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Questionnaire

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.
Kate139
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Questionnaire

Post by Kate139 » Sat June 11th, 2011, 4:14 pm

I'd be grateful for some answers to the following four questions, so that I can compile the results for an article I'm planning.
Please could you answer YES, NO or DON'T KNOW to each of the following. (You can add a very brief explanation against any of them but only if you feel the need.)
e.g just say 1. YES or 1. NO etc
I'll say "Thank you" now to everyone who takes part. The more the merrier!

1. Is a novel written by a ninety-year-old about events of seventy years ago (ie in their lifetime but not of most readers) Historical Fiction?

2. Is a novel written by a twenty-year-old about events only thirty years ago (and therefore researched) Historical Fiction?

3. If a novel is fundamentally about action that could take place in any era (ie universal themes) and the setting adds just colour rather than being critical to the story still Historical Fiction in a strict sense?

4. Should there be a strict cut off date of say 100 years for something to qualify as Historical Fiction (as in the case of vintage becoming antique when 100 years old)?

5. Does a novel become HIstorical Fiction over time, even if it was once contemporary (eg Charles Dickens)?

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO TAKES PART. Kate.

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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Sat June 11th, 2011, 4:27 pm

[quote=""Kate139""]
1. Is a novel written by a ninety-year-old about events of seventy years ago (ie in their lifetime but not of most readers) Historical Fiction?[/quote]

Yes
2. Is a novel written by a twenty-year-old about events only thirty years ago (and therefore researched) Historical Fiction?
To me personally, no, it's too modern.
3. If a novel is fundamentally about action that could take place in any era (ie universal themes) and the setting adds just colour rather than being critical to the story still Historical Fiction in a strict sense?
Yes - I'd consider it a "period" novel but I class this as a sub-genre of historical fiction.
4. Should there be a strict cut off date of say 100 years for something to qualify as Historical Fiction (as in the case of vintage becoming antique when 100 years old)?
No - writing is about freedom of expression and we shouldn't put official caps on that.
5. Does a novel become HIstorical Fiction over time, even if it was once contemporary (eg Charles Dickens)?
Yes but again, I consider it a sub-genre.

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Sat June 11th, 2011, 4:37 pm

Interesting poll! My answers are below.

[quote=""Kate139""]I'd be grateful for some answers to the following four questions, so that I can compile the results for an article I'm planning.
Please could you answer YES, NO or DON'T KNOW to each of the following. (You can add a very brief explanation against any of them but only if you feel the need.)
e.g just say 1. YES or 1. NO etc
I'll say "Thank you" now to everyone who takes part. The more the merrier!

1. Is a novel written by a ninety-year-old about events of seventy years ago (ie in their lifetime but not of most readers) Historical Fiction? BB: Yes.

2. Is a novel written by a twenty-year-old about events only thirty years ago (and therefore researched) Historical Fiction? BB: Don't know. 30 years ago strikes me more as contemporary, even if the author had to do research, but I think 30-50 years falls into a gray area depending on how the author chooses to approach the structure of the story.

3. If a novel is fundamentally about action that could take place in any era (ie universal themes) and the setting adds just colour rather than being critical to the story still Historical Fiction in a strict sense? BB: yes.

4. Should there be a strict cut off date of say 100 years for something to qualify as Historical Fiction (as in the case of vintage becoming antique when 100 years old)? BB: No. I think 50 years is a good rule of thumb, but I can see 30 to 50 years qualifying as historical fiction in some cases.

5. Does a novel become HIstorical Fiction over time, even if it was once contemporary (eg Charles Dickens)? BB: No, since the author and the reading audience at the time it was published would have regarded it as contemporary. (Of course, the two novels that Dickens himself wrote as historical novels, A Tale of Two Cities and Barnaby Rudge, should be treated as HF.)

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO TAKES PART. Kate.[/quote]
Susan Higginbotham
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Vanessa
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Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Post by Vanessa » Sat June 11th, 2011, 5:19 pm

Isn't there a modern history genre, say, for such events as the world wars, especially WWII? Actually even the 50s/60s/70s etc could be classed as modern history, if you think about it.
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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Sat June 11th, 2011, 6:30 pm

[quote=""Kate139""]I'd be grateful for some answers to the following four questions, so that I can compile the results for an article I'm planning.
Please could you answer YES, NO or DON'T KNOW to each of the following. (You can add a very brief explanation against any of them but only if you feel the need.)
e.g just say 1. YES or 1. NO etc
I'll say "Thank you" now to everyone who takes part. The more the merrier!

1. Is a novel written by a ninety-year-old about events of seventy years ago (ie in their lifetime but not of most readers) Historical Fiction?
Don't know, I'd call it more "period drama".

2. Is a novel written by a twenty-year-old about events only thirty years ago (and therefore researched) Historical Fiction?
No, only 30 years ago would be contemporary to me.

3. If a novel is fundamentally about action that could take place in any era (ie universal themes) and the setting adds just colour rather than being critical to the story still Historical Fiction in a strict sense?

Yes.

4. Should there be a strict cut off date of say 100 years for something to qualify as Historical Fiction (as in the case of vintage becoming antique when 100 years old)?
Yes!

5. Does a novel become HIstorical Fiction over time, even if it was once contemporary (eg Charles Dickens)?
Don't know, if it was recounting specific events of the time that the author was living, then I think it would be hf.

