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hard fiction or soft fiction?

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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Kveto from Prague
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hard fiction or soft fiction?

Post by Kveto from Prague » Thu October 9th, 2008, 10:29 pm

i found this description in a literary critizism piece and thought it was interesting.

"There are actually two quite distinct kinds of historical novel, which I shall call the “hard” and the “soft.” On the one hand the writer of historical fiction may attempt to capture the inner life and motivations of some real and well-documented historical figure. Robert Graves’s Claudius novels offer outstanding examples of this “hard” sub-genre. Our author might, on the other hand, center his story on some invented person, who is then let loose amidst historical scenery: think of Gone With the Wind or Patrick O’Brian’s sea stories. (As a slight variant of this “soft” sub-genre, the same thing can be done with a historical figure sufficiently obscure he might as well be an invention.)

The “hard” sub-genre is less often attempted because it is much more difficult to pull off. To give a convincing account of the thoughts and emotions of, say, Charlemagne, you need to do a great deal of research into the man, his family, friends and colleagues. You also need a good understanding of human types, an imaginative appreciation of people who may be quite unlike yourself. This combination of diligence and insight is not often found among fiction writers, who tend if anything to be more lazy and self-obsessed than the human average. “Soft” historical fiction, on the other hand, can be tackled by anybody, including the kind of novelist whose central characters are really nothing more than self-impersonations. It is, in fact, rather amusing to imagine oneself wandering around in old Carthage or fighting at Manzikert." by JD


I think it raises an interesting question. do you prefer to read "hard" or "soft" fiction and why?

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LCW
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Post by LCW » Thu October 9th, 2008, 10:49 pm

Personally, I think creating such arbitrary distinctions is just a form of pretentiousness and snobbery. There are people who use whatever they can to make themselves feel better than "the others". Obviously some fiction is better written than others in that it may have more depth, a more complicated storyline, etc. but the tryng to define some novels as "literary" or "hard" fiction just goes too far into arrogance and the "the words in my book are bigger than yours" attitude. I find it distasteful! At the end of the day we all escape to the fiction we enjoy whether it be a Lisa Kleypas novel or one of the classics.
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Kveto from Prague
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ouch

Post by Kveto from Prague » Thu October 9th, 2008, 11:12 pm

[quote=""1lila1""]Personally, I think creating such arbitrary distinctions is just a form of pretentiousness and snobbery. There are people who use whatever they can to make themselves feel better than "the others". Obviously some fiction is better written than others in that it may have more depth, a more complicated storyline, etc. but the tryng to define some novels as "literary" or "hard" fiction just goes too far into arrogance and the "the words in my book are bigger than yours" attitude. I find it distasteful! At the end of the day we all escape to the fiction we enjoy whether it be a Lisa Kleypas novel or one of the classics.[/quote]

Wow! Angry much? Im sorry this offended you so egrigiously. it certainly wasnt my intent. i was only quoting someone elses work.

I didnt include the whole criticizm as it didnt really affect the conversation, but here it is. http://www.olimu.com/Journalism/Texts/C ... Duggan.htm

I dont think the author was necessarily saying one is "better" than the other. I think he called one "hard" because he feels its more challenging to write. (and he compliments the author he's discussing by saying his "soft" fiction is better).

I have read good and poor examples of both "hard" (actual personages) and "soft" (fictional personages), and im not sure which i prefer. i was interested in hearing from others.

I realize i perhaps shouldnt have included the second paragraph as its tone seems to come down on "soft" fiction, but a judgement on one or the other was not what im after. I only wanted to see if anyone prefers one to the other and why.

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Post by Ash » Fri October 10th, 2008, 12:30 am

keny, I totally agree with lila (and I did not read any anger in her post, simply an expression of opinion). I think his comments have some merit - there are definitely different types of books in every genre. In sci fi, there is a difference between HG Wells and Piers Anthony. In HF, we can certainly name authors on either side of the scale. But as lila says, such distinctions often turns in to a 'I am better' fight. This happens all of the time with literary critics who draw some invisible line dividing what they think are classis and what they think is just popular fiction. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and arguing about which is which and whether or not one is more than the other is not only pointless, but damaging to the image of the genre itself. I think we can easily compare two books, look at how very different they are and discuss which one works best. But to say one is hard or soft is really splitting hairs.
Last edited by Ash on Fri October 10th, 2008, 12:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Amanda
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Post by Amanda » Fri October 10th, 2008, 12:53 am

We did have a discussion thread about this......(off to check)

Yep! here it is:

http://www.historicalfictiononline.com/ ... .php?t=281

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donroc
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Post by donroc » Fri October 10th, 2008, 1:23 am

I have my own divide. Well written and well researched, and not.
Image

Bodo the Apostate, a novel set during the reign of Louis the Pious and end of the Carolingian Empire.

http://www.donaldmichaelplatt.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZthhY6 ... annel_page

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JMJacobsen
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Post by JMJacobsen » Fri October 10th, 2008, 2:08 am

After reading through the thread that Amanda provided, I have to agree...it's just a substitution of words: real characters for "hard" hf and imaginary characters for "soft" hf. I'm not sure if the original author Keny quoted was being condescending or not. But I would think that he/she is at least partially correct, in that I would think that writing a hf novel from the pov of an actual historical character would be more difficult to pull off. But I'm certainly not an author, so it's just a guess on my part.

Regardless of which is more difficult to write, or which a reader prefers, bottom line seems to be that good writing exists in both forms and certainly not-so-good writing does as well. I think we could all name examples of each.

My personal preference is that it be well researched and well written. I don't seem to prefer any particular pov. I did recently read an Anne Boleyn book (imagine that, I hear they're hard to find these days :rolleyes :) that was written from Anne's pov and I just couldn't buy into what the author was trying to tell me about Anne's thoughts and motivation.

On a lighter note, as I am typing this the Snicker's commercial with all the historical figures riding along in the car came on....the one where Henry VIII is sitting in the front seat and starts singing "Greensleeves". Now THAT'S funny. :D

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Fri October 10th, 2008, 3:15 am

A damn good story is a damn good story.

Hard or soft real or made up characters isnt what gets me to read the story. Does the plot sound interesting and can the author write. If the story is good it doesnt matter.
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Alaric
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Post by Alaric » Fri October 10th, 2008, 5:43 am

^ exactly.

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Carine
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Post by Carine » Fri October 10th, 2008, 5:53 am

I don't see it either and agree completely with Divia.

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