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Historical Fiction: An Oddity?

So, I’ve just started watching The Last Kingdom, the BBC Television Series based on the series of novels of the same name by Bernard Cornwell. The show, like the books is set in Anglo-Saxon England, during the 9th Century, when there were frequent raids from Vikings, and Paganism and Christianity clashed. I’m five episodes in, and I am fascinated by the show, the story telling, the characters, everything.

If I’m being honest, I’m not really surprised that this show has hooked me in line and sinker. I’m a bit of a sucker for historical fiction, be it in books or shows/movies. From the Borgias, The Crown, The Last Kingdom or Vikings, anything by Sharon Penman and Conn Iggulden and Robyn Young, it’s all good stuff to me. I suppose that comes from my interest in history, as a kid at school I was fascinated by it, learning about different people and times, battles, Kings, all of that fascinated me. It still does. There’s just something so very fascinating about learning about all of these things, and seeing what life and people were like way back when.

There is one thing that I’ve noticed about historical fiction, or at least those in the mainstream, they very rarely, if at all, explore an alternate history. By this I mean, making a small change to events in a timeline and seeing what the consequences of such a change would be. For example, a common one on alternate history boards-yes that is a thing- is what if Harold Godwinson had won at the Battle of Hastings. Fundamentally, a lot could change from there, the Normanisation of England would be stalled for a time, consequently so would the normanisation of Scotland and Wales. England, it seems would be much more Scandinavian focused than French focused. That is just one example of the way alternate history could go, and I am constantly intrigued by the fact that other than on alternate history boards, there is not much alternate history fiction out there.

As I’ve had more time to explore alternate history, and come up with a few ideas myself ( a story in that theme, that I wrote can be found here: Blood of the Lion) it seems that to truly predict what could change in an alternate history and to make it seem realistic is a matter of a lot of research and planning, and a lot of what the author themselves want to happen. That is both a gift and a curse. A gift in that you have a lot to play with, a curse in that, you can end up risking the integrity of the story, to achieve something you desire more than is possible.

Having read the alternate history timelines, and having read more historical fiction, I have an appreciation for both, and I do truly respect anyone who attempts either. Personally, I want to write alternate history, and am currently working on two alternate history stories-if you want to know more, feel free to ask in the comments!- and as such I will see how that goes.

 

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