Image description: Late nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelite style tapestry of Arthur’s knights in a palette of ivory, cream, gold, peach and burnt umber, showing rich young beautiful, blonde and blue-eyed straight white people in a wood. The men are mounted and wearing medieval armour; the women wear flowing white dresses, and hold swords, spears, and shields ready to hand them adoringly to their heroes who are about to ride out on a quest.
How can you make a realistic novel set in the past feel like magic—and a book stuffed with magic and myth feel realistic? And why is that sometimes a problem for historical fiction writers?
Funny you should ask: I just wrote a whole essay about that for Historia Magazine. Go take a look. Oh, and there’s a clue in the image description…
3 thoughts on “History and historicity, historiography and legend”
Actually I always thought you did a brilliant job of that; engaging all of the senses so we’re drawn into the world, we experience the world along with the main character. Another author who did a brilliant job of this was Elizabeth Bear. She brought the Arthurian fantasy world into the modern one (and Elizabethan England) in her Promethean series.
Oops, I answered this before realizing you were providing the answer with the link below. (sheepish grin) I plead a sleepless night of food poisoning and sinus pain to apologize for my cluelessness. Exquisite essay. You’re right, too. Some of the classical historians were peddling alt facts long before the term was used. It’s frightening how vilified certain historical figures like Richard III, the Borgias, and Marie Antoinette were, without question. In Marie Antoinette’s situation, her condemnation came by the word of mouth of the early version of the Paparazzi. I haven’t finished reading your essay yet…I’m going to do that.
With a tangentiality to your topic so oblique as to tease irrelevance I’ll mention that I was distracted trying to figure out whether your blog title “History and historicity, historiography and legend” was a pair of doublets: [History and historicity], [historiography and legend] or a singlet and a triplet: [History] and [historicity, historiography and legend].
A clue might lie in your Historia title, “History, historicity, historiography and Arthurian legend”, clearly a quadruplet lacking the serial comma after the penultimate item. If that title is your own, unaltered by editors, it may be a punctuational tell that reveals your hand, supporting the singlet+triplet theory.
Surely this roun and my own dubiety strengthen arguments for the serial comma, that mere jot that would instantly have clarified all ambiguity: “History and historicity, historiography, and legend”.
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