f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 3 of Genre – Historical

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Day 3 of Genre – Historical

Technically, at least in the CBA, historical fiction is anything written today that takes place up to 1945 A.D. Post-WWII Fiction is considered “contemporary” which is somewhat arbitrary and I think is going to have to be revisited at some point soon because things like Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis certainly play as “history” these days.

“Historical” often finds itself as a subcategory or a modifier. For instance if one is reading a historical mystery or historical romance it’s most likely because one wants to read a mystery or romance and the historical setting adds a dash of flavor. But there are certainly “historical” novels as well, whose sole focus is to recapture great events or vanished cultures or some other aspect of human life that would otherwise be lost to time. James Michener seems to be the best example of this.

Pure historical fiction seems slavish in its historical accuracy and attention to detail. Fiction is often somewhat subverted for the pure thrill of the research itself. The best historical fiction seems to find a true balance between the story and the true events/facts surrounding the events.

Within Historical fiction there are eras that gain the most attention. Biblical fiction has always been popular. Civil War fiction. British royalty. Roman times. In other words, historical fiction is often as much about another place as it is about another time. In a lot of ways, it’s the truest expression of using fiction to escape. A book can literally transport your imagination outside its present circumstances to somewhere you’ve never been and an age in which you’ve never lived.

Historical fiction has been a popular genre in the CBA for decades, but usually it’s paired pretty closely with romance as well. Biblical fiction obviously has its place both in CBA (Liz Curtis Higgs, Francine Rivers, and Tommy Tenney’s Hadassah) and outside CBA (The Red Tent). My fears for the genre are that either we are limiting ourselves to narrowly to American frontier history and also that our research isn’t full and rich enough. To fully work, historical fiction NEEDS to transport. We should smell and hear and see things as they were. That takes a lot of reading and study. It’s hard grunt work, but it bears great fruit in the end.

The final caution in historical fiction is anachronistic thinking. Every once in a while in a work like Godric (set in the 1200s) I found myself thinking, “That sounds like something I heard a few years ago in church.” In the end, we have only our own perspectives on life and sometimes it's hard to overcome that.