Parts 1&2 of this series looked at the Historical Fiction writer’s obligation or lack of it to maintain the historical accuracy of known historical characters and indisputable facts. Participants in the discussion also expressed opinions about situations where the history is inaccurate or the history recorders biased, incompetent, or even non-existent. There have been some intriguing points of view.
Let’s go deeper or in an entirely different direction, the world of alternative or counter historical fiction.
Here’s my first question. Is a story still historical fiction if it begins with a premise that changes, reverses or ignores the known and accurate outcome of an historical event?
If a writer of historical fiction writes a story set in a certain time and place in the past, but the story is entirely a product of the writer’s imagination, is it still HF? Suppose, for example, an author decides to assume that Pickett’s Charge was a successful flanking maneuver instead of an army crushing head on assault and that the 20th Maine was unable to stop the Rebel’s attempt to flank the Union Army at Little Round Top. Lee is therefore victorious at Gettysburg and the South goes on to win the Civil War? Historians know none of these things happened, but if a writer generates an intriguing, well written story filled with realistic characters based on those historical non-events, is it still Historical Fiction? If not, what would you call it? One term we bandy about is alternative historical fiction (Historical Fiction with a modifier). Or should we call it fantasy? Is there a line between Historical Fiction and Fantasy? If so, what are the criteria for drawing that line?
I’d like to have some of you mention titles which you think have done this successfully or unsuccessfully. Tell us why? Or suggest some definitions.