Clifford Beal is the author of The Raven’s Banquet and Gideon’s Angel, both published by Solaris Books
Historical fantasy is certainly nothing new in the world of genre fiction: it’s been with us for decades. Depending upon how you define it, it has roots in the epics of ancient history, the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, and in modern times has had authors as diverse as Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Lord Dunsany, Anne Rice and Bernard Cornwell. The sheer scope of historical fantasy today—covering everything from ancient Rome and the medieval world all the way to Victorian England—gives readers a vast horizon to explore and enjoy. And done well, adding a fantastical element to otherwise straight-laced historical fiction can enhance not only an awareness of a particular epoch, it can add a new dimension in character and plot. Just how would an 18th century gentleman handle a close encounter with a denizen of the Faerie Seelie Court? Done less well, crossing genres can result in a head-on train wreck of a story with the fantasy bits just bolted on for thrill value and with little or no thought given to context, time, or place.