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Bleeding the well dry, Robin hood and king Arthur

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.
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Thu October 7th, 2010, 7:32 pm

[quote=""annis""]
Fried Mars bars? Tell me it isn’t so! I think I feel ill… [/quote]

Oh, you wouldn't believe the food that is sold at American county fairs! Everything deep fried! And on a stick! I have to say I haven't tried any of it -- I almost never go to fairs and when I do, I'm not very brave about trying "weird" food. Don't know if county fairs in other places are like this, or if it's an American thing. :)

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite 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

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu October 7th, 2010, 8:24 pm

The last time I was at my local fairgrounds it was the world's largest Scottish games. They had meat pies, fish & chips, and haggis.

Deep-fried haggis on a stick -- now there's a revolting picture! :eek:

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Thu October 7th, 2010, 8:53 pm

[quote=""cw gortner""]It's important to note again that while we as bonafide expert historical fiction readers may be weary of the same characters / eras, the truth is most publishers are driven in acquisitions by two factors: a) commercial potential; and b) market trends. Another factor, far less relevant to most hf writers, is the "known author" factor: certain authors have such an ingrained following that readers will follow them anywhere, and they can often break out into new, less explored subjects. [/quote]

This is very true. I'm following Michelle into the world of the French Rev. I'm not a French Rev fan and the only part of French history that I enjoy is Joan of Arc, but I'll give it a go.
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Post by M.M. Bennetts » Fri October 8th, 2010, 8:14 am

Before talking about Hindu historical fiction...I don't know who else will have had this experience, but...sort of through a friend of a friend way of things, an Indian woman was at the book launch for May 1812 and she was telling me how disgraceful she thought the British ignorance of their own history was. And she explained how in India they study both their own history, but they're also required to study British history.

So anyway, she bought a copy of the book, and then over the months bought several more because she sent one to her dad, who loved it, and then he wanted a copy for his friend and on it went...And it transpires that they're crazy about British historical fiction there. They love British costume dramas too, like from the BBC.

And of course, what we often forget is that India is the second largest English-reading book market.

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime, dual time-frame
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Post by Madeleine » Fri October 8th, 2010, 9:09 am

[quote=""keny from prague""]
As for the "english" angle, well i was hoping to stay away from that. the idea that English speakers are only interested in reading about English speaking countries. Thats why in my original post i tried to use other examples of english characters who could be better subjects. King Alfred in place of Arthur. and Dick Turpin in place of Robin Hood. Im not overloaded on the less overexposed characters, whereever they are from. the charlemagne and Roland as subjects came up later in the thread.
[/quote]

DT was very popular a while ago, in the 70s/early 80s - I remember the TV series which someone else mentioned - however he seems to have fallen out of favour more recently, probably, I suspect, due to the fact that it might look as if his crimes were being glorified - he wasn't an anti-hero in the same sense that Robin Hood was.

More modern crime is also still popular - Jack the Ripper seems to hold an endless fascination for the media, a fact I always find slightly distasteful due to the nature of his crimes. But I suppose the fact that his identity has never been genuinely discovered, despite all the theories, means that he will always intrigue some people.
Currently reading: "The Strings of Murder" by Oscar de Muriel

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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Fri October 8th, 2010, 1:27 pm

[quote=""cw gortner""]I thrive on variety as a reader but clearly I'm not the average in this respect. [/quote]


I think I'm this type of reader, too (need variety). I know a little about a lot of things, but never stick with one topic long enough to develop a deep knowledge about it. I also have never had the time, resources or mental bandwidth to suck a topic dry the way some readers are able to. I wish I could, but I've accepted the fact that I'll never be this way. However, if I've discovered an author whom I think is exceptionally talented, I will follow that author and take a chance on topics that may not particularly appeal. In most cases, these turn out not to be trendy authors, so I'm not sure how much it really applies to the situation being discussed here.

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Fri October 8th, 2010, 2:16 pm

[quote=""Ludmilla""]I know a little about a lot of things, but never stick with one topic long enough to develop a deep knowledge about it. I also have never had the time, resources or mental bandwidth to suck a topic dry the way some readers are able to. I wish I could, but I've accepted the fact that I'll never be this way. [/quote]

This describes me, also. I just have too much going on in life to have time to research and delve deeply into any particular area. Maybe someday when I'm retired I will. In the meantime, I'm a "smorgasbord" reader -- I like a little bit of (almost) everything.

