the College Fix The journalist Christian Schneider recently added the author of the book to his list of accomplishments. Here, he talks with Sarah Schutte about his book, 1916: the blog, on topics ranging from character details to fascinating historical facts.
Sarah Schutte
: If you had only one sentence to describe your book and its story, what would you say?Christian Schneider: This is the height of the elevator. It's essentially "What if the Internet existed a century ago?" That's how I presented it on my website. If you spend a lot of time on the Internet, like me, and see how people see and treat each other, I started to think, "My God, is this a modern convention, where people l & # 39; Would they have been there if they Internet was 100 years ago? I started reading an everyday newspaper of the year in 1916 simply to try to find examples. If anyone had a blog or Twitter feed, what were they talking about 100 years ago?
SS
: Have you started writing a humorous book? And what kind of humor would you classify as?CS: Yes, I thought I could make it funny just because the examples of the time are funny when you put them in the context of modern America, and there are so many different examples which translate that I think people would understand. I've been a columnist for a long time, and I've tried to use humor in my articles – with varying degrees of success – so I thought I could be humorous in the book. As for the type of humor, I like light, super-literate and witty types of humor. I'm a big fan of P. G. Wodehouse – the Jeeves and Wooster books, things like that. I've tried to make it light and airy and keep it moving.
SS
: Did you worry that your humor does not seem to you too hard or do you want it to be more obvious?CS: I really did not want it to be too hard. Obviously, there is a lot of sarcasm, and I take pictures of modern conventions, but for the most part you can say a lot of things that you would not normally be able to say as long as you make it funny.
SS
: What was the hardest part of your book to succeed?CS: Have a story for the characters. When I started writing the book, it would simply act of a guy who was writing a blog about 1916 events, and it would be essentially a true fiction novel. Obviously, there was no Internet in 1916, but it would be fun to take all these real examples and use them in the book. And so it was joke after joke, and the readers who read the first versions told me, "Well, there must be a story somewhere. It can not be just these spiritual observations about what happened 100 years ago. So I added a story. It's almost a love story between the main character and one of his colleagues, then another woman is online and he does not really know who she is or where she is. I've read more story than fiction, and I've always thought to myself "Fiction is pretty easy to write. You can simply invent what you want, without having to do things properly. But as I began to write the fictional part of the story, the actual crossing is really difficult! Things must have meaning, you have to connect one thing to another, and everything has to be linked. And so for me, it was the most difficult part.
SS
: How did you choose the names of your characters? Do any of them have any special meaning associated with them?CS: Sebastian is a name that I have always loved. Years ago, I loved the group Belle and Sebastian. I grew up in Virginia, so it was an easy name to use for any of the female characters. I also went looking for a list of popular names from the year 1916 in the Census Bureau, and I think the name Virginia figured at least among the top five. I just wanted a name that's right for the moment. I have tried to be as accurate as possible of a completely fictitious book.
SS
My favorite quote from the book was: "Maybe Congress should put in place a system whereby any journalist who talks about politics has to pay a fee. If his prediction is false, he loses money forever. If his prediction is correct, the money paid by those who falsely predicted will be used to pay him. Was there a suggestion that you read somewhere, or something that you proposed?

CS: It was something that I thought. I was writing this in the 2016 election, and myself a political writer, I felt that I was making a lot of predictions that were not coming true, especially when I said that I did not think Donald Trump would one day be president. And so I thought, maybe there should be a system in which people like writers really have to put their money in their mouths. Anyone can simply write a column, but if you have skin in the game, you might take a little longer to find out more about what you are talking about. It was just an observation I had at the time. That would kill about Twitter.
SS
: I was listening to your interview with John Miller on the Bookmonger podcast, and you said you read a huge amount of 1916 newspapers in preparation for this book. As a journalist today, how has the replay of all the old newspapers gone? Even though human nature has not changed, has the writing style changed? If so, for better or for worse?CS: The writing style has definitely changed. Articles from this era are much more reliable and the language is very different. And that's one of the things I tried to do in the book, it's to write it in a style that would have been more appropriate to the style of the day. Things were written in a higher style at the time. Some press articles do not have bylines. So, when a newspaper writes a real story, you never know who wrote it. I think in today's media society we have a lot of "celebrity journalists," and I think sometimes these reporters are trying to stymie on their feet to stay celebrities. Since newspapers did not have a title at the time, journalists did not need to be sensationalized. It was also fun to read stories of the time because they used codewords for topics we were talking about openly. At one point, there was the story of a man and a woman who had to go to jail because they left their eyeglasses. And that is all the story told. It's clear what they did with the blinds that got them into trouble, but you can not say it in an article at the time.
SS:
There has not been much discernable character development in the protagonist, Sebastian. He seemed naive throughout history and yet strangely insightful about the politics of the day. Can you talk a bit about his character and how do you think people should understand him?CS: Yes, I think he's clueless and naive, but I think he's well-intentioned. One of the things that worried me when I wrote the book for the first time was, nowadays, if a character was against women's suffrage, would people read it and ask: " What's wrong with this guy? " Of course, there were many people who were against the suffrage of women. The challenge was to create a character who may not have a very popular opinion today, but who remains friendly. So, I thought the best way to do it is to show that he has no idea what he's talking about. But it's still a guy you want to use. You're right though, in terms of development, it has not changed much during the book. This is one of the driving forces of the book, it is the idea that when you love someone, you change how much you make him love.
SS:
Among all the reports that you read during the preparation of this report, which one would you like to be able to report and why?CS: There is a moment when Sebastian goes to the 1916 Republican convention in Chicago, and for me it would have been fascinating. It was at the time when the conventions chose the candidate. It was not like today where it is planned to know who will be the candidate. There were five or six candidates all competing for the situation. So you had fist fights on the floors, and then in the hotels there were people involved. And there is a lot of drama about what will happen. In 1916, I think it really made a big difference, as we were about to enter the First World War, which paved the way for the rest of the century.
SS:
In a chapter on a Woodrow Wilson speech, it was written, "One of the entities that does not buy Wilson's promise is the life insurance industry. . . . "Is this true and can you say a little more?CS: Yes, that's absolutely true. So, at the time, Woodrow Wilson was saying that we were not going to war and, in fact, he promised not to bring us into the First World War. But that comes down to what we were talking about before putting your money where your mouth is. These people [insurance companies] could have lost a lot of money, so they started adding to life insurance policies that they would not cover death if you were to go to war. They have sort of witnessed the situation and, again, the free market system is able to discern much more than politicians who are just trying to win votes.
SS:
Before you started writing this book, did you know a lot about the presidential candidates, Hughes and Woodrow Wilson, since you've read a lot in history?CS: No, I knew very little about Charles Evans Hughes. I knew Wilson a bit just because I read books about the First World War, but it taught me a lot.
SS:
And last question, of the two candidates who face each other throughout your book, for whom would you have voted, Hughes or Wilson?CS: I feel like I'm more of a Hughes guy. Most of the newspapers that I read were the Milwaukee Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune, both very pro-Hughes. People now complain about "false news", but at the time, newspapers belonged to wealthy businessmen who had their own political leanings. Most cities had a pro-Wilson newspaper and some had a pro-Hughes newspaper. the Chicago Tribunefor three days after the election, always said that Hughes had won. The idea that newspapers are non-partisan arbitrators of the truth is actually quite a modern phenomenon.

More from National Review