Friday, December 7, 2012

Weird History: where magic, science and the past collide with my brain

Most of you probably already know this but I'm a life long academic. Right now I am slogging my way through graduate school with the hope of coming out the other end with a shiny Ph.D. in history.  
So a few weeks ago I was having dinner with a colleague of mine from my department and she started telling me how much she would love to one day publish a novel.

"Yeah?" I said having not yet disclosed my own relationship with publishing, "what kind of novel would you like to write?"

"hisorical fiction, of course." She said.

"Really?" I said, "I don't think I could write straight up historical fiction. I'd never feel liked I'd done enough research. It would be just too close to what I do academically."

It's interesting though, that was the second conversation of that sort I'd had in the last month. Another friend of mine from my department and I had been talking about romance novels and she'd told me she'd love to publish one. When I asked what kind she'd said historical romance.

Unlike the two of them I might not feel like I could ever hack historical fiction but I do love history and I do love historical settings when I write. I also love writing fantasy, science fiction and gothic horror though and would never want to give that up. So usually I combined the two and write fantasy or horror with a historical setting.

Or in a word (two actually) I write Weird History.

What is weird history you might ask? or possibly isn't it those unusual historical fact that get retweeted on Twitter?

You might well ask both questions because as far as I know I just made the term up on the spot. Weird History combines elements of fantasy, the paranormal, science fiction, mythology within a historical setting. Now it doesn't have to be elements of all of these genres at the same time or in the same amounts. Just as long as there is heavy doses of the weird or unusual that you then inject into (or use to gut) a historical moment.

Weird History comes from the term Weird Fiction

Weird Fiction according to Wikipedia is:
Weird fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction written in the late 19th and early 20th century. It can be said to encompass the ghost story and other tales of the macabre. Weird fiction is distinguished from horror and fantasy in that it predates the niche marketing of genre fiction. Because genre or stylistic conventions had not been established, weird tales often blend the supernatural, mythical, and even scientific. (

I like the idea of Weird History, that combines historical moments with elements of fantasy, mythology, horror, and even science fiction. As a genre Steampunk is a lot like this except that Steampunk is tied to a particular historical moment and some might argue place. Historical Fantasy as far as I can tell seems to lack the whimsy and sense of well ... weirdness that I personally enjoy writing and reading. I'd probably like Mythpunk and Alternative History more if I could figure out what they meant.
So for now I'll stick with weird history: not completely fantasy, not completely historical fiction and not completely sane.


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