Wait, historical fiction is doomed? When did this happen?

So last night, instead of doing something constructive, like washing dishes or vacuuming, I was perusing articles on Dear Author.   Admittedly, it’s a site I’d never visited before.  So.  You know, there was the urge to get “caught up.”  An article from May 7 caught my eye: “We should let the historical genre die.”  You can read the article in its entirety here.

“Yikes.”  I said out loud.

“It’s a thunder emergency!” The Toddler responded.  And, although he was talking about actual thunder rumbling in the distance, it was a surprisingly accurate response.

So, wait, has everyone else been aware of this but me?  Because…I mean, yeah, obviously my knowledge of current events ended when I had my first child in 2010.  If it’s not happening on the Disney Channel, it’s not happening in my world.  If the zombie apocalypse happened, chances are I wouldn’t know it was happening unless someone posted it on Facebook.

But then I thought about it.  And I thought about it some more.  I realized that I haven’t gotten my cold, clammy little hands on an interesting historical fiction novel since…okay, since the book that I didn’t buy and promptly regretted it.  Twenty minutes later.  Before that, though.

I went to my book journal.  I nerdily write down the title of every book I read.  Why, I don’t know.  I think in my mind I’m perpetually enrolled in the Book It! program and am working my way towards the ultimate personal pan pizza.  Anyway, the last historical fiction series I got über excited over were the Harrison Raines Civil War mysteries by Michael Kilian.  After a quick search (and look, I didn’t really put that much effort into searching, so I could be totally off by this), it looks like the most recent book from the series was published in 2005.

And as a side note, I didn’t read the books that far back.  In fact, I only read A Killing at Ball’s Bluff which was published in 2001.  Per my nerd journal, I read it all the way back in 2009.  Shameful.

I was obsessed–obsessed!–with Devil in the White City, but that’s nonfiction.  I read The Other Boylen Girl.  I read the Gardella Vampire Series by Colleen Gleason (and I recommend them, so if you haven’t read them, go out and do it).  But those are technically paranormal romance.  Steampunk is on the rise but again, that’s not technically historical fiction.

Is this why my book keeps getting rejected?  Because nobody cares about history anymore?  Because, look, I find that hard to believe considering how many people are anticipated to be at Gettysburg next week (I repeat: next week!)  There’s got to be more than me and just like, three other guys reading this stuff.  I mean, Jeff Shaara released a book in May about the siege of Vicksburg, aptly named, A Chain of Thunder: A Novel of the Siege of Vicksburg.  Somebody’s got to be interested in history still, right?

And even if they’re not, is it really fair to let a genre die?  In my opinion, a good story is a good story, regardless if it takes place in 1563, 2013, or Star Date: 201343.12.  I honestly couldn’t care less about Westerns.  Cowboys and gold rushes and cattle put me to sleep.  But, if someone slapped a paperback down in front of me and said, “Dude.  This is the most amazing novel I’ve ever read in my life,” I’d be willing to give it a shot.  I really don’t think the quality or estimated worth of a book should be based on its genre.

Off my soapbox.

While we’re talking about history, just a friendly reminder that July 1st starts the events at Gettysburg, 150 years in the making.  If you’re in the area, come on down and say hi to me and the gents of the Baltimore Light Artillery and 1500 of our closest infantry friends.  We’ll be the ones in Pitzer’s Woods setting off artillery.  And being awesome!

And if you can’t come down, fear not.  I’ll be blogging from my phone and uploading random pictures to Facebook.  That’s how I roll.

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24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sue Toth
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 23:28:59

    Nerdy editor alert! In paragraph 10, you say: “I honestly could care less about Westerns.” If you could care less, that means you do care a lot. I think what you meant to say was “I honestly COULDN’T care less about Westerns.”

    Reply

  2. Creative Metaphor
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 23:32:50

    Wait, Historical Fiction can’t die, yet, I haven’t finished my HF book!

    Reply

  3. darlenecraviotto
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 02:34:08

    I don’t write to be read; I write because I have a story inside of me that needs to come out.

    Reply

    • Heather Hambel Curley
      Jun 28, 2013 @ 09:30:03

      Excellent point! I’ve always told The Hubs (who still hasn’t read my book, so there you go) that even if I never get it published, I’ll still be happy because I wrote it for me. The plot was what I wanted and it just *had* to be written. As a reader though, I’m concerned there will be slim pickings for historical fiction. Jeff Shaara bores me (too tactical) and I have a hard time getting excited about Regency. There’s lots of Regency out there. Maybe I’ll have to refine my tastes.