[/quote]

Good luck with your article!
Currently reading: "The Infirmary" by L J Ross

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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.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat June 11th, 2011, 7:32 pm

1. no
2. no
3. yes
4. yes
5. yes

My reasons: I operate from an average reader's standpoint, which is they picked up the book for a setting 'not in any sense set in the present' -- which includes things they might be able to discuss with Grandma who lived through it. So that explains answer #4. 100 years minimum, at least for me.

and as to question #5: To the above reader, Jane Austin falls into the same category as a Jane Austin knockoff -- both set in regency England. They aren't going to nit-pick about Austen's being a 'contemporary' novel, while the spinoff is 'Historical'.

On #3, the setting versus the universal themes. Show me a novel that doesn't deal with universal themes! The human race hasn't changed any. If it is set other than the present/recent past, it's historical.

On questions 1 and 2, Why should the reader know or care about the writer's age?

annis
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Post by annis » Sat June 11th, 2011, 8:58 pm

1. Is a novel written by a ninety-year-old about events of seventy years ago (ie in their lifetime but not of most readers) Historical Fiction?

Yes

2. Is a novel written by a twenty-year-old about events only thirty years ago (and therefore researched) Historical Fiction?

No

3. If a novel is fundamentally about action that could take place in any era (ie universal themes) and the setting adds just colour rather than being critical to the story still Historical Fiction in a strict sense?

Yes

4. Should there be a strict cut off date of say 100 years for something to qualify as Historical Fiction (as in the case of vintage becoming antique when 100 years old)?

The cut-off date for a book to be considered HF is usually 50 years. A novel written now about WWII, for example, would be seen as HF, while a novel written about WWII not long after the war wouldn't qualify as HF.

5. Does a novel become Historical Fiction over time, even if it was once contemporary (eg Charles Dickens)?

No. Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary isn't HF because it was about a contemporary subject when written, while his novel Salammbo, set in ancient Carthage, is definitely HF. (That's not to say that a novel contemporary when written can't give us a unique perspective on a particular period)
Last edited by annis on Sat June 11th, 2011, 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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oldhousejunkie
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Post by oldhousejunkie » Sat June 11th, 2011, 10:17 pm

1. Is a novel written by a ninety-year-old about events of seventy years ago (ie in their lifetime but not of most readers) Historical Fiction?
Yes. But I measure that by architectural history standards (i.e. something becomes historic at the 50 year mark...)

2. Is a novel written by a twenty-year-old about events only thirty years ago (and therefore researched) Historical Fiction?
No. See above.

3. If a novel is fundamentally about action that could take place in any era (ie universal themes) and the setting adds just colour rather than being critical to the story still Historical Fiction in a strict sense?
Yes. If the setting is in a historical period, I would say so.

4. Should there be a strict cut off date of say 100 years for something to qualify as Historical Fiction (as in the case of vintage becoming antique when 100 years old)?
No. Although from a reader's perspective, I think WWII is my personal cut off for a historical fiction.

5. Does a novel become Historical Fiction over time, even if it was once contemporary (eg Charles Dickens)?
Yes.
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Sat June 11th, 2011, 11:25 pm

1. Is a novel written by a ninety-year-old about events of seventy years ago (ie in their lifetime but not of most readers) Historical Fiction?

No. The novel is about a time the author personally remembers, which will affect the story and the way it's written.

2. Is a novel written by a twenty-year-old about events only thirty years ago (and therefore researched) Historical Fiction?

Yes, but I'm not aware of any novels that fit in this category. A twenty-year-old writing about a time period the average reader has lived through better have exceptional research skills, because readers will jump on any errors! I would think it would be difficult to find a publisher for a novel like this.

3. If a novel is fundamentally about action that could take place in any era (ie universal themes) and the setting adds just colour rather than being critical to the story still Historical Fiction in a strict sense?

Yes. Actually, good historical fiction does have universal themes. But it's hard to imagine an action that truly could take place in any era. Take going shopping: Today, we do it on the internet. Farmers in the 1800s had to take a horse and wagon into town. Medieval folks had to wait for market day and go to the fair.

4. Should there be a strict cut off date of say 100 years for something to qualify as Historical Fiction (as in the case of vintage becoming antique when 100 years old)?

No. It's a moving target. Best not to get too strict about it.

5. Does a novel become HIstorical Fiction over time, even if it was once contemporary (eg Charles Dickens)?

No. It's classic fiction. The difference may be subtle, but a novel written about the author's own time is going to be a little different than a novel based on the author's research. The biases will be different, and the setting details the author includes are also likely to be different. For example, 100 years from now, historical novelists writing about 2011 will probably put way more detail in about electronic communications than we do today: it will be a curiosity to readers, either because the grid will have failed and people will be writing letters on paper again, or because the technology will have advanced so far that ours seems clunky and awkward.

And now I'm going to go back and read what everyone else has written. Fun questionnaire!
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

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Sun June 12th, 2011, 12:19 am

[quote=""Margaret""]1.

2. Is a novel written by a twenty-year-old about events only thirty years ago (and therefore researched) Historical Fiction?

Yes, but I'm not aware of any novels that fit in this category. A twenty-year-old writing about a time period the average reader has lived through better have exceptional research skills, because readers will jump on any errors! I would think it would be difficult to find a publisher for a novel like this.

[/quote]

There is one (published by a major house) that comes close to this description, actually, though I can't remember the author or the title. It was set in the 1980's, as I recall, and the author was young enough (I think in her mid-twenties) that she had to consult old newspapers, etc. to get a feel for the times.
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