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Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Postby Kveto from Prague » Fri January 9th, 2009, 10:00 pm

im one of those who came from reading fantasy type books and slowly graduated into HF. I was reading books that blended the two and slowly realized that it was the "historical" part that i liked more than the "fantasy" part and I "graduated" to HF which is my prefered area now.

it will come off as a knock against fantasy, but the more i read, the more i saw the "fantasy worlds" as generic. it was probably very original to set a book in a "fantasy land" back when tolken or whoever did it first as opposed to the "real world" where most books were set at that time. but as time went on, it seemed that these worlds were completely unoriginal, carbon copies of middle-earth or something similar. it actually made the writers less original in my mind especially if their "world" was mearly a copy of earth with some magic thrown in.

im not specifically basing any particulars, i just remember a fantasy novel where there were annalouges for a people similar to the vikings, and another similar to the romans and so forth. it just made me say why not just use the bloody romans in the first place.

answer: i think because the writer didnt want the constraints of having to be "historically accurate". no one could fault him if he made historically innacurate proto-romans. so rather than work within the constraints of history the writer can say "chuck it", ill tell the story without restraints.

sometimes, restraints are good. think of fitting poetry with iambic pentameter rather than free verse. iambic pentameter might be much more difficult to work in and feel restrictive but a good writer can make it work in spite of and taking full advantage of those restraints. so that when it works, it really really works, it feels even much better.

which is how i imagine a writer must feel when they are able a story utilizing those historical "constraints", it works so much better when they get it right.

Which is why HF writers have a great deal of my respect

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Postby Margaret » Sat January 10th, 2009, 4:42 am

What an insightful post, Keny! I do think some fantasy writers (Tolkien, for example) were steeped in history and could have written very good historical fiction, but but they just wanted to include wizards, elves, dragons, and other unreal elements that don't belong in straight historical fiction. Dune is another superb novel, sci-fi rather than fantasy, by an author who clearly understood a lot of history. For my taste, though, most fantasy novels are too thin on characterization to really interest me. I like novels with a lot of rich psychological, sociological and political insights - and the best historical fiction does all this admirably. Contemporary novels often don't have the perspective to be as insightful about sociological and political dynamics as historical novels at their best can be.
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Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Postby Kveto from Prague » Fri January 16th, 2009, 7:34 pm

"Margaret" wrote:What an insightful post, Keny! I do think some fantasy writers (Tolkien, for example) were steeped in history and could have written very good historical fiction, but but they just wanted to include wizards, elves, dragons, and other unreal elements that don't belong in straight historical fiction. Dune is another superb novel, sci-fi rather than fantasy, by an author who clearly understood a lot of history. For my taste, though, most fantasy novels are too thin on characterization to really interest me. I like novels with a lot of rich psychological, sociological and political insights - and the best historical fiction does all this admirably. Contemporary novels often don't have the perspective to be as insightful about sociological and political dynamics as historical novels at their best can be.



thanks. I didnt want it to seem as an arguement against historical fantasy, more of an increased respect for those who can place their fantasy in a real historical setting. when Tolken first made middle earth that was an original idea. all fantasy stories in the past even back to legends were always set on "our earth". just in a place that people rarely tred so the idea of another world was a novel one. however, since then it has been used increasingly as a way for writers not to bother with historical facts. its on an alternate world so no need for research. which is perfectly fine. why not? but i prefer "our world" even if its a magic section that was unrecorded in the history books.

and unfortunately i do agree with the statement that most historical fiction is set in "medevil europe with dragons and elves".

Poul Anderson comes to mind as an author who wrote fantastic tales with a real historical setting and a lot of reserach to back them up. in fact i think ill go re-read the mermaids children. it was a nice tour of denmark, greenland and croatia with a fantastic slant.

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Sat January 17th, 2009, 2:24 am

I just recently read Poul Anderson's "Golden Slave", which is another straight historical swashbuckler (Like "Rogue Sword"). This one is about the Cimbri or Cimbrians, a Nordic tribe forced from their homeland by terrible weather and bad harvests into Europe, where they wandered south on a lengthy migration until they ran into the the edges of Republican Roman territory. They clashed sporadically with the Romans until they were virtually wiped out in the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC. As you go on you realise that PA is creating a possible origin for the legends of the Norse gods Odin and Thor. Lots of interesting stuff, presented in the guise of historical adventure.
So even his straight HF plays with myth and legend and the favourite theme of many Norse sagas- the hero who has to work through the tragic consequences of bad choices and/or fate. (Of course, the bad choices can also be the result of fate.)
Last edited by annis on Sun January 18th, 2009, 1:21 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Richard
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Location: Albany, NY
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Hey, I think I just wrote one of those

Postby Richard » Tue February 24th, 2009, 2:05 am

My book is about the events of 827, when Venetian merchants stole St. Mark's relics. I was thinking of a fantasy-type setting from the beginning, because the time period is the root of most European-themed fantasy, and the subject- the taking of an article of great power from an ancient crypt- is probably the second most hackneyed fantasy quest plot. I can get away from using such a cliche plot only because it actually happened.

I did keep magic and elves out of the book- except that some of the characters have advanced (for the time) knowledge about medicine and astronomy which to the uneducated characters seems like magic. And I built the cast of characters on the quest along the traditional lines of the fantasy "adventuring party". There's a healer, a mysterious woman with sorceress-like powers (but not really), an armored warrior, and a rogue-ish fellow with a long knife and a sharp wit.

