brightly_woven: (merlin's pants)
[personal profile] brightly_woven
This is in no way a smack down from me, but it is an interesting perspective on using real people in historical works of fiction.  It's by one of my favorite authors, Guy Gavriel Kay.

EDIT:  Some of the comments and Kay's response are also interesting. 


Date: 2009-09-15 01:14 pm (UTC)
ext_33795: (mmm books)
From: [identity profile]
I don't agree with him about fantasy. It actually really annoys me to read fantasy that's "based on" a real historical character. I'd rather have it be the historical character, straight up, so I know what I'm dealing with. For instance, not knowing much about El Cid, if I read his book which he uses as an example, I might not realize the whole thing is actually fictionalized history. Whereas if I read fictionalized history that didn't pretend to be something else, I'd go look up the real story about El Cid if I was truly interested in the story. Fictionalized history ALWAYS makes me want to learn more about the real history.

What I DO agree about is that no one should be entitled to anyone else's private life, famous or not. You see that phenomenon in Austen fandom all the time. People want Jane Austen love stories, Jane Austen scandals. They get mad at Cassandra for burning the letters (I've even felt that way myself). But that doesn't really add to an appreciation of her novels. For me, it detracts.

However, I think the line between legit history and biography, and exploitation, is maybe a little more complex than he implies.

Date: 2009-09-15 02:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For me, with Kay at least, the important thing about his novels is not that they are based on real people--but real events, real conflicts between peoples, etc. The Reconquest is such an interesting period--and his book _The Lions of Al-Rassan_ illuminates those concepts, those cultural movements without getting bogged down in too many details, which so often happens in historical fiction. I found myself moved to tears by a culture that had worked on integrating, learning from each other in relative peace for several hundred years (with many of the ideals which we in the US hold--religious tolerance one of them) only to have it torn apart by extremists on both sides.

Interestingly, Kay is a huge fan of Dorothy Dunnett (as am I), and she uses real historical characters as backdrop (and more) characters to her very deeply researched and swashbuckling historical action-romances.


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