This post is to announce that I’ve added a new Short Story Under One Sun to all the usual places where I publish my fiction. Like Glade and Ivory and Big Game, this story has a prehistoric setting, hence the illustration above by Frank Frazetta.
The setting is actually a lot more recent than the other two stories in that they were set in the Ice Age and this story is set in the early Neolithic in the period when agriculture was beginning to be established in Britain where this story is set.
In a sense, the prehistoric setting is almost incidental to the thrust of the story although it gives me an opportunity to speculate about life at that time. It assumes a summer solstice pilgrimage that is attended by everyone who is able to do so throughout the British Isles and which ceremony serves a purpose rather like the pilgrimages in Mediaeval Christianity and modern-day Islam to hold together disparate communities and cultures in a shared peaceful ritual. But its general theme which relates to an encounter between a young girl and a young man from very different cultures could easily have been set at any time and any place in history.
In a deliberate attempt to make this prehistoric society seem more modern than it really is and thereby make its theme seem more timeless, I gave the two sisters at the centre of the story the names Heather and Fern which seem rather contemporary although they were just as likely to have been used several thousand years ago.
There aren’t very many stories written by anyone that covers Neolithic society. Most stories that deal with prehistory prefer a time when there were mastodon and great ground sloth in America and mammoth and woolly rhinoceros in Europe. Although there was a quite different fauna in Neolithic Europe than today, it wasn’t quite as exciting and with the exception of such animals as aurochs and the great auk most of the animals that lived then are much the same as today but in larger numbers. The biggest differences relate to domestic animals and cultivated fruits and vegetables, but these don’t make very exciting reading for those of us who like to imagine a prehistoric world more like the one that Raquel Welch inhabited than that of Ötzi the Ice Man. Personally, I think this period of history is worth writing about in rather more depth than I have in this story, but as I realised when I originally contemplated writing a 64 chapter novel set in Neolithic Britain there is so much that’s unknown that it would be difficult to do so with any confidence of accuracy and also quite hard to make it especially interesting to the average reader who justifiably would prefer to read about a much more exotic landscape than one that in many ways isn’t too different to that of today.
But I’m sure there’s someone out there with more knowledge than I have of Neolithic society who could write those missing historical novels and who could incorporate the megaliths of Dorset and the Orkneys along with the various observable changes in prehistoric society that might reflect, perhaps, the incredible longevity of a society in the British Isles which congregated at Stonehenge and the other prehistoric sites, the abrupt breakdown of this society in the Bronze Age and the construction of Hill Forts all across Southern England, and the evidence of remarkably extensive prehistoric trade and commerce around Europe and beyond.