Research   Leave a comment

This week’s blog hop topic is the most interesting research you’ve ever done.

I love research, by the way. I’d do it if I wasn’t a writer, but it wouldn’t be nearly so focused because I have vast and varied interests. Maybe that’s an outgrowth of being a writer … or maybe that love of research predisposed me to write. It’s a chicken and egg scenario, I guess.

My fantasy project, Daermad Cycle, started out with researching Celtic names for our daughter. My husband’s family are Boston Irish Catholic, so they bred like bunnies and they used up many of the Celtic names then repeated some of them to the point of nausea. My mother’s family is also large and they have a rule — you can’t name a child for someone still living in the family. This prevents the Sr/Jr, little-big, Stephen-Steve-Stevie syndrome. So, when Brad (not his real name) said “Let’s give her an Irish name,” I had a huge need for research.

For the purposes of this blog, our daughter’s name is Bri (Brianne being her actual middle name), but her real first name was taken from an aunt of mine who had died several years before. That name is very ancient, a Celtic-French name that came to the Americas with the French voyageurs and got mixed into my grandmother’s Wyandot Indian culture. It’s so old-fashioned that it sounds new and it sounded very French — until I researched it and learned it has Irish equivalents and goes back into European Celtic culture.

By the time I finished researching the topic, I had learned all about the Celtic pantheon of deities and culture and that kicked around in my head demanding an outlet that opened one rainy afternoon while listening to Enya.

Perhaps my most interesting research is the one I’m doing currently for a short story for submission to an agorist anthology. The assignment in short is to write a piece of speculative historical fiction by pinpointing an event in history that was significant and changing some element that would have been a benefit to the development of agorist society. Agorists share many of the features of anarcho-capitalists … they support the dissolution of the state to be replaced by a capitalistic based society that has rules without rulers. A part of the assignment is to show agorism, voluntaryism  or the principle of non-aggression working in this scenario.

There are many different points in history that I could choose to make a change. I started with three. One of those was the question – “What would have happened if the US Constitution had not replaced the Articles of Confederation?” I circled the question a few times because this is a short story, so I can’t explore all the ramifications of that alternative scenario. I finally settled on a very specific possible outcome of that alternative history.

My mother’s tribe, the Wyandot, lived in Ohio at the time. If the Constitution had not been ratified, how might that have affected my mother’s people?

This opened up a whole area of research I had not considered before. When you grow up with stories, they are just part of the family history, but when you dig into the actual history, you learn a lot that was not previously known. It wasn’t just the Indians who would be affected and I really needed to answer the question of why the Constitution might not have been ratified.

There’s a lovely kettle of worms in this topic because the Constitutional convention was technically illegal, some states resisted it strongly and would have continued to do so if they’d had been given even a small reason to do so. For example, did you know that George Washington wanted to be king of the United States? I know. We don’t learn that in school. But in the spring of 1787, before the Constitutional Convention, he and Alexander Hamilton were writing to one another. Amid complaints of rheumatism and a desire to work on his estate, Washington agreed that the United States was in desperate need of an “executive” similar to the one we’d just overthrown in England and that he would, if necessary, agree to be that person, if they could find a way to couch it in terms the public would accept.

Wow! What if that letter had become public prior to the ratification fight? Hamilton’s letters as Publius would have been viewed much more suspiciously. Patrick Henry might have been moved to actually speak out for the anti-federalist side. The stress might have made James Madison (known for a nervous stomach) too ill to do his part in writing letters. What’s more, it is well-known that certain of the Ohio Company were monetarily influencing Congress — the President of Congress in 1787 became the Governor of the Northwest Territories in 1788. Washington owned lands in Ohio, so had a vested interest in that. One of the main arguments for the Constitution was that the country needed a standing army that could crush the Indian uprising. The discovering of a letter where two key figures were conspiring to establish an American monarchy might well have prompted Congress to investigate what was actually going on, which might have resulted in the failure of ratification, thus leaving the Articles of Confederation in place. That document was not the colossal failure that it is sometimes made out to be … for example, it could be amended but only with agreement from all the states.

Of course, the Americans were not the only ones who might have been affected. I needed to research the Wyandot and the other Ohio area tribes and the key figures who might have interacted with the white settlers at what become Marietta, Ohio. I learned a lot about my mother’s people and the history of that time. Family “legends” sometimes didn’t agree with history, but they also added much of the fictional intimate details that make the story readable. I found a treasure trove of tribal stories on the tribe’s website that halfway agreed with what I already knew, but there was also a lot of room for fiction to blossom.

I have not yet submitted my story to the anthology, so I don’t know if it will meet the requirements, but I am very pleased with having done the research and with the story that I am now editing. I learned some fascinating facts and came to the conclusion that this was perhaps THE most pivotal point in American history that might well have had far reaching consequences for Euro-American and Native-American relations, but also with American relations worldwide. If things had gone differently along the Ohio River, that might well have set a different table for how things would have progressed as the United States grew. Imagine no northern (and possibly no southern) Trail of Tears. Imagine no Indian genocide on the Plains. Imagine if white settlers had been forced by a lack of military power to negotiate with the Indians rather than force them off the land. And that’s just the one branch of the historical tree that would have been different. There are many, many more.

Having now done more research for a short story than for all of the Transformation Project, I am considering writing a speculative fiction novel based on the premise of “What if the illegal Constitutional Convention of 1787 had not changed our course of government?”

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