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Introduction, and "Speculative History" question

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  • atilke@brutele.be
    Hello all, I came across this group following my periodic check for new Sharon Kay Penman novels. After checking www.bn.com and finding a new title, a google
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 2, 2001
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      Hello all,

      I came across this group following my periodic check for new Sharon
      Kay Penman novels. After checking www.bn.com and finding a new title,
      a google search on "Time and Chance" brought me to the HNS.

      I am currently living in Brussels and have been placed in the
      position of my dream (hopefully not a nightmare) of being able to
      write the novel I have been mentally creating for the past 16 years
      (due to my job loss, and my wife's job gain). On a timeline, it is
      structured across past, present and future. I have spent many years
      of periodic research and readings to help develop the historical
      framework.

      Not to run on in this first message, I have a question regarding what
      I see as speculative history. In my youth, I was an avid Harlan
      Elison reader and remember the debates regarding whether "speculative
      fiction" was a valid genre.

      Anyway, I have recently read Julian Rathbone's: Kings of Albion. For
      lack of a better term, I call this work speculative history.

      Finally, to my question-or a stimulis for discussion: What are the
      current issues regarding speculative fiction? I know this is a very
      general question, but there are elements within my planned novel that
      will require much speculation. However, I do not want to strech to
      the realms of fantasy.

      I would appreciate the insight and knowledge of those of you involved
      with historical novels.

      Thanks for creating and supporting this very interesting society.

      Sincerely,

      Anthony Tilke
    • Joy Calderwood
      Welcome, Anthony, and congratulations on your most enviable position of being able to afford to write. My take on your question, as a reader and reviewer, is
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 2, 2001
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        Welcome, Anthony, and congratulations on your most enviable position of being able to afford to write. My take on your question, as a reader and reviewer, is not to worry about crossing genre lines if it makes a good story. I've seen some excellent speculative history books, both of the "maybe this is what really happened" and the "what would have happened if" varieties. An especially good example of mixing fantasy with history is in the historical novels of Judith Tarr (see discussions in archives).
         
        IMO, anything goes if you just make a good novel of it. Also IMO, the single most important thing to creating a successful novel is compelling characters, though the marketing people on this list might have a different take on it. In the end, it's the buying reader that makes a book a success.
         
        Something to consider, that we've also talked about here, is how ebook technology has opened up the possibilities for experimental writing. Print reaches a lot wider audience, but ebook gives a book a place to prove itself if necessary.
         
        Satisfaction in your writing,
        Joy
         - - -
        Finished Michael Connelly's A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT
        About to start Albert Speer's SPANDAU: THE SECRET DIARIES
        and no, my reading isn't always dark <g>
         
         
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Sunday, December 02, 2001 11:56 AM
        Subject: [HistoricalNovelSociety] Introduction, and "Speculative History" question

        Hello all,

        I came across this group following my periodic check for new Sharon Kay Penman novels. After checking www.bn.com and finding a new title, a google search on "Time and Chance" brought me to the HNS.

        I am currently living in Brussels and have been placed in the position of my dream (hopefully not a nightmare) of being able to write the novel I have been mentally creating for the past 16 years (due to my job loss, and my wife's job gain). On a timeline, it is structured across past, present and future. I have spent many years of periodic research and readings to help develop the historical framework.

        Not to run on in this first message, I have a question regarding what I see as speculative history. In my youth, I was an avid Harlan Elison reader and remember the debates regarding whether "speculative
        fiction" was a valid genre.

        Anyway, I have recently read Julian Rathbone's: Kings of Albion. For lack of a better term, I call this work speculative history.

        Finally, to my question-or a stimulis for discussion: What are the current issues regarding speculative fiction? I know this is a very general question, but there are elements within my planned novel that
        will require much speculation. However, I do not want to strech to the realms of fantasy.

        I would appreciate the insight and knowledge of those of you involved with historical novels.

        Thanks for creating and supporting this very interesting society.

        Sincerely,
        Anthony Tilke
      • The Rabbi King. A Novel
        ... I don t think there are any rules, but I would say that if you contradict or ignore known history you are writing fantasy fiction. Alternative history is
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 3, 2001
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          Anthony Tilke wrote:
          >Finally, to my question-or a stimulus for discussion: What are the
          >current issues regarding speculative fiction? I know this is a very
          >general question, but there are elements within my planned novel that
          >will require much speculation. However, I do not want to stretch to
          >the realms of fantasy.

