I set a schedule for myself to start at 6:30 a.m., but of course I've been online all morning checking out the blogs. Really gotta stop this habit. I'm two hours behind.
I've been thinking a bit, in brief interludes between practicing and composing and teaching (I have some time on my hands right now), about fantasy writers who really know their history. You can feel it as you read. Gene Wolfe is a good example of this in his Book of the New Sun (at least the first half; I haven't gotten around to reading the second half yet). But the MC, Severian, is an apprentice in the Torturers' Guild. The detail with which he infuses this guild and the world surrounding it is rather astounding. Many fantasy writers tend to gloss over the small details in the hopes the reader won't notice. The result being of course that you can't imagine the world the writer tried to build. Somehow the supernatural elements become the only thing holding the story together. But with Wolfe, the supernatural takes a backseat to Severian's story. You accept the supernatural along with everything else. He's one of those writers who can make you believe in the supernatural. (He's also one of those writers who makes me want to impale myself on my pen.)
But in reading the first half of this series, I almost felt as if I was reading a slice of history—one that was so real that so-called accurate history, with its absence of witchcraft and the supernatural, is some bastardized account of what really happened back in the good ol' days. And you can tell Wolfe has read a lot. It's just something that wafts off the pages.
Neil Gaiman and Rowling are another two I can tell really know their history, mythic and otherwise. I'm looking forward to reading John Crowley's Aegypt series, too.
But now that I'm going back to school, I'm fighting guilt when I read. It feels too luxurious to read fiction. I have some blogs I use for my teaching, and I don't post to those nearly enough, so I'm trying to refresh myself on music history and so forth (interesting reads in themselves). Just trying to use this time to prepare as much as I can.
One thing I notice when I read music history now is that I absorb a lot more regarding time and place and the political/historical situations surrounding the development of music. I think this is because of my interlude into reading so much in the last four years.
So what about you? Do you notice that your favorite writers are sort of unpaid historians as well? (Not that a few of these writers don't make up for that in their royalty checks . . . )