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How historical do you want your historical fic?

galanx

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That's a great example. I agree. If I'm reading historical fiction I don't want to read about characters with a twenty first century mindset. Someone like Mary Renault can write the Ancient World so that her characters take slavery for granted, believe women should be confined to the house, talk about infanticide as completely normal, and that's what interesting - to enter into their mental framework. And a great writer can make those characters sympathetic, and their values comprehensible within their own context.
My main bugbear in historical fiction is the using of 20th/21st century knowledge to prove just how smart and skilled a character is compared to everyone else. So a young and plucky 12th century physician will know all about germ theory to and get the reader on side when dealing with those old fuddy-duddies that still believe in humors and excess bile. A Roman patrician giving a lecture straight from the UN Declaration of Human Rights when it comes to dealing slaves.
That was one of the problems by the end of Wolf Hall, with Thomas Cromwell sometimes sounding like Richard Dawkins (okay, slight exaggeration)
 

aThenian

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That was one of the problems by the end of Wolf Hall, with Thomas Cromwell sometimes sounding like Richard Dawkins (okay, slight exaggeration)
Like Richard Dawkins how? I thought Cromwell was way too cuddly in her version.
 

galanx

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Like Richard Dawkins how? I thought Cromwell was way too cuddly in her version.
What, you don't think Dawkins is cuddly? ;) Yes, just a modern decent clear-thinking liberal, above all the petty religious burning of one's enemies and aristocratic squabbles of his day.
 

svalbard

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What, you don't think Dawkins is cuddly? ;) Yes, just a modern decent clear-thinking liberal, above all the petty religious burning of one's enemies and aristocratic squabbles of his day.
Now I am confused.
 

Parson

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above all the petty religious burning of one's enemies and aristocratic squabbles of his day.
I think he really wants to provoke squabbles. If it weren't for his screaming critics he would be just another overly pretentious academic.
 

galanx

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Now I am confused.
Ooops, sorry-

What, you don't think Dawkins is cuddly? ;) Yes, just a modern decent clear-thinking liberal, above all the petty religious burning of one's enemies and aristocratic squabbles of his day.
Should be "Yes, Cromwell in the book is just a modern decent clear-thinking liberal above all the petty religious burning of one's enemies and aristocratic squabbles of his day." i.e. I was agreeing with aThenian.




.
 

Lew Rockwell Fan

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I think he really wants to provoke squabbles. If it weren't for his screaming critics he would be just another overly pretentious academic.
You might like to look at some of his earlier work, when he was writing about the mechanics of natural selection. "Climbing Mount Improbable" is especially good. It's kind of an odd thing about the God book, which I haven't read. It used to be that very few people had heard of Dawkins and his fans were similar to Stephen Gould's. It was rare to meet one. With the God book, he seems to have drawn a totally different crowd. Alhough I'm broadly and deeply agnostic, not just about divinity, that new crowd makes me uncomfortable. It seems that is the only book of his they know, and they are very . . . strident. Call me a snob, but I tend to reflexively shy of books that are extremely popular. Between that reaction and the crowd that seems to be lionizing him because of that one book, I've been put off enough that I have no great desire to read it, despite being a fan of his earlier work.
 

Vertigo

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I think there may be some cross purposes going on. I may be completely wrong here, in which case I apologise, but I think the statement "Yes, just a modern decent clear-thinking liberal, above all the petty religious burning of one's enemies and aristocratic squabbles of his day" was describing Cromwell and his times being Tudor times compared to Dawkins' specific arguments of the modern day. And the original comparison was that to have someone presenting views comparable to Dawkins - as a modern clear-thinking liberal - but in Tudor times was historically a bit bonkers.

Maybe I'm wrong but it appears to me that some wires have gotten a bit crossed over the last half dozen or so posts.
 

Lew Rockwell Fan

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I should perhaps make it clear that I wasn't thiking of ANYONE here when speaking of Dawkins' new crowd. Everyone in this thread, personality wise, is more like his old crowd, regardless of what they've read of his. To be specific, the "new crowd" is mostly people I've chatted with in Second Life.
 

