Time Travel and Historical Fantasy

Last week we talked about Historical Fantasy, and after bringing up my definition of the distinction between Alternate History (involving something that could really happen, but didn’t, such as Germany losing the Franco-Prussian War, or Kennedy surviving the assassination attempt) and Historical Fantasy (involving something that couldn’t happen, like dragons serving in the Air Force, or the Lions winning the Superbowl) I declared that I think a large swathe of Time Travel fiction should properly be considered Historical Fantasy instead of Science Fiction.

Of course, there are a couple of exceptions… Primer comes to mind… but for the most part, a Time Travel movie and/ or book involves a lot of techspeak, mumbojumbo, and a brief spurt of doubletalk before the lead character jumps in the machine or portal or police box and boopy-boops his or her way into the past. (Yes, boopy-boops. Often, that’s the sound made when he or she activates the proteon nebulizing graphanator or whatever mechanism pulled out of the writer’s bottom just in time to create a time portal. Until we really have such technology, I’m going to say boopy-boop.) And sometimes the creators will just invent a random time portal (such as in the excellent 11/22/63) that just… works. Yet somehow, these books are relegated to Science Fiction, despite a complete lack of science.

From the seminal works in the field (such as The Time Machine, science is, at best, glossed over, and is only a plot device to get the hero back or forward in time. And sometimes, such as in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, there is no science at all… Hank gets bonked on the head with a crowbar and wakes up in Camelot. Other books have similar methods. While this type of fiction can accomplish a lot in terms of social commentary, not to mention can be quite entertaining, it’s not science fiction, or alternate history. It’s speculative fiction. Fantasy.

And it’s a type of speculative fiction that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. One could even say there’s a… ahem… future in this.

7 thoughts on “Time Travel and Historical Fantasy

    • waytoofantasy says:

      This is true. History is mostly based on people’s accounts of things, that can be murky, or sometimes used as propaganda, so there are many differing accounts of the same events. And there is also speculation when there isn’t enough hard evidence (which even then, can be open to interpretation sometimes). Glad it’s here to stay, love history *and* fantasy!

    • cjcasey says:

      I never thought of historical fiction being being a type of speculative fiction. You’re right. Even the strictest, most accurate history is simply a version of what happen. It may be more accurate than version that play hard and loose with the facts, but it’s still just a version. And since stories are threads that allow us to make sense of the universe, and history does the same thing for us regarding the past, they seem to be more closely related than I thought.

  1. gherardopsicopompo says:

    Hi! This is the first time for me commenting on this blog, and I hope not losing my english grammar on the way… ^_^”’
    I love fantasy that involves time travel, and if I may, i’d like to suggest something that is worth reading: The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers, probably is the best book I’ve ever read involving time travels… And, if you’re not prevented against Young Adult, Time Riders by Alex Scarrow provides some good entertaining.
    Enjoy! ^_^

    P.S. This blog is cool! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • cjcasey says:

      Non preoccuparsi… suo inglese รจ meglio dal mio italiano. Grazie per il commento sul nostro blog, e penso io deve trovare quello libro… ho letto un o duo racconte dal Sig. Powers, e mi sono piaciuti.

      P.S. Thanks for liking the blog! Hope my Italian didn’t cause any pain.

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