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Ariadne
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Post by Ariadne » Fri October 8th, 2010, 5:40 pm

I tend to agree that readers en masse aren't tiring of the same familiar subjects. This is based on years working with the Historical Novels Review and attempting to place incoming books with US-based reviewers. Novels about female royals/noblewomen/royal mistresses and English settings in general (medieval through Victorian) are in constant high demand, whereas novels with out-of-the-ordinary settings are much, much harder to place. I have a handful of reviewers who'll read historical novels set in the 19th-c Western states, for example, but many people won't consider them, no matter who the author is. Ditto for other American settings, unless it's a more glamorous-seeming era like Gilded Age New York. I prefer variety in my reading, and it seems many on this board do also, but I don't think it's the norm among HF readers in general.

So I can understand commercial publishers' desire to capitalize on what they feel readers are interested in. Given the choice, though, I'll always gravitate to the new and unfamiliar for my personal reading.

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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Fri October 8th, 2010, 5:55 pm

[quote=""Michy""]I imagine one big reason why so much is written over and over about Eleanor and Elizabeth I is because when it comes to historical females in positions of power, there aren't many to choose from.[/quote]

I think the reason is probably closer to CW's analysis of readers, publishers and markets staying in a rut. From Antonia Frasier's The Warrior Queens we have over a dozen female rulers who personally led armies from the well known Boudica, Zenobia, and Isabella; to the lesser known Tomyris of the Massagetae, who defeated and killed Cyrus the Great; the Vietnamese sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhe, who led the first uprising of their country against the Chinese in AD 59. Queen Jinga of Angola led her people against the Portuguese in the 17th C; Lakshmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi, led her men against the British in 1858, etc.

And those are just the Warrior Queens. Start looking at possible subjects because of their madness (Juana), lust (Catherine the Great), manipulation (Catherine de Medici) or all three (pick almost any Roman Empress) and the possibilities are almost endless for fascinating women of power. The Theodosian women (about whom I write) ruled over the Roman Empire during the critical time in late 4th early 5th C as the West disintegrated and the East laid the foundation form Byzantium; making decisions that affected Europe for centuries.

To pull back to the original topic, I agree there are so many areas to explore beyond Arthur and Robin Hood, that it's a shame so much ink and film is given to them. I do understand the reader/watcher's need for something familiar and iconic, but regret that they don't venture beyond their comfort zone more often.
Last edited by fljustice on Sun October 10th, 2010, 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Fri October 8th, 2010, 6:15 pm

[quote=""fljustice""]I think the reason is probably closer to CW's analysis of readers, publishers and markets staying in a rut. From Antonia Frasier's The Warrior Queens we have over a dozen female rulers who personally led armies from the well known Boudica, Zenobia, and Isabella; to the lesser known Tomyris of the Massagetae, who defeated and killed Cyrus the Great; the Vietnamese sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhe, who led the first uprising of their country against the Chinese in AD 59. Queen Jinga of Angola led her people against the Portuguese in the 17th C; Lakshmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi, led her men against the British in 1858, etc.

And those are just the Warrior Queens. Start looking at possible subjects because of their madness (Juana), lust (Catherine the Great), manipulation (Catherine de Medici) or all three (pick almost any Roman Empress) and the possibilities are almost endless for fascinating women of power. The Theodosian women (about whom I write) ruled over the Roman Empire during the critical time in late 4th early 5th C as the West disintegrated and the East laid the foundation form Byzantium; making decisions that affected Europe for centuries.
[/quote]

This is all true. However, I go back to something I posted earlier (in this same thread, I think), which is that, generally speaking, native English-language readers gravitate towards the cultures and histories which are most familiar, which would be British/English (and to a lesser degree, French). So, for women in power, that takes you back to Eleanor, Elizabeth I, and a handful of others. Publishers stay in the rut with these because they know that stepping out of it will be a harder sell. I will use myself as an example; I consider myself a fairly eclectic reader, and yet, if I have to choose between a book about an English queen and a book about a queen or powerful equivalent from another culture (especially non-European), I will choose the English queen almost every time.

So, it's a vicious cycle, I guess. :D
Last edited by Michy on Fri October 8th, 2010, 6:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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