Writers, their Research, Worlds and Stories
Shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
Fiction plays a vital role in describing history and transmitting culture. How writers understand and use history can play an equally important role in how they navigate a novel. This book explores the nature of the author’s relationship with history and fiction – often using writers’ own words – as well as the role history plays in fiction.
Focusing on genre fiction, this study considers key issues in the relationship between history and fiction, such as how writers contextualise the history they use in their fiction and how they incorporate historical research. The book also addresses the related topic of world building using history, discussing the connections between the science fiction writers’ notion of world building and the scholarly understanding of story space and explaining the mechanics of constructing the world of the novel. This book places the writing of fiction into a wider framework of history and writing and encourages dialogue between writers and historians.
We all know that the past is dead and gone … just as we all know that the past lives on everyday. We all accept that the past is unreachable and cannot be revived … just as we all accept that the past shapes our lives every day. In short, we live with paradox around issues like history and the past.
Writers of fiction leap boldly into the midst of that paradox. They exploit it for commercial gain, they mine it for the magic it can be used to create, and on many occasions they explore it for the sake of the insights and revelations it can offer. History and Fiction: Writers, their Research, Worlds and Stories is Gillian Polack’s ambitious and illuminating investigation of the role of the fiction writer in exploring history, creating new interpretations and reconsidering old ones.
In the period 2004 to 2010, and again in 2015, Gillian Polack conducted an extensive series of probing in-depth interviews with writers of historical fiction and speculative fiction. In total, around thirty writers were involved – an impressively wide sampling which included published novelists, short story writers, writers who were also publishers or editors, and specialists in historical fiction, historical romance, and historical fantasy. These interviews lie at the heart of this book and are an important and unique feature because they allow the practitioners to speak for themselves. The writers use their own working terminology, they offer their own perspectives on matters ranging from research...
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