I’m a big fan of myths, folklore, and historical fiction. That’s part of why I love the classics so much! It’s great to step into a character’s shoes and experience a time period I’ll never see for real. However, I think the BEST thing about historical lit is that it shows how certain aspects of human life are universal and timeless. Sure, I may never break a slate over someone’s head like Anne Shirley did when she got made fun of in Anne of Green Gables, but I know what it feels like to be teased. I may not move to a post-Civil War NYC boarding house and meet a German professor like Jo from Little Women, but I know the fear and excitement of striking out on my own. And I think that’s the big draw behind historical fiction: we get to make personal connections with people from another time period.
The time periods listed below are ones I’d like to see more of in historical lit. Some of them are there because I’m interested in the culture, but some are there because I think there’s an important part of the human story that isn’t being told when we leave them out:
TOP 10 HISTORICAL SETTINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE IN MORE BOOKS:
- 1920s. I especially like when a book is set in the 1920s but told from the POV of someone from the older generation that feels a little out of place in the Roaring ’20s. cough*HerculePoirot*cough
- Medieval Britain. Kings, queens, quests—I can’t get enough of it. I’m particularly fond of fictionalized versions with magic, but true-to-life historical fiction is great too.
- Ancient Ireland. I collect books on Irish myth. My husband and I had an Irish-themed wedding reception when we got married, and we went to Ireland for our honeymoon. In short, I LOVE IRISH STUFF. So I pretty much always think there should be more books based in Ireland.
- Post-WWII Japan or Germany. There are lots of books that talk about the aftermath of World War II from the POV of people in Allied countries, but I wish there were more that show what it was like for people in the Axis countries. It can be easy to forget that lots of average citizens living in those countries were just as unhappy about what their governments were doing as everyone else, and they suffered a lot in the aftermath of the war. I think there’s a lot of great story material there, and the stories would be important ones to tell.
- Alaska. Ok, this isn’t really a historical setting. But Alaska is such a unique place! And so few books are based there! I wish there were more.
- Ancient Norse Culture. With the advent of the Avengers, Thor’s been in the public eye a lot, which has lead to a lot of people learning more about Norse mythology. I love Norse myth, but I’d like to see more historical fiction based on actual Norse life too.
- Slovakia…in just about any time period. My family’s a mix of German, Slovak, and Irish. There’s plenty of reading material for me if I want to get in touch with my German or Irish roots…but I can’t think of anything based in Slovakia. Even tracking down a book of Slovak myths can be tough. Granted, publishers probably don’t see a big demand for books based there, but I still think it would be cool. If you know of any, let me know!
- B.C. Middle East. There are plenty of Old Testament retellings, and I’ve seen some cool reinterpretations of Middle Eastern myths. But I wish there were more original stories being published about that time period these days. Could be fun!
- Made-Up Ancient Histories. Y’know how Tolkien wrote LOTR as an imaginary British mythology, since he felt they needed one of their own? I wish there was more of that. Specifically, I wish there was one for the United States. We’ve got folktales and such, but nothing that applies to the whole country, like King Arthur or Finn MacCoul or the Norse gods. I’d love to see a fictional origin story based in ancient North America. Maybe something in the style of the Native American creation stories? I lapped those up as a kid, but each one tends to focus on the specific group that created it (i.e. the Iroquois have one origin story, while the Navajo have another). I’d like to see something that’s meant to apply to North America as a whole.
- Gothic Horror. Can someone make Gothic horror cool again? I love me some decrepit manors on the moor, reclusive lords, ghosts rattling chains, and that uniquely Gothic mix of science and mysticism. Steampunk has a tiny bit of that flavor, but I miss the classic stuff. We should write more of it!
What historical settings do YOU want to see
used more in fiction?