When does fantasy become historical?

AnyaKimlin

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Long story, but I have to label my fantasy today.

It's an urban fantasy set in 1986. My daughter says that's historical. My wife says not lol.
 

AnyaKimlin

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Good question - how much does the time setting affect the story? I figure that's a starting point for the discussion. :)

It's definitely set in the 1980s. I needed a time which had mobile phones but they weren't common place. I needed a pound note rather than a pound coin etc 1986 gave me everything the story needed ;) Various aspects of the story suggested the timing 1984 became too early for some and 1988 was too late. It's specifically February 1986.

Usually I would leave this discussion until it was complete but a college assignment means I need it tonight.
 

The Big Peat

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I've looked through the first three or so pages of historical fiction on Amazon and the most recent period that seems to be used is the 50s. Looking at wikipedia, Foyle's War is considered a period drama, and Endeavour and Life on Mars aren't. As such, I'm happy to say this objectively shouldn't be considered a historical piece.
 

AnyaKimlin

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I've looked through the first three or so pages of historical fiction on Amazon and the most recent period that seems to be used is the 50s. Looking at wikipedia, Foyle's War is considered a period drama, and Endeavour and Life on Mars aren't. As such, I'm happy to say this objectively shouldn't be considered a historical piece.

Ms Fisher Modern Murder Mysteries, Call the Midwife and Father Brown are period drama (50s and 60s) but you're right that George Gently isn't (60/70s)

It got me thinking because anything set in WWII was historical in the 1980s. It was only 40 years before.

I was sort of hoping I could call it historical as urban fantasy isn't quite right.
 

.matthew.

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It got me thinking because anything set in WWII was historical in the 1980s. It was only 40 years before.

Maybe because the internet keeps things relevant for a lot longer these days, plus the big societal changes after WW2. So 40 years after everything changed seemed like a long time, but 40 years these days doesn't really seem like it. I still see kids in Sex Pistols and Nirvana teeshirts and desperately want to ask them if they've even heard the music :)
 

AnyaKimlin

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Maybe because the internet keeps things relevant for a lot longer these days, plus the big societal changes after WW2. So 40 years after everything changed seemed like a long time, but 40 years these days doesn't really seem like it. I still see kids in Sex Pistols and Nirvana teeshirts and desperately want to ask them if they've even heard the music :)

Nirvana is only 30 years.

Sitting here going through the cultural references with my teens it doesn't feel relevant lol My daughter has said I don't need to worry much because kids these days will just Google anything they don't understand... guess I will have to stick with urban fantasy as my description. I'm just aware the next story is more rural fantasy.
 

msstice

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When you say fantasy, are the laws of nature suspended in your story? That is fantasy to me.

As for historical, I suspect the closer you are to the present, the more subjective the categorization is.

Historical, to me, indicates you take well known characters, themes, locations and events and weave fiction around them. To be labeled historical without contention, I think it has to be set 50y or more before the present.

Medieval times, vampire slayer: Historical Fantasy
Medieval times, knights fighting: Historical Fiction
1940s, vampire slayer during the Blitz : Historical Fantasy
1980s, vampire slayer: Nostalgic Fantasy
 

AnyaKimlin

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When you say fantasy, are the laws of nature suspended in your story? That is fantasy to me.

It's a pretty standard fantasy story. Witches, wizards, fairies etc and it's about the search for a selkie skin.

Historical, to me, indicates you take well known characters, themes, locations and events and weave fiction around them. To be labeled historical without contention, I think it has to be set 50y or more before the present.

Aside from an A-ha tape and a made up famous TV character it's nobody well known. Although I have called it Northport it's clearly based on Blackpool but because my main experience of NW seaside resorts was Southport, I made up the name.

1980s, vampire slayer: Nostalgic Fantasy

I might stick with urban fantasy.
 

sknox

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I wouldn't label it historical fantasy either. To me, the first word is the more significant--historical fantasy is so called because the historical setting is crucial to the telling of the story. Not just window dressing, but that the story couldn't be set in any other time. We don't know enough about this story--I could say the mobile phone bit could be handled in a variety of ways, and as for currency, just move to France! <g> But then again, perhaps you're writing a mystery and that pound note is absolutely central.

If you look at other entries in historical fantasy, you'll see what I mean. The historical part is front and center. Then again, urban fantasy is more than just fantasy set in a city. It has to be modern and it nearly always includes fantastical creatures like werewolves and vampires. Something like Peter Beagle's Folk of the Air isn't going to be labeled urban fantasy.

