Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

The Allure of a Good Sea Yarn (And Why the High Seas are Like Space Travel)

I think I’ve mentioned before, Squiders, that I don’t really like historical fiction. It’s my least favorite genre. That’s not to say that it can’t be well done, and, indeed, I have read some very good historical fiction in my time (Pillars of the Earth is one of the best books I have ever had the privilege to read), but, in general, it rubs me the wrong way and I tend to avoid it.

That being said, in the last few years I’ve discovered that there is a particular subgenre that does appeal to me, and it is that of high seas adventure. Apparently all I need to float my boat, pun intended, is a well-researched story that takes place on a tall-mast ship, whether the ship is navy or merchant or pirate.

I suspect these stories appeal to me because they have direct correlation to science fiction (or, more likely, science fiction has direct correlation to them. It is probably arguable as to which came first, because some of those early creation stories and mythology have some very interesting and unexpected allusions.).

A lot of military science fiction is directly based off the Navy, after all. Even Star Trek is. It makes sense, after all. When you look at the armed forces, which has the most experience living for months/years at a time in a craft that spends most of its time in an inhospitable environment that could kill you if you stepped outside? I like to think of living on a starship as the space-equivalent of living on a submarine.

Anyway, the books tend to have a lot of tropes that cross over to science fiction, such as exploration, dealing with new cultures/animals/places, battles against dangerous enemies in an unforgiving environment, having to work together to survive, etc. And I suspect part of me appreciates all the technical terms. Sure, a mizzen-mast is a real thing where a flux capacitor is not, but they both trigger the same technobabble part of the brain.

What do you think, Squiders? Am I way off mark?

(Also, do you have any books to recommend? I am slowly making my way through the Hornblower series and I like them rather a lot.)

Loving a Book in a Genre You Hate

I do not like historical fiction. It is my very least favorite genre. Not sure why–maybe I feel that the authors tend to force morals or ideas on the reader that are out of touch with the time period? Or I just simply don’t care. Or something. Either way, I tend to steer clear for my own sanity.

(Not to say that there are not the occasional ones that I enjoy quite a bit. I’ve read most of Tracy Chevalier’s stuff. Though I admittedly started with one that switched between modern day and a past time, which is one of my very favorite writing conventions.)

(I also want to point out that this is only a problem with modern authors writing past times. Stories written hundreds of years ago about times that are contemporary to them are fine, for obvious reasons.)

So it was to my very great surprise that I enjoy the Horatio Hornblower series quite as much as I do. I told myself that I was doing it for research–I wanted to set a story on a ship, and I know very little about them. (Ships have…masts! And sails!) Also, my husband was reading the first book and wanted to discuss it, and I occasionally indulge him.

But I love the books, I really do. We’re admittedly going chronological, rather than the order C.S. Forester wrote them in, so we started somewhere in the middle of his career, but I love everything about them.

His descriptions are spot-on. I honestly thought, at first, that he was contemporary to the time period (later 1700s to early 1800s) because everything was so perfect that it felt like it was someone who was intimately familiar with how things worked on a ship of the line. (C.S> Forester wrote from the mid 1930s to the 1970s or so.)

To be honest, it kind of reminds me of some of the science fiction I like, except, you know, being about the British navy during the Napoleanic wars.

My biggest complaint is that my husband is such a slow reader that I’m not getting through them as fast as I’d like.

What about you, Squiders? Do you have a book or series that you adore that is in a genre you normally can’t stand? (Just want to chat about Hornblower? Also welcome!)