I chose to follow those traditional fantasy lines because I was struck with the idea that the story of this event is the closest thing I've ever heard of to a D&D adventure that I've ever heard of in real history.
How did an 800-year-old headless corpse transform Venice from a backwater
into the greatest sea-empire of the early Middle Ages? Find out at,


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annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Tue February 24th, 2009, 4:36 am

Sounds interesting, Richard. I enjoy novels which are set in periods not usually covered by fiction. The theft of the relics marked the start of greatness for the city of Venice - now they had something with which to attract the pilgrim trade.

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Richard
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Location: Albany, NY
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Postby Richard » Tue February 24th, 2009, 1:44 pm

Exactly! I have described this to some people with an analogy: what if the Yankees or the Red Sox were somehow convinced to play in Albany, NY?

When I started doing my research I was thinking primarily about the pilgrim angle, but as I got deeper in I began to see it as more of a political/religious power play. At this time there are three empires, and each controls its own brand of religion. The Franks are allied with the Roman Church, the Byzantines control the Eastern Church, and of course the Abbasid Caliph is "Commander of the Faithful" over the Muslims of his empire.

Venice in 827 is in the position of having to choose between the influence of Rome and Constantinople. It has managed to exist in the cracks between those empires for some time, and has profited by it. When they take Mark, they (my theory goes) can claim equal religious authority to the Christian empires, and so are able to build their own. I postulate in the book that in the 9th century it's impossible to govern an empire without the people in it beleiving that they are doing God's will when they serve the Emperor.
How did an 800-year-old headless corpse transform Venice from a backwater
into the greatest sea-empire of the early Middle Ages? Find out at,




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Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Postby Kveto from Prague » Tue February 2nd, 2010, 5:36 pm

"annis" wrote:I just recently read Poul Anderson's "Golden Slave", which is another straight historical swashbuckler (Like "Rogue Sword"). This one is about the Cimbri or Cimbrians, a Nordic tribe forced from their homeland by terrible weather and bad harvests into Europe, where they wandered south on a lengthy migration until they ran into the the edges of Republican Roman territory. They clashed sporadically with the Romans until they were virtually wiped out in the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC. As you go on you realise that PA is creating a possible origin for the legends of the Norse gods Odin and Thor. Lots of interesting stuff, presented in the guise of historical adventure.
So even his straight HF plays with myth and legend and the favourite theme of many Norse sagas- the hero who has to work through the tragic consequences of bad choices and/or fate. (Of course, the bad choices can also be the result of fate.)


Ahh, so this is the thread where you alerted me to "golden slave". Im glad i forgot it so i got the "surprise" at the end.

Too bad Anderson didnt do more straight HF.

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Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Location: Georgia USA

Postby Ludmilla » Fri September 14th, 2012, 7:46 pm

I was trying to find a thread to post this article about historical fantasy, and this one seemed the most appropriate.

A few weeks ago author Alma Alexander posted this interesting article, Historical Fantasy and All That, and I thought I'd post the link here since it touches on discussions and historical figures we've discussed here.

Carla
Compulsive Reader
Contact:

Postby Carla » Fri September 14th, 2012, 8:51 pm

"annis" wrote:I just recently read Poul Anderson's "Golden Slave", which is another straight historical swashbuckler (Like "Rogue Sword"). This one is about the Cimbri or Cimbrians, a Nordic tribe forced from their homeland by terrible weather and bad harvests into Europe, where they wandered south on a lengthy migration until they ran into the the edges of Republican Roman territory. They clashed sporadically with the Romans until they were virtually wiped out in the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC. As you go on you realise that PA is creating a possible origin for the legends of the Norse gods Odin and Thor. Lots of interesting stuff, presented in the guise of historical adventure.
So even his straight HF plays with myth and legend and the favourite theme of many Norse sagas- the hero who has to work through the tragic consequences of bad choices and/or fate. (Of course, the bad choices can also be the result of fate.)


Golden Slave sounds like another that I should look out for - thanks!

I always thought of Tolkien's Middle-Earth as intended to be not another world, but as our world in a very very distant past. That brings it more into line with the settings of myths and legends, like Beowulf or the Mabinogion or the Norse myths. Tolkien even says this playfully in The Hobbit, something like "...long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was more green and less noise..." and "...hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy...".

It's interesting that you mention that Poul Anderson is creating a possible origin for the Norse gods in his fiction. One of Tolkien's letters (I think) says that he was doing something similar in his novels, the example I remember was that he wanted readers to see a possible 'origin' for Sleeping Beauty in Aragorn's healing of Eowyn. (Terry Pratchett plays with this sort of theme in bravura style in Witches Abroad). Perhaps there's a deep-seated idea that myths/legends/fairytales must have come from somewhere, and an attraction to imagining what that somewhere might have been.

For what it's worth, my working definition of historical fantasy is that it's a story set in a real historical setting and/or with real historical figures, but involving magic and/or mythical beasts that really exist within the world of the novel and are not just in the characters' imaginations. E.g. a story about William of Normandy capturing a dragon and bringing it to Hastings to kill King Harold in 1066.
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