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What is Historical Fiction?

Trying to remember a title or an author? Want to know who or what a particular novel is about? Want a recommendation for books about a particular person or period? Post here!
ChrisRedpath
Newbie
Currently reading: Arthur and George (Julian Barnes)
Interest in HF: Anthony Burgess' amazing way of bringing a period to life, using the language of the time, but feeling so well-paced and modern, and basically easy to understand. Also Julian Barnes, who is good in any era!
Favorite HF book: A Dead Man in Deptford
Location: Taipei

What is Historical Fiction?

Postby ChrisRedpath » Sat March 26th, 2016, 12:02 pm

That is to say, where does HF end and fiction begin?

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Mythica
Bibliophile
Preferred HF: European and American (mostly pre-20th century)
Location: Colorado
Contact:

Re: What is Historical Fiction?

Postby Mythica » Tue March 29th, 2016, 3:44 pm

I believe the Historical Fiction Society defines it as a novel set more than 50 years before the time it was written. Of course, many individuals have their own interpretation - some people find it hard to consider anything that happened in their lifetime to be "history" but personally, I generally think the 50 year rule is a good one.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Re: What is Historical Fiction?

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue March 29th, 2016, 4:40 pm

I gather the question is between history and fiction.
First of all, anything that has nobody living who remembers it must be interpreted secondhand. So there is where fiction enters in.
The further back you go, the more fiction is involved.
When you get to stuff like Jean Auel's prehistory novels, it's 99% fantasy.
Although to be fair, there's a lot of fantasy in serious nonfiction history stuff, too. Caveat emptor.
Good fiction, though, is good because there is enough 'truth' of one kind or another to resonate with the reader, even though the truths may be conveyed by an entirely fictional character or occurrence.
And it's entertaining at the same time.

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Juniper
Scribbler
Interest in HF: I studied English Literature and History at college. Historical fiction blends my two passions together in one neat package.
Location: Missouri, USA
Contact:

Re: What is Historical Fiction?

Postby Juniper » Sun April 3rd, 2016, 7:16 pm

MLE (Emily Cotton) wrote:I gather the question is between history and fiction.
First of all, anything that has nobody living who remembers it must be interpreted secondhand. So there is where fiction enters in.
The further back you go, the more fiction is involved.


I really like this definition.

I started reading historical fiction when I was studying history at college. After reading so many textbooks it was historical fiction that brought history to life for me. Historical figures jumped from the page as living people, not two-dimensional figure from a textbook.

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: What is Historical Fiction?

Postby Madeleine » Mon April 4th, 2016, 8:37 am

The same for me Juniper - I enjoyed history at school, but it was a bit dry (we had good teachers who made it more interesting than just a series of lists and dates etc), but reading about a historical period within a fictional context (but hopefully with the right background facts and events) really brings it alive.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

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Juniper
Scribbler
Interest in HF: I studied English Literature and History at college. Historical fiction blends my two passions together in one neat package.
Location: Missouri, USA
Contact:

Re: What is Historical Fiction?

Postby Juniper » Tue April 5th, 2016, 1:38 am

Madeleine wrote:reading about a historical period within a fictional context (but hopefully with the right background facts and events) really brings it alive.


Yes absolutely, that's why I prefer my historical fiction to be as factually accurate as possible. Especially when the protagonists are actual historical figures. I hate when things are made up just for the sake of it. I understand the need for some fictional liberties, it comes with the territory, but got to love that author's note!

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: Heavenfield by L J Ross & Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: What is Historical Fiction?

Postby Madeleine » Tue April 5th, 2016, 8:26 am

Yes as long as the author makes it clear how much they've based on fact, and what or who is fictitious, or maybe speculative but not proven, that's fine with me.
Currently reading "Heavenfield" by L J Ross & "Lost for Words" by Stephanie Butland

Mim
Scribbler
Currently reading: Sapiens, A Brief History of Himankind
Interest in HF: I love history and putting together the facts of historical periods with fictional characters.
Favorite HF book: As A Driven Leaf
Preferred HF: Roman Period
Location: Jerusalem

Re: What is Historical Fiction?

Postby Mim » Tue April 5th, 2016, 1:20 pm

ChrisRedpath wrote:That is to say, where does HF end and fiction begin?

I think that if the fiction in question bases itself not only in a historical period but extensively mentions real historical characters, weaving them in to the story, then it's historical fiction in my book (literally ;) ). I did this in my novel The Scroll. It's a bit scary, because there's more "real stuff" for critics to look at, even perhaps look for, some discrepancy or other that might have crept in. But I loved the thought that I was giving a back story to some of the historical characrters, especially ones that are mentioned in passing, such as a Roman governor.

Mim
Scribbler
Currently reading: Sapiens, A Brief History of Himankind
Interest in HF: I love history and putting together the facts of historical periods with fictional characters.
Favorite HF book: As A Driven Leaf
Preferred HF: Roman Period
Location: Jerusalem

Re: What is Historical Fiction?

Postby Mim » Tue April 12th, 2016, 3:58 am

Juniper wrote:
Madeleine wrote:reading about a historical period within a fictional context (but hopefully with the right background facts and events) really brings it alive.


Yes absolutely, that's why I prefer my historical fiction to be as factually accurate as possible. Especially when the protagonists are actual historical figures. I hate when things are made up just for the sake of it. I understand the need for some fictional liberties, it comes with the territory, but got to love that author's note!


"Author's Note" is a great place to explain how the author decided to separate historical fact from fiction. There are so many movies of the "made for TV" genre that have a disclaimer about based on real events. Certain characters and events have beem.(etc. here comes the disclaimer)..." is exactly what we writers of historical fiction do. I sometimes feel quite self-conscious about doing so, but if everything is well-grounded in the period, no reason not to take liberaties with fictional characters to move the plot along, or even with historical ones if they are doing things that are true to what we know about their character.


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