As part of a deal I made with my brother, I read the book Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden. The deal was that I would read a book of historical fiction (a genre I’ve never been fond of, despite my love of history), while he would read a book of science fiction of my choosing. I read Genghis, and he read (or is reading) Hyperion by Dan Simmons; one of my favorite books. I finished my book recently, and I will concede that it was very well written, with good characters, research, and plot. It was a very good book, in short, and I did enjoy reading it. However, I will not be picking up the next one, because historical fiction – and this book by extension – tends to lack an interesting world. The world historical fiction is set in is our own, and so to me the genre has always lacked something that I feel is important in fiction: world creation. This is not to say that writers don’t go far out of their way to make the world come alive, and I do applaud historical fiction writers, as a lot of work goes into it. It’s just that as a reader, I am aware that I am looking at reality in the past, and so it takes away from the sense of creativity I enjy seeing in the worlds one creates for their books. As a roleplayer, I see background and the universe and setting of a book to be hugely important – indeed, a creative setting is the most important thing to me in a book – and I cannot usually credit the author of historical fiction for designing the world. I look for settings in my books, and historical fiction offers primarily characters (which are important, but come second to me).
The other thing about historical fiction that I don’t like is that it doesn’t offer any hope. I read in order to escape reality. Historical fiction slams me right back in, and offers me no real escape; I am reading about what has happened in my own world. This is why I prefer fantasy and science fiction, and especially the latter; I am taken away from reality, and in most cases of science fiction, am shown that humanity will continue to live on for many more centuries. It allows me to escape. Horror does the same thing, and also allows me (usually) to blame humanity’s problems on some supernatural foe, again taking the focus off of reality.