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Topic: Question for Historical Fiction Readers

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Subject: Question for Historical Fiction Readers
Date Posted: 8/20/2009 12:24 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,134
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This may sound like a dumb question, but what is included in the definition of "historical fiction"? 

I've always loved mysteries but never really read any historical mysteries until the last few years--and even now I'm only reading a few authors and time periods.  I'm enjoying the ones I am reading so will branch out to others--but in thinking about it, I don't really know what's considered "historical".  Does it have to be a certain number of years old?  Does any mystery (or fiction) that was set before today qualify?  What if it's set in the 1960s?  For that matter, the 1980s?  Or does it have to describe a particular defined period like Ellizabethan England or Civil War South?

I thought I'd come to the experts for an answer!  LOL

Date Posted: 8/20/2009 1:01 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,175
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Good question.  IMO  Historical Fiction is a fictional character interacting in a historical period or event.

As for which is considered historical?  Yesterday is history,  I don't think it has to be like an old table that has to be over 100 to be considered an antique.  Since I love many  time periods  I tend to read about those periods most often.   I 'm not very interested with the history of the 20th century for example.  But my brother loves anything to do with WWI and WWII,  So this is when sub-genre's come in handy.

I hope that this helps, and I don't leave you confused.

Date Posted: 8/20/2009 6:34 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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It's a good question. HF fans will give you different answers too.

I mostly agree with Jerelyn, although HF doesn't have to be about a person or a fictional character. It can be about an event or place or an actual historical figure, such as Richard III. It's basically a story (fiction) about a real person, place or thing. The closer the author stays to actual fact, the better I like it. But opinions differ about this too. And there is a genre called alternate history.

As for time periods, I've noticed that fiction that was once called "contemporary" may later be called historical fiction. I guess I'm dating myself here. For example, Giovanni's Room is a classic in gay literature. It dealt with a contemporary theme - gay life in the 1950s. Today, you could easily refer to it as HF.

Date Posted: 8/20/2009 6:45 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 1,976
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This is a hotly debated question.  The historial novel society says the novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only by research).  Going by this defintion books writtern by Charles Dickens or Mark Twain, while being classics, are not historical fiction.  As for this historical fiction forum, we're not picky, everyone is entitled to their own defintion.

Date Posted: 8/20/2009 7:29 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Yep, this is definitely a debated question! I usually go with the rules that Donna just wrote, but I'm also really flexible with it. I wish I could give a better answer, but even the experts argue about this, lol. I wouldn't consider any subject less than 50 years old as H/F.

As for the questions you asked, I would say that it does not have to describe a particular, defined period to be considered H/F, but since most of the past has been put into defined, named periods, just about any subject would automatically go into some particular period.

Mysteries set during the past are usually referred to as "Historical Mysteries". The "Mystery" category has a "Historical" sub-genre.

That's all I got, lol.

Date Posted: 8/21/2009 5:29 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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See? What did I tell you?

But we got flexibility. Yeah!