      Reply

  4. steviepreater
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 03:48:52

    Historical Fiction isn’t going to die, because there will always be an audience for it. It just might not be so trendy at some points in time. But come on, Historical Fiction is the best :)

    Reply

    • Heather Hambel Curley
      Jun 28, 2013 @ 09:38:20

      It definitely is the best! I think I need to expand my HF horizons and try and embrace Regency. The only Regency I’ve been able to get into are the Gardella Vampire books. They’re paranormal (obviously) but seemed pretty true to the period. I’m so not trendy when it comes to reading. Example: I liked Twilight for a hot minute and completely missed the boat on 50 Shades of Gray. I think I wander around just picking up random books, lol. Sometimes that’s the way to go.

      Reply

  5. Andra Watkins
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 10:05:03

    Thanks for writing this post, Heather. A lot of folks are probably classifying my novel as HF, and maybe that’s why it keeps getting rejected. (I don’t think it’s HF, but I can see how agents do……..)

    Reply

    • Heather Hambel Curley
      Jun 28, 2013 @ 10:43:58

      It’s not a bad place to be classified :)

      I have the same worries about my book. I think I should have been querying it as historical fiction and not historical romance. Is that why it’s being rejected? Could be. I’d like to hope that isn’t the case, but I’m not sure. It’s a frustrating process, but in the end, I love the book I wrote–even if it never sees the gleam of publication.

      Reply

  6. stormwatch1977
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 10:16:47

    Someone should ask Bernard Cornwell about this. His books seem to do alright.

    Reply

  7. Trackback: So where is the bookstore section for Swashbucklers? | Lady Blade Blog
  8. Zee Monodee
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 03:57:21

    I don’t think it’s dying, judging by the humber of historical fictions book I’ve seen pop up on review site Netgalley. The focus seems to have shifted to middle-age era (I saw a lot of Plantagenet fictions, as well as Tudor era. Eleanor of Aquitaine’s time-period, too). Then the focus seems to have also shifted to ‘other’ courts, like those Catherine The Great in Russia (Read The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak – had me riveted! This is the link on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11149173-the-winter-palace)
    Then the usual Marie Antoinette books… I don’t think historical fiction is dying. Seems to me it’s becoming more of a niche that people have to go search for rather than this genre hitting the spotlight everywhere :)

    Reply

  9. Chris
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 14:42:20

    Well said and this coming from a reader and amateur writer of ‘historical fiction’…oh yeah and a California Civil War re-enactor that had planned to be at Gettysburg also until I lost a job last summer. (I lived about an hour away from there until 2001)
    Post some of those photo’s on the blog when you get back huh?

    Reply

    • Heather Hambel Curley
      Jul 04, 2013 @ 13:20:43

      Done! It was a great event! I don’t think nearly as many visitors turned out as was rumored. I bet the mainstream event this weekend will be packed. I actually had a few visitors ask where the California reenactors were. I think there was even a Pennyslvania unit during the battle composed mainly of guys from California.

      Reply

      • Chris
        Jul 04, 2013 @ 13:29:37

        Great!
        Yes there was/is a large group from California. They are the 71st PA it was referred to as ‘The California Regiment’ back in the day. I fall in with them from time to time out here.
        Thanks

      • Heather Hambel Curley
        Jul 05, 2013 @ 10:07:34

        Hope to see you out there some time! There’s still some great events over the next two years. Antietam and Gettysburg are my favorites, but I’m actually looking forward to Spotsylvania now. I’ve never been there!

      • Chris
        Jul 05, 2013 @ 13:34:59

        That buddy & I are hoping to make something back there?
        I lived for a while North of the Mason Dixon line and would like to go back for a visit…I have never been to a reenactment back there.

  10. louckslindsey
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 18:16:07

    I don’t believe it’s a doomed genre at all. A writer friend of mine just made the historical fiction hot new releases list on Amazon, as well as several other lists associated with that genre. Like you said, a good book is a good book.

    P.S. Does your toddler often say things like, “It’s a thunder emergency”? Because that’s waaaaay too cute!

    Reply

    • Heather Hambel Curley
      Jul 04, 2013 @ 13:16:51

      The phrases that come out of his mouth never fail to surprise me, lol. My favorite is when he’s been playing and then leans back, wipes his forehead, and says, “Phew! I’m worn out!”

      I’m still addicted to historical fiction, what can I say. I’m sure this weekend helped, lol! But I’m SO glad that so many people expressed doubt in the death of HF. It’s comforting to know there are so many of us out there!

      Reply

  11. shellyellisbooks
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 19:04:06

    I’m wary of anyone who proclaims the death of any genre. They said the same about paranormal romances and the same about contemporary romances and the SAME about erotica and each have experienced a resurgence. Like you said, quality writing is quality writing regardless of the genre. Let the agents and editors focus on sales numbers. Write and read what speaks to you.

    Reply

    • Heather Hambel Curley
      Jul 04, 2013 @ 13:19:04

      Thanks for your comments! And I agree. I don’t think that writers/readers should be limited by what’s popular or what it supposedly “hot” at the moment. If it’s a good story, who cares?

      Reply

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