Arthurians Among The Connecticut Yankees

There have been several fictions about people from the past catapulted into our own era, and then either sinking or – in the better tales – swimming there. Experience with so-called “primitive” cultures in the here-and-now shows us that people master new gadgets very quickly indeed. They may not know why they work or how to make repairs, but then neither do most of us. Mastering new sexual mores is a lot harder, but then it may simply be a question of finding the right twentyfirst-century subculture to fit your old one.

Even the authors who know these things, however, rarely ask themselves what feats a person from the past might be able to perform that we cannot, apart from chopping people up with even gayer abandon than we already do. One tale that I would like to see told is the exploration of how a premodern, for example, might be able to outplay us by virtue of his greater memory and attention span. A lordling from Languedoc who could follow the diabolically complex multiple-entendres of troubadour poetry would surely make short work of the Times crossword and might even make his new killings on our stock markets.

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