Is there a such thing as "HISTORICAL FANTASY" if so, are there rules?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by kikyo, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. kikyo

    kikyo Apprentice

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    Is it okay to have some historical facts along with some fantasy ideas from your imagination?

    I'm working on a story that takes place in Egypt. Has some characters that existed, such as the first woman pharaoh in history. Also has recorded gods/goddesses and has some characters that didn't actually exist that are basically NPC's.

    Thoughts?
     
    Aurora likes this.
  2. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Mystagogue

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    I haven't seen this but will it confuse a reader? I couldn't say. As long as the story works, then historical fiction exists, why not historical fantasy? I'd just be concerned if you're hoping to publish traditionally then it might be hard if your book doesn't fit into a genre. Go into a book store and find where you'd need your book to sit on a shelf. If you're self publishing, do what you want!
     
  3. kikyo

    kikyo Apprentice

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    Thanks for the feedback, I would like to publish traditionally so I do need to figure out the kinks.
     
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    There is a fair amount of alt-history that has fantastical elements, for War of the Worlds to the Temeraire series of books and much in between. I haven't heard of one set in a historical Egypt, though.
     
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  5. elemtilas

    elemtilas Mystagogue

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    Guess it depends on "how much history" and "how much fantasy" are in the mix. Is it just Egypt-like (think Djelibeybe) or is it actual Egypt with hordes of mummy warriors and so forth. Oh, wait, that's been done! So, yeah. Historical fantasy is a thing, so no worries!

    Even Harry Potter has "some historical facts", so I don't see an issue with setting a fantasy story in a real country a long time ago.
     
  6. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Lore Master

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    You might want to take a look at the work of Thomas Burnett Swann, who wrote a number of popular novels in the Sixties and Seventies that combined historical figures with classical mythology. 'The Minikins of Yam' is set in just such an Egypt (and its boy Pharaoh hero is supposedly historical) as you propose.
     
  7. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    I have read a number of historical fantasy novels.

    How you write them really depends on if you are writing them as alt-history (i.e. things are so different that the line of history changed), hidden history (lots of cool stuff happened and didn't make it to the history books) or magical history (stuff from the history books happened and the magic talked about there was real).

    All can make for great platforms.
     
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  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis magnanimus Moderator

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    Read Guy Gavriel Kay's "historical fantasies." The Lions of Al-Rassan is a good place to start. It is based on true historical events, but he renames the countries and people, placing them in a fantasy world that is essentially a loose analog of our own world.
     
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  9. Aurora

    Aurora Mystagogue

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    Yes, there is such a category. These books are based in historical facts and it sounds like you've got that going on with your female pharaoh. Some authors to look up are C.J. Archer, Robin LaFevers, Diana Galbadon, Alison Goodman, Melissa McShane. These authors are all great examples of what historical fantasy is and it helps to read/study them so you can have an idea of what the subgenre looks like on paper, pun intended.
     
    kikyo likes this.
  10. fiera43

    fiera43 Journeyman

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    Immortal Muse would be similar so it does exist.
     
    kikyo likes this.
  11. kikyo

    kikyo Apprentice

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    It is actually in Egypt and I use some of the rivers, canals, and cities that existed back then. Along with descriptions of how the locations, palaces, etc. looked along with basic things that they actually used (linen clothing, cosmetic things such as perfumes and paste for bathing, etc)
    I have been doing a ton of research to stick to how things actually were back then!
     
  12. kikyo

    kikyo Apprentice

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    Wow renaming the countries and people is brilliant. That sounds like something I could really have fun doing in the future. Thanks for the feedback and reference!
     
  13. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    The currently most popular fantasy series Game of Thrones is based on the historical War of the Roses, and it's barely recognizable in that regard.

    So, yes. You can mix as much, or as little actual factual history as you please.
     
  14. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Yeah, historical fantasy has been done lots of times.

    Mary Robinette Kowal writes in that genre.

    Here's one Writing Excuses podcast in which she and others discuss the subgenre: Writing Excuses 7.7: Historical Fantasy | Writing Excuses

    Just in case, here's an earlier podcast in which they discuss alternate history: Writing Excuses 5.21: Alternate History | Writing Excuses

    I think that this is the difference:

    With alternate history, some major change in a historical event or situation leads to a whole different history for the world after that event. Some common themes: Hitler won WWII, the South won the American Civil War, the Aztecs never fell to Cortés, the dinosaurs were never wiped out by a meteor (or meteor + volcanoes + whatever actually caused their demise.)

    With historical fantasy, you are actually using a real time period but with some magical or fantastical element added. So your idea of using ancient Egypt but adding some fantasy elements would be historical fantasy, I think. This is like writing about Victorian England but adding vampires or werewolves. You could write about Shogunate Japan but add...whatever; maybe, some magic-wielding blacksmith is creating magical katanas, and/or maybe some mythical Japanese creatures/demons are real.

    In historical fantasy, famous persons from history can be used, so your idea of using historical Egyptians is okay. Typically, I think you'd not want historical Egyptians from very different time periods in Egyptian history mixed-and-matched—this also applies to other aspects of the world building—although you could fudge that a little bit. Historical fantasy will fudge like this sometimes. The problem though is that people who actually know about the history might have aneurysms if you do that, hah.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
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  15. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    And the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is "based on a true story". Inspired by might be the better term.

     
  16. DragonOfTheAerie

    DragonOfTheAerie Istari

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    I've read stuff like this, mostly in the 'fantasy of manners' category. Temeraire comes to mind. And I've heard the term historical fantasy before. I think several books like this have been released in the YA category lately. Yes, it's a thing, and apparently people like and read it.

    But don't ask if it's okay. You can set a story anytime, anyplace, cant you? There are no rules. Write the story that is inside you.
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis magnanimus Moderator

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    Guy Gavriel Kay probably does historical fantasy best. Read The Lions of Al-Rassan, for example. He writes a lot in this subgenre.
     
  18. elemtilas

    elemtilas Mystagogue

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    Ya. I don't see any issue at all with setting a fantasy ìn Egypt per se. I mean, if we take the Arthurian matter or the Ulster Cycle and turn them into works of fantasy, they're still set in Britain & Ireland. They're just fantasy stories set in an otherwise historical location.

    And sure, rename people and countries! Cloud or reveal as much as you'd like of the original source.
     
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