Recent Historical Fiction and Alternate History News

Here’s a selection of news and features that I’ve come across recently in the world of Historical Fiction and Alternate History. Enjoy!

Polite Englishman

From Salon: The myth of the polite Englishman. I thought this book sounded like a great resource for anyone writing historical fiction set in the Eighteenth century. Interestingly enough I don’t see many stories coming into Alt Hist set in that era – not even American War of Independence stuff very often, which is disappointing. Such a rude century should definitely be better represented!

From the Guardian: Kate Williams joins queens of historical fiction.  I didn’t agree with what she had to say at the end of the article about female documentary presenters being chosen for their looks – the BBC does the same with its male presenters too!

Guardian again: Alternate history lessons for children’s fiction – new wave of alternate histories searching questions about technology. Interesting that alternate history is being more accepted in schools, but how do we make sure kids know the real version as well?

From contactmusic.com: Steven Spielberg – Steven Spielberg’s European History. Europeans are much more interested in history says Steven. Quite a debatable statement I think – certainly most of Alt Hist’s story submissions come from the US.e make sure kids know the real version as well?

From The Daily Beast: The Graphic Novel Renaissance – and historical graphic novels are leading the way! Hurrah!

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New Historical Fiction Book – Until the Dawn’s Light: A Novel by Aharon Applefield

Until the Dawn’s Light: A Novel by Aharon Applefield

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Schocken (October 11, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0805241795
ISBN-13: 978-0805241792

Available from Amazon.com

Available from Amazon.co.uk

From the Publisher’s Website:

From the award-winning, internationally acclaimed writer (“One of the best novelists alive” —Irving Howe): a Jewish woman marries a gentile laborer in turn-of-the-century Austria, with disastrous results.

A high school honor student bound for university and a career as a mathematician, Blanca lives with her parents in a small town in Austria in the early years of the twentieth century. At school one day she meets Adolf, who comes from a family of peasant laborers. Tall and sturdy, plainspoken and uncomplicated, Adolf is unlike anyone Blanca has ever met. And Adolf is awestruck by beautiful, brilliant Blanca–even though she is Jewish. When Blanca is asked by school administrators to tutor Adolf, the inevitable happens: they fall in love. And when Adolf asks her to marry him, Blanca abandons her plans to attend university, converts to Christianity, and leaves her family, her friends, and her old life behind.

Almost immediately, things begin to go horribly wrong. Told in a series of flashbacks as Blanca and her son flee from their town with the police in hot pursuit, the tragic story of Blanca’s life with Adolf recalls a time and place that are no more but that powerfully reverberate in collective memory.

Reviews:

“Tragic heroine Blanca will remind readers of Hardy’s luckless Tess, for Blanca’s essential decency and self-sacrificing attempts to do right end, fatefully and inexorably, in suffering. . . . As she tries to outrun her past, Blanca faithfully records her own history and surveys the loss of faith among Austrian Jews; with this, the story of one woman’s misfortune takes on the magnitude of history. . . . Compelling.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Distinguished fiction by one of Israel’s most prominent novelists. . . . A beautiful and affecting novel, Tolstoyan in its compassion for humanity.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“An affecting tale [and a] graceful narrative.”
—Booklist

“A worthy addition to the oeuvre of an acknowledged master of the plight of Europe’s Jews before and during the Holocaust. Appelfeld makes every word count as he hauntingly depicts the tragedy of the human condition.”
—Library Journal

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Interview with Anna Sykora, author of ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’

Anna SykoraNext we have an interview with Anna Sykora, author of ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your writing

I grew up in a Manhattan apartment, a shy total oddball, reading my better world. Later I had a dream -I wanted to eat – so I actually practiced corporate tax law for 12 years (a nice living, no life). Then I married a German with visa problems. Now I’ve no living but a lovely life, reading and writing to my heart’s surfeit in this provincial nest (German Hanover).

I write everything from humor to apocalyptic horror and traditional poetry. I just placed my 98th tale and 188th poem, all by editors’ choice.

The internet keeps me connected with fantastic creatives pursuing their visions, all for tokens of money or just true love. At the end of the day, it’s love that matters more – most folks agree.

How did you get the idea for the story ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’?

I was reading the scholar Toby Wilkinson’s lavishly illustrated Lives of the Ancient Egyptians, and there on page 50 is a sculpture of a fleshy, almost female scribe. What if? I wondered. Down the ages, how many women have pretended to be men, in order to make careers they loved?

Looking at more pictures of art, and researching Egyptian life helped me fill in the story.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

As a girl I fell in love with H. G. Wells, and I still revere his lucid style. I just love Dostoyesky too, for his insights into the angels that dwell with the demons within us.

In poetry I’d say Rilke and Emily Dickinson rule my attention; both, extremely solitary, expressing their personhood through precise art.

As well as fiction I understand that you also write poetry. I am
fascinated to know more about how you balance working in these two
different formats.

Poetry for me is my deepest language: not even a ‘practice’, it’s what I hear in my head. On a desert island, I’d write poems in the sand, or recite them to the shrieking birds. I usually can write it after a short nap in the late afternoon. Sometimes it burbles up of its own free will, and I just have to write it down.

Prose, on the other hand, is WORK – best handled after breakfast, while the coffee’s still hot. I’ll rewrite a story 20 times, till every sentence sings. Then I’ll keep sending it out, no matter what, until it sticks somewhere. I once got a tale accepted after 37 rejections, no lie.

What are you working on at the moment?

My usual, ridiculous hodgepodge of SF and horror prose – and literary verse. Never will I ‘specialize’ and become a unique selling proposition! Indeed I’d like to try more alternate history soon. It tickles my imagination.

Having lived in Germany for decades now, I’d be confident trying a German setting.

Anna also told us about some of her other publications

I’ve got a humorous fantasy, ‘My Unicorn Summer’ in the latest issue of Mystic Signals, and my satire of marriage, ‘A Little Dust’ should appear in The Cynic Online on August 1.

Readers who liked ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’ might also enjoy my SF epic Megachicken, in last October’s archives of Radio Station WRFR’s ‘Beam Me Up’ programme in Rockland, Maine.

Don’t forget to read a free sample of Anna’s ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’ from the second issue of Alt Hist. We think you’ll like it.

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First Issue Submissions All In!

I now have six short fiction pieces ready for typesetting as part of the first issue of Alt Hist. I am really excited about this collection of stories and will be writing a bit more about them as we get nearer to publication. The next stage is to typeset each story and to get PDF proofs out to our contributors. Whilst that happens I will also be working on front and back covers of the issue and also designing some marketing material.

The aim is to have the first issue published by the end of October.

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