The Cowboy looms large in American mythology. The images most of us see and read about are of white men, “Anglos.” Our culture has managed to erase the fact that cowboys were also Mexican, Native American—and African-American.
Historical fiction is an enjoyable way for many of us to learn history, especially since the internet has made fact-checking easy and even fun. Let’s take a recent masterpiece as an example.
History is about what happened. Historical fiction asks, "What might have happened? What could have happened? What if. . ." With a question like those, is it any wonder there are so many exciting sub-genres in historical fiction? Part 5 of Enjoying Historical Fiction.
Historical fiction teems with memorable characters. Some are historical, some totally fictional, and many an intriguing blend. Part 4 of Enjoying Historical Fiction: Characters.
Enjoying Historical Fiction, Part 3. Traditional history has focused on the “great men” of history: kings, generals, religious leaders. Historical fiction has often focused on other people, the rest of us. That’s part of what makes it so appealing, and I think it’s part of why historical fiction gets a bad rap.
People who enjoy historical fiction like it for a variety of reasons. The reason they most often give is that it takes us into a world that’s different from our own. Daniel Mason’s novel The Piano Tuner is a great example.
We often think that writers of history stick to the facts, working to present a fair and accurate account of the past, and that writers of historical fiction can pretty much make it up. It doesn’t always work out that way.
History can be intriguing, and sometimes it’s really funny. I called my website History Muse, intending it to be a thoughtful and sometimes amusing look at history. Now I’m starting to think: What does it do for my readers?
You’ve probably seen at least one movie about Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Dramatists love a story of beautiful, doomed, feminine Mary, and her scheming, stone-hearted rival Elizabeth, who had Mary killed because she was jealous. Sure, such productions give strong actresses some rare juicy parts, but the significance of their struggle gets lost.
The governor of Virginia recently referred to the Africans brought to Virginia as slaves in 1619 as “indentured servants.” There was a big difference between slavery and indentured service, and you can see it in the history of my Duncan ancestors in Virginia.