Parson

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And the original comparison was that to have someone presenting views comparable to Dawkins - as a modern clear-thinking liberal - but in Tudor times was historically a bit bonkers.
I should perhaps make it clear that I wasn't thiking of ANYONE here when speaking of Dawkins' new crowd. Everyone in this thread, personality wise, is more like his old crowd, regardless of what they've read of his. To be specific, the "new crowd" is mostly people I've chatted with in Second Life.
Sorry guys, I should have read the posts better. I missed the connection.
 

aThenian

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Yeah I agree with everyone on this thread I think!
With the God book, he seems to have drawn a totally different crowd.
I've heard that Dawkin's science writing is excellent (haven't actually read any myself), but like you I think it's a real shame he's changed direction and become the poster boy for atheism instead - especially in the States, as there's a lot of suspicion of atheism it seems to me, and so it's a shame that Dawkin's deliberately provocative and arrogant version is the one that's getting so much attention.

to have someone presenting views comparable to Dawkins - as a modern clear-thinking liberal - but in Tudor times was historically a bit bonkers.
Yes, and not only is Mantel's Cromwell not historically likely but I think he's also less interesting as a result. He's the good guy and all his opponents/victims are turned into monsters, which just seems so over-simple in what's meant to be literary fiction with a capital L. So much more interesting if she'd made him of his own time and culture, and yet still sympathetic - like Clavell managed to do with Toranaga in Shogun.
The first thing Toranaga does on his first appearance in the book is order crucified one of his own officers - a loyal, decent young father who has made a mistake. And yet that action is made explicable and the reader ends up rooting for Toranaga - or at least, finds him a sympathetic character. Mantel may be a talented writer, but she can't face the idea of her protagonist being a torturer unless she invents all kind of back story to show that the victims were truly horrible people who deserved what happened to them and Cromwell was through-and-through lovely.
 

aThenian

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Outspoken, yes. Poster boy? debatable. He seems to annoy a lot of Atheists.
He has such a high profile - his God Delusion book was a huge bestseller - so I guess for many people he is the representative of Atheism. Not sure who else it would be in the US - are there other high profile Atheists?
 

Ray McCarthy

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This God Delusion book was a huge bestseller
So had 50 shades, or Dan Brown. Popular sales means nothing, the most ardent readers and supporters of the book were people that for one reason or another already hated Christianity, or particularly the Catholic church.

Fair enough to attack the literal "Young Earth" Creationists. They are an easy target but not representative of the majority of Theists of any religion.
Where do the Humanist morals come from? There is no scientific basis. Science and Theology have different goals. He should stick to science and leave attacking Theists to properly trained and educated Atheist Philosophers. He's not converted any Theists with his rants and embarrassed plenty of more thoughtful Humanists and Atheists.
By all accounts "The Selfish Gene" is a far better book and at least he researched it!
 

Vertigo

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Indeed - to bring things back on track; I do think it should be made clear when history is going to be bent a little. I have no problem with doing that but it should be honest and stated in a foreword or end note. There have been too many cases where large numbers of people have ended up believe incorrect fictional histories over the real one; particularly in film.
 

Brian G Turner

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Going back to the original question - do you obsess about a particular historical period and want to do everything you can to bring every detail of it to life? Then you may be inclined to historical fiction; or do you simply enjoy the period and want to use some part of it as inspiration? Then you may be more inclined to historical fantasy, or simply fantasy.

2c. :)
 

Martin Gill

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I'm putting the cart before the horse because I'm only a third of the way through writing this damn thing, but it is making me wonder how to potentially pitch it. I think its going to wind up with no real magic, but magic that people of the time would have believed, largely set in real locations, but with some bending of who was in charge of certain places at certain times - partly because some of it is very poorly documented (circa 800-850 - lots of conflicting opinions on who was king of where, etc and even characters like Ragnar Lothbrok that may or may not have existed). But a baddie that really didn't exist. So I'm curious about what I'd even tell an agent it is. Is historical fantasy a thing?
 

Brian G Turner

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Is historical fantasy a thing?
It's definitely a subgenre, and bridges the gap between fantasy and historical fiction. Basically, anything with a focus on historical realism that isn't directly historical. A degree of fantasy and magic are possible. GRRM's work is sometimes referred to as "historical fantasy" because it was based, on part, on the War of the Roses, and remains more focused on political intrigue than spellc-casting and similar. Guy Gavriel Kay is another, who basically takes a period of history, writes it up, and sticks his name on it. :)

David Gemmel and Joe Abercrombie could also arguably be described as historical fantasy writers, because of their focus on historical realism and limited magic.
 
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