The Forrest Gump Syndrome: Soft History, Full Of Famous PeopleCharlie Jane Anders8/05/14 7:00pmFiled to: afternoon rantstar trekdoctor whohistorical fictionsteampunkgeorge rr martin13514EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkWe tend to idealize the past. We file off a lot of the rough edges, imagine everybody having better teeth, and generally tone down a lot of the ugliness. This can be problematic — especially when we soften the depiction of past atrocities. And science fiction and fantasy contribute to this.AdvertisementScience fiction and fantasy are full of stories where someone visits the past (via time travel or magic.) And stories which are set at some point in history, either real history or an alternate history. And all too often, these stories run into what I call the Forrest Gump Syndrome: everything is softened, everything is boiled down to a few famous people (that present-day audiences remember), it's all sort of cozy.That's how you end up seeing the same handful of historical figures over and over again. And why you end up with idealized depictions of Medieval Europe in which everything is all happy castles and shiny knights, rather than feudal squalor (which George R.R. Martin has attempted to correct). There's been a running debate over whether Steampunk tends to idealize imperialism, as well. I suspect that there is a link between these two problems: the focus on a few "great men" (and women) and the tendency to idealize the time they came from.