Posts tagged with "historical fiction" - Faerye Net 2013-05-27T19:37:06+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Bring Up the Bodies 2013-05-27T19:37:06+00:00 2013-06-03T03:55:34+00:00 <p>I am off series books. It&#8217;s been so for a time: my &#8216;to-read&#8217; list on Goodreads is a shocking 260 books long, and might be longer if I hadn&#8217;t preserved it by the expedient of a &#8216;to-maybe-read&#8217; list. Series addiction would send the thing spiralling out of control.</p> <p>But here I am, finishing <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781250024176'>Book Two</a> and <em>chafing</em> for the next. How did I get here? (Besides the exemption in my series fear for audiobooks, that is!) I have a sneaking fondness for <a href="" target="links">Booker winners</a>, so I was curious about Hilary Mantel&#8217;s <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780312429980'><em>Wolf Hall</em></a> already. The only thing I knew about it other than its Bookerness was that it and its sequel, <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781250024176'><em>Bring Up the Bodies</em></a>, were about the reign of Henry <span class="caps">VIII</span>.</p> <p>Now, I was rather interested in the history of the Tudors as a child, due largely to feminist-schoolgirl awe of Queen Elizabeth, but also due to morbid-schoolgirl fascination with messy history. I didn&#8217;t even realize at the time what messy history Henry <span class="caps">VIII</span> was following! Now, Henry&#8217;s story, his desperate quest for a legitimate male heir, seems to me haunted and beset by that of Edward IV, whose legally flawed marriage(s) created such a succession crisis. (See Josephine Tey&#8217;s <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780684803869'>The Daughter of Time</a></em> if you need convincing that Edward IV&#8217;s overactive tendency to put a ring on it, not any evil of Richard III&#8217;s, overthrew his little son.) Anyway, I had a very shallow sort of knowledge of Henry VIII&#8217;s reign, just enough to school my family in &#8220;Divorced, Beheaded, Died&#8230;&#8221; and explain which queen was which when we visited England when I was 13. In college I learned a bit more by taking a class on Medieval and Tudor History of England.</p> <p>I never went in for the recent fad on Tudors, however. There&#8217;ve been some very successful book series and movie adaptations as well as the <span class="caps">HBO</span> &#8220;Tudors&#8221;, but I couldn&#8217;t summon much interest. Elizabeth, after all, is appealing to me &#8212; complicated, cagy, iconoclastic and independent. Henry <span class="caps">VIII</span>? Choleric, wife-killing Henry? Just a stage-setter, an interesting little soap opera backstory for my heroine. So it&#8217;s possible I came at <em>Wolf Hall</em> with precisely the right degree of ignorance and knowledge: broad background in the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation, enough knowledge of the course of Henry&#8217;s marriages to appreciate foreshadowing and see the other shoe about to drop, but enough ignorance to be constantly surprised.</p> <p>Mantel has chosen her hero so well: Thomas Cromwell, a low-born but brilliant man who rose to stand at Henry&#8217;s right hand. I haven&#8217;t read up on what&#8217;s known of his life yet (that might mean <span class="caps">SPOILERS</span>!) but he is a wonderful character for a smart, thoughtful novel (or two, or please soon, three!) on Henry VIII&#8217;s struggle for an heir. He&#8217;s an outsider but not: born in England but educated all over Europe. This allows him to see Tudor English customs as non-transparent, to show them to us and remark on them, without losing any credibility as a character truly of his age. He isn&#8217;t blindered and constrained to the life of the court, so this isn&#8217;t the familiar, gossipy soap-opera version of Henry VIII&#8217;s court intrigues.</p> <p>Thomas&#8217;s life story is interesting, and his upwards social trajectory is appealing to a modern reader who is unlikely to believe in the divine right to rule or the intrinsic superiority of noble blood. His background in Europe and his interest in the Tyndale Gospel and the reformation of the Church make Thomas a big-picture thinker. And somehow, despite my semester of Medieval and Tudor history, this big picture is one that hadn&#8217;t really sunk in. Henry&#8217;s desperate need for an heir (and obligatory assumption that the fault was in his women, <a href="" target="links">not in him</a>) was not only a catalyst but an <em>opportunity</em> for many. Henry&#8217;s easily mocked desire to cast off his first/brother&#8217;s wife constituted a huge challenge to papal authority at a time when many were already chafing to throw off Rome&#8217;s yoke. Thomas Cromwell, early (and secret) Protestant, smuggler of banned texts, reader of the Gospel in English, is the perfect character to lead us through this foment. This is not just about Henry&#8217;s heir or Henry&#8217;s bed: this is the end of the Medieval. This is the cusp of a new world.