Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

a problem with perception

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
User avatar
Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Posts: 1346
Joined: September 2008
Location: Georgia USA

Post by Ludmilla » Wed December 17th, 2008, 2:28 pm

Ignorance will always be a factor for those who are inexperienced in any genre. People who make those remarks simply don't know or care. Period.

I really do think that a majority of readers are omnivoracious, and read from a diversity of categories and realize that every category is pretty darn broad and has its mix of flavors. I think the number of readers who stick to just one or very limited range of category/ies are in the minority. Since they have no experience in the genre, their opinion doesn't matter to me. I know better.

User avatar
Leo62
Bibliophile
Posts: 1027
Joined: December 2008
Location: London
Contact:

Post by Leo62 » Wed December 17th, 2008, 2:54 pm

Hmmm...i find myself sitting on the fence a bit on this one.

Fashions in genres come and go. Over the last 10 or 15 years there's been a real surge in popularity in Crime fiction and a commensurate rise in its perceived status. It's become Respectable.

HF seems to be heading in the same direction. There are far more "literary" (for want of a better word) historical novels being written these days, a trend that has been slowly developing since the 90's. Publishers (or maybe marketers) seem to be slowly catching on to this, and are designing a better class of covers for the work. There did seem to be a time when any novel with a historical setting (and I think the same was true of Fantasy) was slapped into some godawful bosom-heaving Mills and Boon cover. Not any more thank goodness!

I agree that a lot of this has to do with perception and marketing (and yes, snobbery) rather than crappy content.

However...

I've been reading HF since I was about 10 and back then in the olden days, I have to say...much as I loved all that Anya Seton/Forever Amber type stuff at the time, it was not, IMHO, (I'm sorry) all that great in the literary stakes. It was genre fiction and delivered exactly what it said on the tin, and nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes.

But HF these days seems to be a much broader church and it's great to read novels of real scope and ambition within the genre.

So...I guess I am kinda snobbish when it comes to comparing Anya Seton, or even Diana Gabaldon, with say Pat Barker or David Mitchell.
Last edited by Leo62 on Wed December 17th, 2008, 2:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

gyrehead
Reader
Posts: 245
Joined: December 2008

Post by gyrehead » Wed December 17th, 2008, 6:05 pm

[quote=""Ludmilla""]Ignorance will always be a factor for those who are inexperienced in any genre. People who make those remarks simply don't know or care. Period.

I really do think that a majority of readers are omnivoracious, and read from a diversity of categories and realize that every category is pretty darn broad and has its mix of flavors. I think the number of readers who stick to just one or very limited range of category/ies are in the minority. Since they have no experience in the genre, their opinion doesn't matter to me. I know better.[/quote]

I think this is pretty much where I stand as well. It seems to me that anyone that generalizes about anything either 1.is ignorant on the matter and just doesn't like to admit it 2. says such things out of a need to marginalize and disparage another person's likes/dislikes in order to bolster self-esteem or 3.both.

I get much the same when I talk about my reading. First, I read. Which is seen as being not as acceptable as playing sports (whic I do), socializing (which I do), working (alas) etc. The problem arises among my associates and peers is that I still read. A lot. Work allows me to carry a book on long travels and commutes. And I read rather fast. Just a natural pace that can devour a book rather quickly.

The next part is what I read. Nevermind that I read a wide array of non-fiction as well as fiction. Nevermind that I've often read award winning books in the "literature" arena long before they win such awards. But the fact that I not only love fantasy and science fiction but also admit to it without qualm seems to just bug the heck out of people and prompt sneers and snide remarks. And huge ignorant over-generalizations.

But the overall behavior at the risk of hypocritically generalizing myself, is that we are still a society hell bent on putting others down to elevates ourselves; usually by focusing on differences. And we are a society that still clings to the false notion that opinions and tastes have black and white; right and wrong.

Invariably I dig in my heels in a passive aggressive way that I would condemn in others no doubt ;) and simply smile with superior, sad pity and murmur "you don't read much do you?" no matter which level they attack whatever currently holds my bookmark.

User avatar
Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 919
Joined: September 2008
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Post by Kveto from Prague » Wed December 17th, 2008, 7:50 pm

my friend did intend his "bodice ripper"statement in a tongue and cheek manner, of course.

i guess theres no big seminal work in HF that sums up the genre and has been read by "outsiders". many people have read tolken, even if they dont read fantasy. many have read asimov, even if they arent sci-fi fans. non-mystery fans have at least read christie or doyle. HF doesnt seem to have that writer or work which is universally respected by readers of other genres.

i think its also an aspect of HF being loosly defined as well.

thanks for the responses

keny

User avatar
Leo62
Bibliophile
Posts: 1027
Joined: December 2008
Location: London
Contact:

Post by Leo62 » Wed December 17th, 2008, 10:57 pm

[quote=""keny from prague""]
i guess theres no big seminal work in HF that sums up the genre and has been read by "outsiders". [/quote]
Umm....

