Historical Novel Society Conference 2014 – Part VI: Confronting Historical Fact with the Unexplained
Once upon a time (Sunday) there was a discussion about myths, fairy tales and all things Gothic in historical fiction. We were encouraged to get our phones out, take loads of photos and tweet like mad. Sadly I had enough to do writing all this down so I could translate it and put it on here but if you go on Twitter you can read the hash tag HNSLondon14 to see what people were saying about the weekend (you might find one or two of mine!)
Stories of myths and legends are as old as storytelling itself and fantastical elements appear quite often in historical fiction. Facts are quite often limiting (and these are often interpreted) so the imagination is turned to. Myths, legends and the occult are still popular, even after the Scientific Revolution when magic and alchemy were no longer widely considered to be real, particularly vampire stories which appear all through history all over the world.
There is sadly still some snobbery surrounding historical fiction, even though historians also interpret facts to make their own narratives. This could be through fear that readers may use novels as history books. However, it could also be because the historian wants to promote a book or TV programme.
That said, historical fiction is a great way of introducing people to history and give them an imaginative way of learning about the past.