When does modern fiction become historical fiction?

They say that furniture, ornaments, jewellery etc become an antique only when it is 100 years old. My question is when does modern fiction become classified as historical fiction, is it when it's set 'x' number of years ago? As an example, take three books I have recently read - the first two set during the Spanish Civil War and the third the Second World War, I would have thought these were historical fiction but all are classified as modern fiction - WHY?

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Make me use by brain this time of day.
You are right that does leave a puzzlement doesn't it?
I would be saying, after something is over 25 years old if I had to put a number on it.
Thanks for that Kimberly, so you too think it's about how long ago the story is set. I had 50 or more years ago in mind as a figure.
Take for example Anne Rice's "Feast of All Saints"
The book is roughly 30 years old (I don't have the book handy so don't know the print date) but is set in the time of around the civil war. (it's been years since I read it details are fuzzy)
I consider that historical fiction
Hi Petty,

I would think your books were Historical fiction too! Who told you they weren't? Perhaps that person or people have their genres mixed up. A lot of people get confused with genres. I can't see something that's based or written during the period of the Spanish Civil War as anything but historical.

Go with your own thoughts and classify it how you want it to be. But to me, it seems to be historical and I don't know how it can be considered "modern".

Best Wishes!

When it deals with historical periods as the mileau of the fiction?????
I've asked at several places Stacy, libraries, book shops and several book web sites and they all agree that they would classify those books as modern fiction - it's when asked why modern and not historical that they can't seem to answer.

By George I think I've got it, LOL!

They're classifying historical fiction as modern to get more buyers. It's as simple as that. I know that historical fiction has become a hard sell along with literary fiction. Maybe they are putting it into the category with modern to reach a wider readership. It's all about marketing now a days. This could be the answer. Remember what happened with Chick Lit? They ended up putting it into the Women's Fiction category and people hardly use the term Chick Lit now. They did this because Chick Lit had grown stale as a genre thanks to millions of copycat writers, readers abandoned the genre and sales weren't cutting it. They combined it with Women's Fiction to reach more audiences (women especially who wouldn't have touched a Chick Lit book with a ten foot pole). It's the same with mysteries. If a mystery has ONE tiny element of romance these days, they wanna call it Romantic Suspense all to reach as big of an audience as possible. They're doing this with many genres now.

I'm pretty sure this might explain it. Being an author myself and with knowing how publishers do things, this wouldn't surprise me. I believe this is the core reason. They feel they can reach more people if they take off "historical" and classify it as "modern".

Can't really blame them, but I sympathize for you and other authors who might not agree. We must remember though, the bottom line is this is a business.

Best Wishes!

I would have classified those as historical fiction. My definition of historical fiction is fiction based on certain points/events in history. There is no time frame.

Wikipedia has this to say: Historical fiction is a sub-genre of fiction that often portrays fictional accounts or dramatization of historical figures or events. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, nominally attempt to capture the spirit, manners, and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity.[1] Historical fiction is found in books, magazines,[2] art, television, movies, games, theater, and other media.


These Movies are considered Historical Fiction, and many are based on WWII
Media and culture

Works of historical fiction are not reserved exclusively to literature. Many films have been created which attempt to use a historic event or setting as a backdrop and actors portray fictional or historic figures set in these events. Below are a few notable examples in chronological order the events took place.
[edit]Film and television
I, Claudius - Television series adaptation of Robert Graves's novels, observing the life of the Roman Emperor Claudius.
The Tudors - A dramatic television series observing the reign of Henry VIII.
John Adams - Miniseries, chronicling most of President John Adams's adult life and his role in the founding of the United States.
Titanic directed by James Cameron - Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater, two members of opposite social classes, fall in love on the doomed ocean liner's maiden voyage.
Saving Private Ryan- Film about the Invasion of Normandy during World War II.
Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima - Films about the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Memoirs of a Geisha - A fictional account of the life of a Geisha set in World War II Japan. Based on the 1997 novel of the same name by Arthur Golden.
Valkyrie - The true life story of the fourty-first plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

There are also several books on WWII that are considered Historical Fiction.

What I think is that these libraries, book shops, etc that you checked in to know that the OLDER period books are more popular sellers in historical fiction (Tudors, Plantagenets, Times of the Crusades etc) and thus delegate the less popular subjects as "Modern" although based on definition and literary scholars those subjects are considered historical fiction. They base their decisions on what is going to be a bigger seller. At least that is all in my humble opinion.

ETA: The Historical Novel society put a time of 50 years after the time in history for their purposes: http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/definition.htm
Wow, thanks for that Jaime, you obviously did a lot of research. Hope you don't mind me mentioning you by name on my blog where this discussion first started.
You're welcome. It blew me away that those books were categorized as Modern Fiction so I just had to find out more.

I don't mind you using my name and info.

Here's my blog url if you'd like it: http://booknerdextraordinaire.blogspot.com
Thanks for that Jaime, you certainly have an interesting blog - I enjoyed visiting.
Yeah it's weird to me too, Jamie. That's why I believe it's a marketing thing that's changing within the industry. Genres change and merge all the time in order to reach a wider audience. We'll see if a few years from now if Historical fiction is still around with that title or if it will completely evolve into modern. Like I mentioned with Chick Lit. Chick Lit as a term is obsolete. Only a few readers still use the term now. It's now Women's Fiction, in the industry to appeal to a wider audience. This is why authors who used to write Chick Lit now are having a hard time finding pubs and agents who are looking for "Chick Lit", it's now Women's Fiction.

This would be the only reason I could see for a historical novel to suddenly become Modern Fiction.

Best Wishes!



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