Speculative fiction (was Re: DWJones mystery book)

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Sat Aug 2 12:44:41 EDT 2003


>I'd be interested to know where, and why?

On a couple of other lists, a while ago; one was the Bujold list. At the 
time, I wondered about it, but then no one else on the list made a comment. 
I've also seen an article or two that talks about historical fiction as 
speculative fiction.

>I'm inclined to agree here, for Historical Fiction to
>qualify as speculative it must have some Non Realistic
>element, such as time travel (and there is quite a bit
>of historical fiction in which present day characters
>go to the past and witness events without using any
>present day knowledge or changing history - but I'd
>still say they qualify as Spec Fic solely on acount of
>that plot device) or some known, and significant,
>contradiction of well established facts (such as
>Milton going to America instead of writing Paradise
>Lost).

Speaking as a medievalist, though not strictly an historian, I have to say 
that for me, this is where the grey area starts to get pretty big. I mean, 
there's lots of historical fiction which to me is entirely unrealistic 
because it presents 20th century motivations and personalities in medieval 
settings. (Ken Follett's one attempt is a classic example.) Dunnett's 
Lymond and Nicolo are also, to my mind, 20th century men parked in an 
historical context. Another non-realistic element common in all of 
Dunnett's work is the way the hero can recover from injuries as if he had 
access to modern medicine. I can think of heaps and heaps of other 
examples, the historical novel I read where the woman thought to herself 
that she looked like one of Chaucer's characters before the Canterbury 
Tales was written... But I suppose that this is not what you are getting at 
- does it have to not be non-realistic *on purpose* to be speculative?

Robyn
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