That’s quite a question and one I decided to have a go at answering because I’ve had short stories published in the Sci-fi and fantasy genre, and a couple of contemporaries. My latest submission was my first stab at a paranormal fantasy novel. I’ve given this question quite a bit of thought and I decided one of the first things I had to ask myself was: why do I like to write historical stories? I thought if I could answer that, maybe it would give at least half the answer to whether there is a difference. I’ve loved history for as long as I can remember. It was just about the most enjoyable class for me in school and I used to ply the teacher with questions all the time. I’m one of those people who can remember dates, never know why but I was always very pleased that I could. It still bugs my husband now, he loves history too but he never seems to be able to remember dates:) Heck, I seem to be going off on a bit of a tangent here.
What I was trying to lead into was that because I like the subject it seemed the ideal jump off point when I wanted to write original characters – oh yes, like so many others have mentioned, I too started off writing fan fiction. However, in my case, my fandom wasn’t book based, it was TV and TV science fiction at that, yet when I wanted to write original fiction it never occurred to me to go that route.
The first two pieces I wrote were an historical novel and a novelette, and it was only while I was waiting for my first publication – chomping at the bit for it actually – that I decided to write another short story. However, this time, probably because of that impatient chomping, I wanted the immediacy of something I could produce with less effort and complication than writing an historical piece. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to get your basic facts right, I mean it would hardly do to have your spaceman open the airlock and not be in his spacesuit 🙂
However, what I really enjoy when writing science fiction, or fantasy, is that you can let your imagination run riot and you don’t have to worry if such a thing were possible during that era, or if a man might risk his life to make love to the man he desired above all else. I can paint a picture of a world where men can be together without risk, with acceptance, in fact without even a second thought and the only danger or risk in their lives comes from anything and everything but their sexuality. There is a freedom in that kind of writing that you don’t have when you need to research so much of what you want to put down on paper.
So, for me, it’s good to be able to have that freedom to write in easier worlds than the men of history faced. I suppose you could say that very freedom makes me appreciate the bravery and forbearance of those men from out of our past who were prepared to risk all for love. It makes me want to tell their story.
So, yes there is a difference but I’m not sure it really matters. There is a place in fiction for every genre out there, some people have more of a feel for one kind, others want to have a finger in every pie, and yet others simply want to experiment, to stretch themselves. Those authors who want to concentrate on writing historicals do so because they love the subject and the research necessary to write a good story is part of whole process and part of that love – and it shows through in the writing of a good historical novel.