</p> <p>Mantel writes beautifully but often simply. Her style here, third person present and relentlessly Cromwell-focused (until the second book, she routinely uses &#8216;he&#8217; to refer to Cromwell whether or not there has been another masculine antecedent, which can be a trifle confusing,) serves the story well, lending immediacy to these centuries-old events. The narrative inhabits Cromwell so thoroughly that his asides, his incidental associations, become part of the fabric. His memories, images or words, bob back up in my consciousness a week after finishing the book, as they bob back up throughout the first and second book. I can&#8217;t wait to hear his voice again in the third.</p> <p>Also, how sinister and wonderful is the <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781250024176'>second book</a>&#8217;s title? Bring up the bodies, bring up the bodies, bring up the bodies&#8230;</p> "Small Towns" available to read online! 2013-01-30T07:56:54+00:00 2013-01-31T21:03:20+00:00 <p>Because I am not the sort of person who likes to hear half a story myself, I don&#8217;t like putting others in that situation. Therefore, when I chose to read my novelette &#8220;Small Towns&#8221; at the <span class="caps">SFWA</span> Northwest Readings this month, I decided to plop the full text online for everyone to finish reading, whether they made it to the event or not! It&#8217;s a very different sort of story from &#8220;Conditional Love&#8221;, the other story I&#8217;ve <a href="" target="links">made available online</a>, and I like the contrast quite a bit.</p> <p>&#8220;Small Towns&#8221; is a historical fantasy novelette, first published in the January/February 2012 issue of <a href="" target="links"><em>F&amp;SF</em></a>. Thanks to the kind offices of my co-protagonist <a href="" target="links">Ryan Grove</a>, it&#8217;s available <a href="">as a web page</a> or you can download the <a href=""><span class="caps">PDF</span></a> or <a href="">ePub file</a>.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s the teaser for those who didn&#8217;t make it to the readings:</p> <blockquote> <center><b>Small Towns</b></center> <p>When Jacques Jaillet was a small boy, he brought home a pocketful of sand from the seaside and dribbled it slowly onto the floorboards of his little room. He made long avenues and cottage roofs, rows of shops, garden walls, a church with a fragment of shell for the tower. Then, for no reason he could later recall, he took a deep breath and blew it all away, the shapes and the order, the grains themselves skittering under the baseboard, gone forever.</p> <p>When Jacques returned to his market town in 1918, past his middle years, it looked as if here, too, a monstrous child had finished playing and had blown the town, the streets, the houses and shops from the face of the Earth.</blockquote></p> <p>Go and <b><a href="">read the rest!</a></b></p> What is historical fiction? 2008-11-13T22:50:01+00:00 2008-11-13T22:50:09+00:00 <p>I have this problem: I like confusing genre boundaries, but I like putting books in boxes. Online, <a href="" target="links">they</a> call them shelves. It&#8217;s easier with tags, but shelves have to justify their existence: it&#8217;s silly to create a shelf for just one item. So, I was celebrating the inauguration of my somewhat snottily-named <a href="">&#8220;literary-is-a-genre&#8221;</a> shelf just now by adding previously &#8220;genreless&#8221; pieces of fiction to it, and I immediately ran into trouble. <a href="" target="powells"><em>I Sailed with Magellan</em></a> by Stuart Dybek begins in 1950&#8217;s Chicago, and continues into the 1960&#8217;s or so. It&#8217;s definitely literary fiction, but isn&#8217;t it historical as well? Why didn&#8217;t I have it shelved that way? I wouldn&#8217;t shelve <a href="" target="powells"><em>The Blind Assassin</em></a> that way, though it goes way farther back, because it proceeds to the era of its writing. Dybek&#8217;s shnovel does not. Does that make it historical fiction?</p> <p>Is it a requirement that historical fiction be set in a sufficiently remote era? The 1950&#8217;s are next-door to World War II, which boasts any amount of historical fiction. Are novels set in the 1960&#8217;s historical fiction? The 1980&#8217;s? Does the era have to inform the story (how can it not?) or is the requirement that the author inform the reader about the era? Is <a href="" target="powells"><em>The Things They Carried</em></a> historical fiction, because it was about the Vietnam War but published in 1990? Is it not historical fiction because it depicts a period and place the author did live through? Does the magnitude of events depicted (their historicity) affect whether something is historical fiction? Does the age of the narrator? (I&#8217;ve been considering the idea that my internal genre-o-meter reads <em>I Sailed with Magellan</em> as non-historical because the 1950s protagonist is a child, thus implying an older narrator in a later time-period. If he were a child protagonist in the 1850&#8217;s, thus rendering his imagined adult self &#8216;historical&#8217; as well, would it twitch the genre-o-meter in a different way?)</p> <p>I have thoroughly confused myself, and should go to sleep. How about you? Got clarity?</p>