History is all a lie – another free sf plot for ya


If you have ever been a kid, then the chances are that at some point or another you may have wondered whether or not history is a big lie. It’s a common enough youthful suspicion; that all that stuff about Henry VIII, Julius Caesar and the War of Austrian Succession has all been made up for some reason you’ve not quite figured out.

You grow out of it, of course. As you get older you begin to realise that stuff does change and that we’re not living in an eternal present. By the time you’re my age, stuff that you remember like it was yesterday is the subject of Timewatch documentaries.

Now, though, it turns out that some scally really has been making up history. Not twisting or distorting or selectively quoting in order to hammer actual facts to fit some agenda, but actually making it all up.

At the beginning of the month it turned out that Wikipedia had deleted a 4,500 word entry on a completely fictional war between Portugal and India’s Maratha empire. Details here. 

The entry had been there for five years. It had even been accorded featured article status at one point. This has profound implications, since for the majority of school and university students, Wikipedia is <mild exaggeration alert!> just about the only source they ever consult.

One day I’m not going to write the sf story about time-travel. Not actual, like time travel, but a sort of virtual time travel of the near future. See, I figure that the human hive mind and collaboration on the net can now fill in such a vast, vast amount of detail about the past that it will soon be possible to create a sort of immersive “virtual past” experience. You suit up and visit Victorian times, say, and wander around utterly authentic streets, talk to people whose clothing and mannerisms of speech are spot on, and even the smells are right.

And of course the point of any such story is that something has to go wrong. That’ll be the appearance of something utterly, stupidly anomalous then, and something deadly, obviously … (You make up the rest.)

So there you go, another free sf plot for someone to play with. Unless I get round to it first. Which I won’t.


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