If someone asked you to define “historical fiction,” you would probably say that it’s fiction set sometime in the past. And if you gave that answer, you would be fundamentally correct. But historical fiction isn’t just historical fiction anymore. More and more, it’s being crossed with other genres to produce books that toe the line between historical and something else.
Historical romances. Historical mysteries. Historical fantasy. These are all examples of the types of books I like to call “historical hybrids”: books that can be called historical fiction, since they do have a historical setting, but are also strongly tied to another genre. In the YA market, these books often seem to sell better than straight historical fiction because they can appeal to a wider audience. Many teens, who otherwise find history boring, will pick up a book that’s fundamentally a romance.
The question with such books, though, is the extent to which they can actually be called historical fiction. For example, many historical fantasy novels are meticulously researched, and their authors certainly deserve credit for including as much historical accuracy as possible—but they’re still fantasy. Part of the point of historical fiction is that the events described in it could have happened, and we all know that people didn’t really work magic in historical times. Is there any way you can ascribe the label “historical fiction” to such a novel? Or is it solely fantasy?
What do you think about the so-called historical hybrids? Can you call them historical fiction, or do they really belong more to their other genres?
Melissa L. is the YA Editorial Assistant for Wonders and Marvels. You can read more about her here: Editorial Staff.