Today we’re here to welcome historical novelist C.C. Humphreys to Book Lovers Inc. His guest post is on a topic that has always fascinated me, the line between realistic historical fiction and something I guess you might call historical fantasy. Not totally made up history, but history where magic sometimes happens, alongside verifiable historic events.
As it does in C.C. Humphreys’ story of war with a little magic, A Place Called Armageddon. It’s about the 1453 siege of Constantinople, a place that has always been more than a bit magical, all by itself.
Fantasy? In historical fiction?
by C.C. Humphreys
Interesting questions. It is something I have considered. And I think it comes down to what I call ‘a hammock moment’.
I was lying in my hammock – a rare and so especially wonderful laziness – and this sentence popped into my head:
“Magic happens to people who believe in magic.”
I think that is absolutely true. Especially the further back in history you go. In a world where most people had very little idea if how things in nature actually worked, magic explained almost everything. And by magic I tend to include the rituals of religion, designed to work on the senses, and to change things as they are to what you want them to be.
I think one of my main jobs as a writer of historical fiction is to get into the mindset of people who are human and thus similar to us in their desires and motivations but also very different in their world view. A belief in magical forces, kind and malevolent, forces that could be approached and beguiled and used to save or damn, was a vital part of how they engaged the world. I think it also lets the reader know that they are in a different time, yet one when humans still interact in recognizable ways.
So, truly, I don’t think A Place Called Armageddon has ‘fantasy’ elements. (Wait till you read The French Executioner coming out next year!) It has magical elements, but these stem from people’s beliefs not the physical altering of substance and circumstance around them.
C.C. has a question for you: Can you think of an example in your own life where something happened that can only be explained in ‘magical’ terms yet is not a fantasy? Magic happens. “Faith manages.” Share a magical experience with us.
1453. The empire has shrunk to what lies within those now-crumbling walls. A relic. Yet for one man, Constantinople is the stepping stone to destiny. Mehmet is twenty when he is annointed Sultan. Now, seeking Allah’s will and Man’s glory, he brings an army of one hundred thousand, outnumbering the defenders ten to one. He has also brings something new – the most frightening weapon the world has ever seen…
But a city is more than stone, its fate inseparable from that of its people. Men like Gregoras, a mercenary and exile, returning to the hated place he once loved. Like his twin and betrayer, the subtle diplomat, Theon. Like Sofia, loved by two brothers but forced to make a desperate choice between them. And Leilah, a powerful mystic and assassin, seeking her own destiny in the flames.
This is the tale of one of history’s greatest battles for one of the world’s most extraordinary places. This is the story of people, from peasant to emperor – with the city’s fate, and theirs, undecided… until the moment the Red Apple falls.