1. S.D.Lickiss
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    S.D.Lickiss New Member

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    Vague Novel Idea...What Genre?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by S.D.Lickiss, Nov 8, 2010.

    Hi there,

    I'm a passionate linguist with a particular interest in Celtic/Germanic languages. I am also fascinated by the island of St. Kilda somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean off the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, which sparked the idea.

    I want to write a novel set on a fictional archipelago of islands in the North Sea between Shetland and Norway, really isolated as St. Kilda is. The inhabitants speak a combination of Scottish Gaelic and Norn (which is extinct in reality but was spoken on Shetland until sometime in the 19th century but in the novel it is still just about surviving) with English (and maybe Danish) being reasonably widely understood. The lifestyle of the islanders is based upon those of St. Kilda (which I am well-read on). They are barely aware there is a war on.

    I haven't completely decided when to set the novel, but it is between the Napoleonic Wars, World War I or World War II. Naturally, basing it in any of this wars would have different repercussions for the archipelago.

    Enemy ships/U-boats were shipwrecked upon the islands in a storm after fleeing a battle which was lost. The novel plot goes on from there with the interactions between the islanders and the Germans/Norwegians/Danish/French/whoever...

    Anthony Hope invented a country in the Prisoner of Zenda so I figure I can do the same. What I am unsure of is whether I can invent a completely fictional naval battle in one of the conflicts or whether it would be best to use a real naval battle and just tweak a few events in it to fit the plot.

    What do you think would be best?

    I don't know a lot about the Napoleonic Wars (yet, spent most of the day learning about it though). I am very interested in World War I and semi-interested in World War II but I can't say I am hugely well-informed about the details of any individual battles in either. All I really need is some mechanism to get enemy soldiers (of whatever nationality, at this stage) wrecked on the islands.

    Since the islands are fictional their sudden appearance in the North Sea could have huge consequences for any of the above wars as a strategic base (as St. Kilda was during WWI in particular). I can't even begin to speculate what to do with regards to this, especially for anything set in World War II with Norway being occupied by the Axis. Any advice?


    Would this be a historical novel or something else based in a historical setting?

    Sam
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think "alternative history" would be the correct genre, and when people write and that genre they are often just as you are. Knowledgeable and interested in history yet shamelessly changing it in an interesting way.

    Be brave, go ahead, read a bunch of published books in the alternative history genre. I personally can recommend "The years of Rice and Salt" by Kim Stanley Robinson, a book on how the world would have developed from the middle ages to present day if the black death had killed all of Europe.
     
  3. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not entirely clear whether the conflict you're thinking of is simply a means of getting a bunch of shipwrecked alien sailors upon an already culturally exotic island or whether the conflict is central to your purpose.

    If the former then a training exercise gone awry or the shipwreck of a merchant ship might be a better bet.

    If the latter, then some might find an entirely fictitious battle set in an otherwise historical war somewhat annoying. In which case expansive and bold fiddling with history, as w176 suggests above, might be better tolerated than minor fiddling.
     
  4. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    In alternative history, you make a point of going against historical fact, for example, to play out a what if-scenario. It sounds like you (Lickiss) just want to change the details of history to fit your story, but keep the general feel of the real North Atlantic and the real World War II.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with making up small places, small events, etc, to fit your story, if it's obvious to the reader that's what you're doing. It's like when you do a composite of several real people to create a fictional person who nevertheless captures the essence of the real ones. If you make it clear that the islands don't exist in real life, it should also be obvious to the reader that no World War II battle could have taken place close to them, and the reader will hopefully take your story for what it is.
     
  5. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    "The man in the high castle" by PKD is also about an alternate reality US if the Germans / Japanese had won the war.
     
  6. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep. An invented island is more getawayablewith than an actual one. (Though I suspect the very point of its imagined existence is that a battle could have taken place close to it.)
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd call it 'historical fantasy', but I don't know if that's a widely-used definition.
     
  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Madhoca. Well no. That is another genre entirely, usually used for fantasy settings clearly closly inspired by some other period then the European middle ages..
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I've seen it used to describe a time-travelling novel set in a place like Venice in Renaissance times...can't remember the name of the book...But why should it be used to describe any period other than the Middle Ages? I don't see why it shouldn't apply to any historical period--outside modern history, perhaps.
     

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