I think in any genre fiction some of the work transcends the genre and other work merely satisfies the masses. Not for me to question what other folks enjoy reading, I am just glad they read. I loved Michener’s Hawaii – my mother-in-law sent it to me when I arrived on Oahu and I feel I understood the local history and people better for having read it.Thanks, Tammi. That's true — in any genre, even in, say, the vampire genre, there are quality works of fiction that transcend the limitations of their frame by using real characters and interesting stories. I've also heard good things about Hawaii and I look forward to reading it! It's one of my dad's favorites.
I see historical fiction as realistic fiction set in the past. Yes, there are too many stories about the civil war and emancipation, and yes, it can be gimmicky, but stories set in the present often reuse the same plotlines. There’s good historical fiction and there’s bad, just like anything else.Agreed, Elemarth. Historical fiction has its pluses and minuses just like any other genre. But I still find more minuses than pluses, and more minuses than in other genres. Realistic fiction is just less limiting, and I find it difficult to find historical fiction that uses an unusual or creative plotline while also having good characters. My question is, does being set next to huge historical events inherently make it more difficult to make a historical novel a good novel? That's just me, though!
chris markel has a good point about the value of historical fiction:
i think historical fiction has many possibilities. one of them being, one who has the historical background can express a theory they have about an event that is not accepted by the mainstream. historical demigods demand citations and documented proof for those who have a different slant on the accepted take on events, etc. and as those who really know, history is written by the victors. fiction allows us some license and allows us to look at events in a p.o.v. that text does not.Absolutely, I agree that historical fiction does us a service in literature: it gives us a look at the loser's side of history, or the lives of individuals that normally get lost in the great sweep of historical events. We rarely hear, for example, about the lives of Chinese prisoners building the Great Wall, or the women's side of many historical conflicts. It's great that we have these novels to give us a glimpse into what their lives may have been like. But do they move us because of the facts, or the story? I think these novels often let their literary merit suffer.