Visions of Paradise

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Historical Novel Society

I keep in touch with developments in the science fiction field through Locus–which is must-reading for anybody who considers themself a serious fan–as well as through websites such as Locus Online and SF Signal. But I also enjoy reading historical fiction, and the best way to keep in touch with developments there is by joining the Historical Novel Society.

The HNS runs a website at which publishes a regular newsletter distributed via email, and also features lists of upcoming fiction. But the real benefit of joining the HNS is to receive their two regular magazines.

Solander is a semi-annual zine containing articles and interviews, some fascinating stuff. Historical Novels Review is published quarterly and contains 10 pages similar to Solander followed by 40+ pages devoted to reviews of recent historical fiction. The reviews are generally short, 5 or 6 to a page, and do not go into the type of critical depth found in Locus, but they are still a valuable resource for readers looking for historical fiction to read. The reviews are catagorized primarily by era, the current issue starting with Ancient & Prehistoric, followed by Biblical, 1st Century, 3rd Century, etc. After 13 pages of 20th Century–which I generally find the least interesting reviews overall–the last few sections are Multi-Period, Time-Slip, Alternate History, and Historical Fantasy. Happily, the editors of HNR (who all seem to be part-time volunteers) seat themselves happily in the midst of genre fiction, having no [dis]illusions about being literature rather than primarily story-telling.

One fascinating comment I saw in a recent issue of HNR was a statement by an author to the effect that alternate history was first claimed by science fiction as one of its sub-genres, but is now accepted as a sub-genre of historical fiction. Personally, I think both genres are wrong to try to claim alternate history, that it is actually a distinct genre with overlaps in both areas. But I guess that is basically part of the “definition” problem which haunts both science fiction and historical fiction and is primarily a marketing issue rather than anything really important.

If you enjoy historical fiction, I recommend the HNS website and its two publications.


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