          I don't think there are any rules, but I would say that if you contradict
          or ignore known history you are writing fantasy fiction. "Alternative
          history" is a type of fantasy in my opinion. However,using conjecture
          to fill in blanks in known history (like adding a conversation between
          your fictional character and a historical person that never took place)
          or adding an ending to a piece of history (that never happened) is OK if
          there are no known historical ramifications that would obviously
          contradict your addition.

          Monty Kuttner
          "The Rabbi King:David of Khazaria"
          http://www.xlibris.com/THERABBIKING.html

          __________________________________________________
          Do You Yahoo!?
          Buy the perfect holiday gifts at Yahoo! Shopping.
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        • Susan Carleton
          Sorry to take so long answering (computer problems), but about Historical vs. Fantasy - A publisher in the Fantasy genre expects magical or at least paranormal
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 3, 2001
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            Sorry to take so long answering (computer problems), but about Historical vs. Fantasy -
             
            A publisher in the Fantasy genre expects magical or at least paranormal elements - enough that the story depends on it.  Otherwise, it's not Fantasy, and a manuscript without these things will be rejected. 
             
            But there's a big following for "alternate history" fiction - Yahoo has a group for its readers, though I don't remember what it's called.  And the BBC has been running its "What If..." history programme long enough that it must have a healthy audience (my family loves it) - they've covered anything from "What if Hitler had won" to "What if Jesus hadn't been crucified" or dinosaurs hadn't died, etc. 
             
            Personally, I'd *love* to read more historical fiction that blended other genres into a story, especially along the lines of realistic accounts of folktales and the ancient legends.
             
            Speculate away, if it makes a good story - THAT's the crucial part.  Cross-genre is becoming more and more popular, to judge from recent titles.
             
            =Susan
             
             
             
            Susan Carleton
            "Stories from the Age of Saints": now available at www.bogsidebooks.com
            "Laudant illa, sed ista legunt." - Martialus
             
          • Anthony Tilke
            Monty, Susan and Joy: Thanks for your comments. I agree that I need to be careful when working in this grey area. What I have found is that it takes alot of
            Message 5 of 6 , Dec 3, 2001
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              Monty, Susan and Joy:
               
              Thanks for your comments. I agree that I need to be careful when working in this grey area. What I have found is that it takes alot of research to be careful. I am sure, there will have to be quite a few entries in my "Afterword" to explain my deviations from known history.
               
              I remember another novel I read by Michael Crichton, Eaters of the Dead, that was a very interesting work of "speculative history".
               
              Joy, You mentioned Judith Tarr as a good author to read. Can you suggest which of her many novels I should start with?
               
              Thanks again,
               
              Anthony Tilke
            • Joy Calderwood
              ... Hi, Anthony. The Tarr that I always recommend first is LORD OF THE TWO LANDS, a historical fantasy, the LORD being Alexander the Great. However the main
              Message 6 of 6 , Dec 3, 2001
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                >>
                class=872594421-03122001>Joy, You mentioned Judith Tarr as a good author to read. Can you suggest which of her many novels I should start with? <<
                 
                Hi, Anthony. The Tarr that I always recommend first is LORD OF THE TWO LANDS, a historical fantasy, the LORD being Alexander the Great. However the main viewpoint comes from a woman (a truly excellent heroine), and possibly a man might enjoy more PILLAR OF FIRE, a highly speculative history based on "What if Akhenaton didn't die?" People tend to get hot under the collar about that one, as if Tarr really believed it might be true.
                 
                Tarr also co-wrote with Harry Turtledove a sci fi in which their heroine goes back in time to the empire of Marcus Aurelius, but I personally hated that "heroine" so much that I swore never to read anything by Harry Turtledove! To do the book credit, the historical research lived, convincingly. Very good portrayal of culture clash.
                 
                Can anyone remember the title of her book about Hatshepsut? Amazon attached a review of that book to the PILLAR OF FIRE page. -- oh, I found it, it's KING AND GODDESS. I wrote Amazon a note about getting that review moved to the right page.
                 
                Joy
                P.S. I'm reading SPANDAU: THE SECRET DIARIES. Very interesting psychologically. Must move the cat and get back to it.
                 
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