The Name of the Rose
The Regeneration Trilogy
I Claudius
The Remains of the Day
The English Patient
Ivanhoe
Catch 22
August 1914
Golding's Rites of Passage trilogy

Just a few that spring to mind that I'd guess have been read by, er, outsiders ;)

User avatar
Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 919
Joined: September 2008
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Post by Kveto from Prague » Wed December 17th, 2008, 11:22 pm

all true but it depends on peoples perceptions. do people consider name of the rose historical fiction or a mystery novel. is I claudius HF or fictional biography? Is catch 22 HF or a war story?

for instance, i consider war and peace HF, but many would not. It was written about the past and gives details about historical and fictional characters, interweaving facts and fictions.

i think because HF is difficult to categorise people tend to read HF and not know its HF. therefore they only think of books that definitely fit in said category, which often are "bodice rippers". (but id argue these are more romance, but since they are often set in history they are painted with the HF brush)

User avatar
Perdita
Reader
Posts: 146
Joined: August 2008
Location: London
Contact:

Post by Perdita » Thu December 18th, 2008, 12:36 am

Oh this is a very timely thread for me! I was having a rather heated 'discussion' with my brother about books tonight, he just couldn't believe that I don't enjoy reading books about guns, tanks, explosions etc so in the end I just waved at the bookshelf and said 'look, this is what I enjoy'. He looked at the rows of Phillippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick and said, 'Yeah, Bodice rippers!' :rolleyes:

It is the covers that give people these ideas. And to be fair, I do look out for the books with headless women on them because they tell me that it's HF but they do look funny and I can't blame people for thinking it's all Mills and Boon type stuff. There was a time when I was a bit embarrassed about reading HF at work but now I've just stopped worrying about what people think. :D

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Thu December 18th, 2008, 1:01 am

I think one of the reasons that so many people assume all HF is historical romance is because HF went pretty much out of style for a couple of decades (thank goodness it's back in!) and publishers just weren't buying it. Meanwhile, historical romance continued to sell steadily. So for a period of time, historical romance was almost the only historical fiction that was out there.

Genre novels about guns, tanks, explosions, etc. are kind of the male counterpart to genre romance novels. Perdita, is it possible your brother felt just slightly put down over his literary tastes, and was attempting (unsuccessfully) to turn the tables on you?

Any novel set in a time period prior to the author's birth is really a historical novel. So, yes, The Name of the Rose and I, Claudius, and other such novels would certainly qualify. Just as contemporary novels come in a full variety of styles and genres, so do historical novels. And, contemporary or historical, any style or genre of novel can be well or poorly written, and can also cross genres.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Thu December 18th, 2008, 1:10 am

It's just not historical fiction that's being pidgeon holed, romance itself has such a wide variety that the standard bodice ripper lable just doesn't fit. I've found quite a few authors (including Roberta Gellis, Rosalind Laker and Celeste de Blasis) who are most often categorized as "romance" but they pack so much story and historical details in their books that a "romance" lable really doesn't ring true. When I do read a romance those are the books I go looking for, but on the other hand I've seen commenters on the romance board at Amazon who complain about authors like these because they're bored to death with the "endless pages" of historical details and facts. Some historical romance readers just want a pretty historical setting for window dressing and don't care about history at all - they just want romance.

I've come across some books touted as historical fiction (White Rose Rebel anyone?) that for the 50 some pages I did get through was endless sex with no character build up to it at all.

To each his own. Personally I'd never be caught dead reading a spy thriller but I wouldn't go sticking my nose up at someone who reads them - at least they're reading. Another example is a gal who posts over at Harriet's reviews at Amazon, she tried to apologize for the type of books she reads (yes those would be classified as bodice rippers) as she's got kids and really can't sit down and concentrate on a "real" book. Should we stick up our noses at her for reading "dumb"?
Last edited by Misfit on Thu December 18th, 2008, 1:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Perdita
Reader
Posts: 146
Joined: August 2008
Location: London
Contact:

Post by Perdita » Thu December 18th, 2008, 1:13 am

[quote=""Margaret""]Perdita, is it possible your brother felt just slightly put down over his literary tastes, and was attempting (unsuccessfully) to turn the tables on you?

.[/quote]

I don't think so, he's louder than me! I don't care what other people read, I just think it's great if they do. But I've had so much ribbing for all the HF I read.. people think it's all beheadings and damsons in distress for some reason, which is not true :D

Post Reply

Return to “General Discussion”