Can you get away with simply calling it fantasy?
 

The Big Peat

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I wouldn't label it historical fantasy either. To me, the first word is the more significant--historical fantasy is so called because the historical setting is crucial to the telling of the story. Not just window dressing, but that the story couldn't be set in any other time. We don't know enough about this story--I could say the mobile phone bit could be handled in a variety of ways, and as for currency, just move to France! <g> But then again, perhaps you're writing a mystery and that pound note is absolutely central.

If you look at other entries in historical fantasy, you'll see what I mean. The historical part is front and center. Then again, urban fantasy is more than just fantasy set in a city. It has to be modern and it nearly always includes fantastical creatures like werewolves and vampires. Something like Peter Beagle's Folk of the Air isn't going to be labeled urban fantasy.

Can you get away with simply calling it fantasy?

*looks at Goodreads* Not a huge amount there shelving Folk of the Air as Urban Fantasy, but some. And there's a few reviews elsewhere that also stick it in there.

Which just goes to show genres are a crock of sh*t and one shouldn't think too hard about them when possible.
 

AnyaKimlin

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You could go with Dark Fantasy if it's got lots of Horror trappings?

The dark in the story isn't really from the fantasy.

If you look at other entries in historical fantasy, you'll see what I mean. The historical part is front and center. Then again, urban fantasy is more than just fantasy set in a city. It has to be modern and it nearly always includes fantastical creatures like werewolves and vampires. Something like Peter Beagle's Folk of the Air isn't going to be labeled urban fantasy.

It's firmly set in the 1980s in a NW England seaside resort/town.

It couldn't be set anywhere else and by the late 1990s it couldn't be set in the seaside towns as they were starting to be rennovated.

Can you get away with simply calling it fantasy?

I just called it YA Fantasy in the end.

Which just goes to show genres are a crock of sh*t and one shouldn't think too hard about them when possible.

I totally agree but every book I have written turns round and bites me in the backside because I didn't think about it before writing them.
 

sknox

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I'm curious: why was it important to designate not only a genre but a sub-genre?
 

sknox

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The reference early on to a college assignment is what made me ask. I thought maybe it was part of the assignment, but I see it isn't.

So, by rejected I'm guessing you mean rejected by an agent? Or rejected in the sense of lack of sales as an indie pub? It matters because how one categorizes, or tries to have categorized, a book will depend a great deal on how it is being marketed. One way to agents, another to publishers (varying by publisher), yet another in individual bookstores, still another as indie. Actually multiple there, as categories vary depending on whether it's Kobo or Amazon or whatever. And at the library there's pretty much just fantasy, with sections for younger readers.
 

AnyaKimlin

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The reference early on to a college assignment is what made me ask. I thought maybe it was part of the assignment, but I see it isn't.

It's both - the college assignment was to enter a writing competition.

I went with the Caledonia Novel Award which is judged by an agent. It asked for brief details of the genre.

So, by rejected I'm guessing you mean rejected by an agent?

Agents plural - I can't remember the exact number. I got tons of fantastic, enthusiastic and personal feedback for my writing, characters, plot, world etc but all bar two had the same sticking point with my first book. It was 100% for the second. Of the other two one didn't like present tense and the other felt it was too similar to another writer she had (it was) despite the one element that made it difficult to catergorise.
 

Juliana

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I know this is too late (and I think going with YA fantasy was a good call), but I was listening to a podcast a while back where the agent being interviewed was talking about how even a book set in the 90s is considered historical. I can't remember which podcast or episode (I listen to a lot of them), but that stuck with me because wow, way to make me feel old! ;)
 

AnyaKimlin

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I know this is too late (and I think going with YA fantasy was a good call), but I was listening to a podcast a while back where the agent being interviewed was talking about how even a book set in the 90s is considered historical. I can't remember which podcast or episode (I listen to a lot of them), but that stuck with me because wow, way to make me feel old! ;)

I had the same feeling. Both my teens are adamant it's historical lol It really makes me feel old because as my stories go it's the closest I have to autobiographical (not exactly - I mean my parents divorced rather than killed each other and I didn't get sent to live with a wizard ;) ). I deliberately set in the 1980s in the NW of England so I could move it to the NE of Scotland and keep my own voice. I can't write NE Scots fluently and I can't write modern NW England.
 

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