Preserving our Heritage

I was sitting at my computer doing my usual thing when I saw on twitter that Notre Dame was on fire. I quickly went looking for information, unable to look away as the Forest burned and the steeple fell. I breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that the bell towers were saved.

I’m not Catholic. I’ve never even been to Europe. But I am a lover of history and so the destruction of these things makes my heart ache. As I said elsewhere, the best way I can describe my feelings is that certain places and objects are fixed points. They were there long before I was born and I expect them to be there long after.

Notre Dame will get a new roof and a new steeple. The nave mostly held, the organ survived and the old glass remains. In future years there will be an Easter service there again. It may not be done in five years, but it took almost 200 the first time, and I’m certain it will be faster than that.

The world is changing around us. The downside of believing something will always be there is the danger of neglecting it under the assumption that it’s fine. Notre Dame was already in danger; nobody who closely followed was particular surprised that the fire spread so quickly. Renovations themselves are often a danger, which was most likely what happened here.

The Brazil Museum fire is an example of heritage lost due to neglect. Those who worked in the building knew it needed updates for safekeeping, but good luck getting the government to pay for it.

I took a wander through the wikipedia article on destroyed heritage. A church in Russia was destroyed for an open pit mine. Many places have been destroyed for being of the ‘wrong’ culture or religion. Climate change is going to make all of it so much worse.

Preservation takes money and it can be so hard to peel it away from those clutching it in their fists. But it’s vital if we want these things to stand for out children and great-grandchildren.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt. But the Forest is gone. The Brazil museum is gone. Aleppo is ravaged. How much more of our heritage will we sacrifice?

Fan fic’s not cheating

Yes, there are differences between fan fiction and writing from your own worlds. But you know what? No matter what you’re writing from scratch, you’re still building from what’s come before. Even if you’ve never picked up a Tolkien book, your idea of what constitutes a fantasy novel is colored by him. Your idea of a romance novel is colored by Jane Austen and Danielle Steele.

Sure in fan fiction you’re working from someone else’s framework, but just because you’ve got the bare bones of a world doesn’t mean you aren’t putting in the hard work. People act like anyone can write and I suppose, on a basic level, that’s true. Anyone can put words on a page.

But to tell a story, to paint a world, that takes time and practice and skill. There’s nothing wrong with taking the pieces of something you love and starting from there. God knows there are plenty of fantasy writers who started off with ‘I like Tolkien, so I’m gonna write a thing’. Yeah, they may use other names or imagine another world, but if you scratch at the paint you’ll find bones underneath.

Nobody writes in a vacuum. There are no 100% original stories.

If you enjoy telling stories about John and Sherlock, or Tony and Steve or anything else, it’s still you writing it, it’s still your imagination. It’s you figuring out how Hannibal would react to this time, this situation. Yes, even if it’s a 600 word PWP fic, it’s still your imagination at work.

All stories are built on the bones of what’s come before. Just because fan fiction has a more visible skeleton doesn’t make it invalid or cheating.

Storytelling is a skill, and a valuable one at that, no matter where you’re starting from.