Friday, August 28, 2015

The Fine Line Between History & Fantasy

With no time to blog this week, I'm digging into the archives. This one's from January 2012.

In one of my earliest blog posts, I talked about the fine line between the genres of historical fiction and historical fantasy. Earlier this month, two of my favorite authors, George R.R. Martin and Bernard Cornwell, touched on this issue in a joint interview on The Indigo Blog.

 Are Martin's and Cornwell's Novels Two Sides of the Same Coin?

During the interview, George R.R. Martin said, “It has long been my contention that the historical novel and the epic fantasy are sisters under the skin, that the two genres have much in common.”

Bernard Cornwell responded, “You're right—fantasy and historical novels are twins, and I've never been fond of the label 'fantasy,' which is too broad a brush and has a fey quality. It seems to me you write historical novels in an invented world which is grounded in historical reality (if the books are set in the future then 'fantasy' magically becomes sci-fi).”

I largely agree. While Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire could never be considered “historical” in a literal sense because it doesn’t take place in the real world, the most prominent elements of his novels scream “historical” fiction. His setting is broadly “medieval” and his storylines – a war of succession, political intrigue, and battles among noble houses – are classic subject matters of some of the best historical fiction. And this is not surprising given that Martin’s epic was inspired by the historical War of the Roses. Magic may be present in Martin’s novels, but it is subtle and never the driving force behind his world.

The War of the Roses - inspiration for A Game of Thrones.
Similarly, Bernard Cornwell has written “historical” novels that dance along the fine line between history and fantasy. Cornwell’s The Warlord Chronicles, for example, tells the Arthurian Legend from a more “historical” perspective. But as anyone who has read The Warlord Chronicles knows, Cornwell’s Merlin performs acts which could be magic – or not. He leaves it to the reader to decide. But the core of his novels are the same as Martin’s: wars among kings and nobles, and the heroes who survive them. And perhaps most importantly, both Cornwell and Martin create wonderfully real characters for which, we, the reader, cannot help but empathize.

I still believe there is a line between the two genres, but maybe Cornwell is right – that line doesn’t matter much. The things we love about Martin’s novels are many of the same things we love about Cornwell’s novels. Does the fact the land of Westeros never existed, while Dark Ages Britain did, truly matter in the context of a great novel? For me, it doesn't. It’s the story that matters and the characters who inhabit it. That is why we adore reading them.

Friday, August 21, 2015

“Inferno” The Movie?

It looks like Inferno might be coming to the big screen. I don’t mean the film version of Dan Brown’s latest novel starring Tom Hanks. But Dante’s Inferno. Yep, you can’t make that up.

I learned about it yesterday in an article on io9 titled “Get Ready, Sinners: Warner Bros. Is Making Dante’s Inferno Into a Movie.” Here are some excerpts.
Instead of following in the steps of a Noah or Exodus, Warner Bros. is going a different route for its next loosely-based-on-the-Bible story. This time, it’s going to be loosely based on a book loosely based on the Bible. A yes, Dante. The original self-insert Bible fanfiction writer. . . . 
Apparently, Warner Bros. is excited by the “franchise potential” of the project. Which is endlessly hilarious to me because Purgatorio and Paradiso are so much more boring than Inferno. There’s a reason most people can only tell you things about one-third of the Divine Comedy. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to Paradiso being split into two movies to capitalize on the franchise, Twilight-style.
You can read the full article here. While I too wonder if the Divine Comedy has “franchise potential,” I could see an Inferno movie working with the right plot. For one, it’s a special effects artist’s dream. I’d love to see Charon, Cerberus, and Geryon brought to life, not to mention a climax set on the frozen lake of Cocytus! And with the right actress cast as Beatrice? It could be a love story, like Titanic – except, of course, set in Hell.

But those are just my quick thoughts. What do you think about Inferno the movie?

PS, if you were pining for Dan Brown's Inferno, the movie is planned for release in October of 2016.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jet-lagged . . .

I returned from Rome a few days ago, but it still feels like I'm on Roman time. The research, however, was a smashing success. But for this trip, I would have botched my chapters on Castel Sant'Angelo. Despite copious research, I never would have understood that ancient structure until seeing it with my own eyes.

On another note, the Pantheon is beautiful at night! (Both the Pantheon and Castel Sant'Angelo will play a role in the sequel to Enoch's Device.)

I'm grateful I had a chance to return to Rome for some on the ground research, and I promise a more substantive blog post next week once I've caught up on some sleep. Ciao!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

On the Ground and Away from the Blog . . .

Medieval Rome!
As I mentioned last week, I'm doing some on-the-ground research for the sequel to Enoch's Device, so it'll be another week before I have time to return to the blog. (But I promise, pictures will be coming!) Until then, you can check out my Pinterest board,which is full of images from Enoch's Device and its upcoming sequel.