Speculative fiction (was Re: DWJones mystery book)

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Sat Aug 2 20:17:35 EDT 2003

--- Robyn Starkey <rohina at shaw.ca> wrote:
> 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?

I, as a non-expert on that period of history, would be
inclined to not worry about such things, assuming I
noticed them, just think "sloppy research" and feel
superior. Just as I ignore all the sounds in space in
Star Wars and just enjoy the movie. But I know people
who are realy annoyed at that aspect of SW and regard
it as fantasy rather than science fiction just on that
basis - because of one scientific error. (I know there
are all sorts of other ellements in SW that could
arguably make it fantasy but I don't want to get into
that now). I supose that a lot depends upon
expectations from a story. If you don't realise that
errors are being made, and if it is not the authors'
intent to alter history then it isn't speculative to
me, but if such features are realy obvious to you and
destroy it as "Historical" fiction then for you it is
Not a very satisfactory definition really


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