21 February, 2007

Historical fiction preference meme

Susan Higginbotham came up with this interesting meme . Lots of people have already done it (Gabriele, Daphne, Scott Oden, Marie and Marg, for example) , so here’s my contribution.

Straight Historical, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Historical Romance, or Time Travel?
Straight for preference, though I also like some of the others. And can I add ‘invented history’, a la Guy Gavriel Kay, to the list – there’s not a lot of it about, but I enjoy it.

Historical Figures as Main Characters or Purely Fictional Characters in Historical Settings as Main Characters?
Both, provided the fictional characters fit the gaps in the history rather than having the history twisted to fit them.

Hardback, Trade Paperback, or Mass Market Paperback?
Either kind of paperback. Hardbacks are expensive, take up more shelf space (always at a premium), and are bulky and heavy to carry around.

Philippa Gregory or Margaret George?
No strong preference.

Amazon or Brick and Mortar?
Either, but usually Amazon as they have much more choice.

Bernard Cornwell or Sharon Penman?
Hard call! Both are on my favourite author list and I wouldn’t want to do without either.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Neither in my town.

First Historical Novel You Ever Remember Reading?
Jean Plaidy’s Catherine de Medici trilogy, in the wrong order (a relative gave me Book 2 because she found unfamiliar terms like ‘Huguenot’ off-putting, and I started there). I think I may have read some historical romances before then, but they didn't catch my imagination.

Alphabetize by Author, Alphabetize by Title, or Random?
Sorted by size because it makes the shelves easier to dust. I try to keep titles by one author all together but the authors are in no particular order.

Keep, Throw Away, or Sell?
Keep if I like it, give to a friend or a charity shop if I don’t.

Jean Plaidy or Norah Lofts?
Jean Plaidy.

Read with Dust Jacket or Remove It?
I never buy hardbacks, so the only books I read with dust jackets are from the library, and naturally I leave the dust jacket on a library book.

Stop Reading When Tired or at Chapter Breaks?
Chapter breaks for preference.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?

Buy or Borrow?
Both. I’ve had my fingers burned a few times buying books that turned out to bear little resemblance to the packaging, so now I tend to borrow books first and buy copies to keep if I like them.

Posie Graeme-Evans or Pamela Kaufman?

Buying Choice: Book Reviews, Recommendations, or Browsing?
Reviews, recommendations, and searches by subject in the library catalogue, occasionally browsing in the library. Browsing in bookshops is rarely successful for fiction though it can work for non-fiction.

Dorothy Dunnett or Anya Seton?
I like both, but if I have to choose it would be Dorothy Dunnett.

Tidy Ending or Cliffhanger?
Tidy ending, though I like having the sense that the story could carry on – most historicals have an element of this, as of course history never does come to a . (despite Seller and Yeatman)

Sticking Close to Known Historical Fact, or Using Historical Fact as Wallpaper?
Sticking close to known facts, if there are any – in some eras there aren’t. A story in the gaps between the facts is fine, as is invented history and its variants, but I don’t like having the facts bent to fit.

Morning Reading, Afternoon Reading or Nighttime Reading?
Lunch breaks, mostly, or train journeys.

Series or Standalone?
Both, although if a series appears to have no end in sight or gets to feel repetitive I won’t necessarily read every book in it.

Favourite Book of Which Nobody Else Has Heard?
How do you answer this one? I’ve no idea what other people have heard of, and I’m hopeless at picking favourites! A couple that are obscure but worth reading: The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk in historical non-fiction, and Bride of the Spear by Kathleen Herbert in historical fiction.

I shan’t tag anybody, but feel free to join in!


Daphne said...

I read the de Medici trilogy last year. I really liked the first book but thought the other two suffered in comparison.

Alex Bordessa said...

Sorry, but I've heard of Bride of the Spear :-) Try again?

Carla said...

Daphne - That's interesting, I don't remember liking one of the trilogy more than the others. But it was a while ago.

Alex - I did say it was probably impossible to answer that one :-)

Constance Brewer said...

"A story in the gaps between the facts is fine, as is invented history and its variants, but I don’t like having the facts bent to fit."

I have to agree here. I've read some history as wallpaper books and they just irritated me. It's like they didn't feel like doing their research and just glossed over things. Of course, being a research junkie, I got disgruntled.

Of course, if it's something like Harry Turtledove, bending history becomes a fine art, and I go into the book expecting weirdities. :)

Carla said...

Harry Turtledove is billed as alternate history or historical fantasy, isn't it? That gives you fair warning. If something is billed as being 'about' a real person or real event, then I (naively, perhaps) expect it to stick to what facts there are, if any. Even in the best-documented eras there's usually plenty of space between the facts to weave a story in.

Constance Brewer said...

I like fair warning. Unfortunately my library shelves all fantasy, science fiction, speculative, horror, and some historicals all together. Other historicals are over in regular fiction. I have yet to deciper a rhyme or reason to their shelving. Everything else is segregated out, western's romance, biographies.

I did the meme. I just can't post it from work. :)

Carla said...

Libraries have a hard time categorising, and who can blame them - at what point does a historical with modified facts slip over into alternate history, or one full of mysticism become fantasy? I suppose they go by what the publishers tell them to call it.

Constance Brewer said...

Apparently I can post from work. Who'd a thunk?

Our library also only has one person that's interested in fantasy, scifi, etc. I'm sure that's part of it. I'd rather he ordered the books and stuck them all in one place than not get any new stuff in.

Do you think it is also because we (collective we) like everything to fit into a nice, tidy category? And get nervous when things don't?

I'll read pretty much anything, in spite of its category, if the story sounds interesting.

Carla said...

There was somebody from one of the UK publishers interviewed on Radio 4's book programme a few months ago, and he said most of the fiction categories were very recent. According to him they were mostly invented in the 1970s or 1980s, and before then nobody bothered much about labels. Which would fit in with your approach :-)

Scott Oden said...

In an effort to eschew labels, I think from now on I'm going to refer to myself in fine Thomas Kinkade-ian fashion as "Scott Oden: Writer of Stuff (tm)" . . .

Carla, I loved Hopkirk's "The Great Game"; Robert E. Howard has several stories set in the tribal lands of Afghanistan during the late 1800's/early 1900's. The hero of those particular tales, Francis Xavier Gordon, is sort of a cross between Burton and Lawrence. Hopefully, Del Rey will be putting out a collection of his 'Oriental' stories soon.

Carla said...

Hey, somebody else has read The Great Game! So that's both my supposedly obscure favourites recognised by somebody else - clearly the visitors here have excellent taste :-) I hadn't heard of Francis Xavier Gordon, but he sounds great, so many thanks for the recommendation. It's a fantastic era for adventures in exotic locales - fiction would be hard put to get more exciting than some of the things that actually happened.