The genre of historical fiction is continually expanding, adapting to new demands from readers and the creativity of authors. First, let us examine this phenomenon from its international perspectives.
The range of historical fiction
What is historical fiction? The United States-based Historical Novel Society acknowledges the complexity and proposes the following definition:
There will never be a satisfactory answer to these questions, but these are the arbitrary decisions we've made.
To be deemed historical (in our sense), a novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only by research). (Historical Novel Society, n.d.).
Perhaps to maximise membership, however, the society offers a much broader definition:
We also consider the following styles of novel to be historical fiction for our purposes: alternate histories (e.g. Robert Harris's Fatherland), pseudo-histories (e.g. Umberto Eco's Island of the Day Before), timeslip novels (e.g. Barbara Erskine's Lady of Hay), historical fantasies (e.g. Bernard Cornwell's King Arthur Trilogy) and multiple-time novels (e.g. Michael Cunningham's The Hours). (Historical Novel Society, n.d.)
Historical fiction comprises several sub-genres, and their nomenclatures are quite arbitrary. In Chapters 7, 8 and 9 respectively, I will examine counterfactual histories, alternate histories and time-slip histories for their application to the History curriculum in Australian schools.