014 - 12:26 pm
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colin-firth-as-mr-darcy-in-pride-and-prejudice-bbc-adaptation-1995-lizzy

Pretty much every nerd and misfit, sometime during adolescence, wishes he could travel to a time and place where he’d fit in. Maybe it was an entirely separate fantasy world, like Narnia; maybe it was a secret world-within-our-world, like Hogwarts; or maybe it was a fantastic, steampunk version of the past.

I lived in those fantasies as a teen so much so that I remember stretches of my high school years more for the stories my friends and I concocted than for anything else that happened in the real world. That yearning came to life in Bulfinch, my second novel (due to be released this summer), in which a medieval knight and his monk chronicler travel through time into the attic study of a modern-day scholar.

But as my roommate and I spent this week’s snow day watching Pride and Prejudice (1995), I realized I might finally have grown out of my wish to live in the past — at least, the realistic past. All I seemed to notice were the things I wouldn’t have been able to stand about Lizzie’s world. Here are the top five reasons I’m thoroughly, solidly glad to be living right now:

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All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
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I love historical fiction. But no, I wouldn't want to live in any of my favourite eras. Things I never want to be without:

Antibiotics. Painkillers. Vaccines. Feminine hygiene products. Deodorant. Toothpaste. Shampoo. Safety razors. Industrial agriculture and nitrogen fertilizer. Grocery stores. Refrigeration. Detergents. Anesthesia. Printing presses. Mass production. Free public libraries. The internet.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dentistry.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I thought you were going to say Maxi-pads.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah, that's why it's called 'romance'. To borrow a line from The Go-Between: 'the past is a different country, they do things differently there'.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Worse than all the convenience issues, what about the future? All of NOW is ahead of you.

You would be condemning your children to live through Obama, and whatever comes after him (which may be far worse).

20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
And that's if you were one of the lucky ones - the 2% that could go to parties in society, not the 98% who were the servants who moved the screen into place...

When a friend told Asimov he wishes he lived 200 years ago when it was easy to get servants, Asimov noted it would have been horrible, since in all likelihood *they* would have been the servants.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Argh - i meant this as a reply to the person who wrote about the horses and commode in the living room...
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
The list is obviously intended humorously to make a serious point. I agree.

Asimov wrote about it long ago in "best foot backwards": people who want to live in the past imagine themselves as kings, queens, knights and damsels... Never as the 98% who were illiterate serfs or miserable servants. Those who hate the modern world might as well pyt up a sign, notes Asimov, "up with slavery, famine, and disease!" - or rather, he adds, "up with slavery, famine snd disease for *all those other people*!".

You forgot one important one: infant mortality. About half of all children died before they were five, and for that reason alone, as noted Stephan Jay Gould, i would rather be an unemployed servant today rather than a king in the past.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
So do those who support Socialism/Communism, with the addition of seeing themselves as having a cushy bureaucratic job rather than working in a factory or the field, the army, or the gulags.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
When researching your ancestry, one of the "rules" is look in a 20 mile radius for your relatives because that was just about as far as people would travel in a generation, unless they really got the bug and emigrated. If they left the country, then they may have moved multiple times, 100s of miles each time.

There are still places today in Europe where 20 miles is considered a "Day Trip" to be planned carefully to make the best use of your time. And when living in Upstate New York, I met people who were proud that they hadn't ever left their home town despite it being a metro area and another town boundaries being only a couple miles away.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
How about laundry, vacuums, microwaves, electricity in general?

I was just marveling yesterday how I can learn something random like twisting balloon animals in an evening with $5 in equipment and an internet connection. We google and wiki everything.

Though I think going back to play past for a few days might be fun, but not as a permanent arrangement.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
One Word: Oxy

;)
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
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