Historical fiction is a literary genre where the author weaves a story with fictional characters interacting with actual events, characters and locations. Historical fiction does not change history. It is not alternate history where certain actions, events and characters change history from a point in time, for example, the Gingrich/Forsten alt-history of Gettysburg, where the Confederate army prevails. The works of author Harry Turtledove that I am familiar with are alternative history (also known as alt-hist). The case could be made that the movie Forest Gump is historical fiction, but I reject that because the story line is too forced, with too much deus ex machina (defined by Merriam-Webster as "a person or thing in fiction or drama that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty") That's just a fancy name for an author's crutch for when the plot line needs help.
The Roaring Road is realistic historical fiction. The protagonists Laure and Dan get involved with running contraband wine and whiskey, interacting with events and people but not in such a way that history is altered. They meet mobsters Hymie Weiss, Al Capone and Nucky Johnson. It would be alt-history if for example, they killed Al Capone. That would change history. Their interaction with Capone does not change Al, but it does change Laure and Dan. The story line takes my protagonists to Hollywood in the 1920s, where they interact with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, W.C. Fields, Billie Dove, Famous-Players studio boss Jesse Lasky, director Herbert Brenon, cinematographer James Wong Howe and my favorite, Louise Brooks. Laure and Dan will make a movie for Famous-Players Lasky (which was one of the companies that became Paramount Pictures) but my story line does not change the studio's history. Louise Brooks is a character in the story, but it does not change her life.
The challenge for realistic historical fiction authors is authenticity. I do a lot of research to determine if a certain historical character could plausibly be at the place and time I have written that person into my story. For example, I have Bix Beiderbecke playing at The Green Mill in Chicago in the late summer of 1927. I adjusted the story line to make it August 1927, because I found that during that month Bix had just left the Jean Goldkette Orchestra and was traveling east through Chicago on his way to join Paul Whiteman's Orchestra. Since Bix had a personal history in the Chicago area (such as going to school in Lake Forest) it would be plausible for him to stop off in Chicago at that time to play at The Green Mill, yet his playing there would not alter his arc in history. Likewise for Louise Brooks. She pops in and out of the story, but during this time in reality she was traveling New York-Hollywood and back frequently. Laure interacts with Louise on a couple of movie sets, and Laure gets a bit part as a dancer in the first "The Great Gatsby" movie made in 1926, directed by Herbert Brenon. This is the event that changes Laure, not the Gatsby movie. It puts her on a path as a star and eventually as a movie producer, and Dan as a producer/director. All this while they are involved in Prohibition contraband. Busy people!
While the case could be made that even these minor things could change history, The Roaring Road books are written in such a way that it does not. One could say there is a fine line between the hist-fic and alt-hist genres, but I definitely stay on the realistic hist-fic side of the line.
I dislike historical fiction that changes dates or places of actual events. That is too close to alt-history, and true historical fiction gets a bad rap for things like that. Hist-fic (as we call it) was very popular a few years ago but today its popularity with readers not as great, with fantasy, paranormal and romance now the leaders in today's fiction book categories.
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