I propose submitting an article to Ezine on Historical Fiction, if it’s not accepted I may blog it.
The point is that the genre is a broad one and encompasses work with great historical accuracy, from which you really can learn about the past, and fantasy, in which modern characters with modern mind-sets are projected back into the past to act out their fantasies in period costume. The former can give serious insight, the latter is mere escapism.
A similar polarisation happened in Science Fiction, from the high speculation of great writers we descend to fantasies about dragons: and yet, what do we make of Avatar?
It is difficult to draw the line in Historical Fiction also, where do you put “Sharpe”?
I am proposing greater discrimination of genre – not that I would propose following ‘Science Fantasy’ with the nomenclature ‘Historical Fantasy’ – that might offend too many people – but we could do something to guide readers as to how much history they may expect in a book.
You may say Historical Fantasy will dismiss itself as being poorly plotted and characterised; not so, a fantasy may be a thoroughly good read, the easier for not asking the reader to make a leap into an alien and historical mind-set. There is a place for it.
At the same time, there is a place for exploring real historical issue and characters: King Arthur, Robin Hood, Richard III and the Tudors spring to mind. These are constantly popular but all too often they’re rendered as fantasy. Perhaps it is just too difficult to get into these in an historically meaningful way, the truth is just too distant from the modern mind-set.
Yet there is a way to do it – to give a modern commentary on Dark-Age or Medieval mind-sets – the ‘time-slip’ novel, a device which has been around for generations. Unfortunately time-slip has too often been used as just that, a device. How the modern character came to access the past must be part of the story, how she/he reacts, the effect the past has on him, must be part of what matters to the reader. Given this we could have a powerful tool for understanding the past.
What I propose is therefore a clearer definition of genre, in which ‘time-slip’ and maybe other forms, could be used to give access to real history – perhaps we should call it ‘Historical Faction’?