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Are the 50s and 60s "Historical?"

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I'm talking fiction, MG and YA.  I see books set in the 40s and I'm not sure whether those are considered Historical Fiction or what.  Now I'm seeing new books set in the 60s, 50s not so much.  Are these considered "Historical" and would one therefore submit to publishers who are looking for that category?  What about books set in the 70s and 80s?  Are these Historical, period pieces, or just considered pretty much contemporary?
#1 - March 03, 2008, 08:25 AM

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I think anything that's definitely set in a time period that's not the unspecified here-and-now is considered "historical"--but I may be wrong.  I don't hear "period piece" thrown around in the kid-lit world too much.  I've only heard movies called that.
#2 - March 03, 2008, 08:33 AM

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If it's tied to specific events, situations, circumstances from another time period which can't be moved to another period, then I would call it historical.  Example:  The Wednesday Wars.  That novel is firmly rooted in the Vietnam Era.  Many plot elements are tied directly to the war, attitudes of various characters are colored by the war.  There is no way the story could be uprooted and told in another time.  So I'd call that story historical fiction, set in the 60s.
#3 - March 03, 2008, 08:36 AM

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honey, the 80's are historical.
#4 - March 03, 2008, 08:51 AM
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honey, the 80's are historical.

Yes. Anything that takes place before your readers were born is historical to them. I'm a baby boomer, and WWII books were historical to me.
#5 - March 03, 2008, 08:56 AM
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I subbed a tween/YA manuscript set in the Beach Boy CA '60's and all the agents and editors (who very nicely rejected it!  :) ) called it "historical fiction."  :)
#6 - March 03, 2008, 09:07 AM
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I intellectually understand that the past is the past and so the 80's (and maybe even the 90's?!!!) are an historical setting,
but the real question becomes do agents & editors look for 1960's or so more than other historical fiction?  or vice versa?  (forgetting labels for the moment)

In other words, do agents& editors prefer quasi-contemporary or near-term historical fiction more than "real" historical fiction, such as medieval England or colonial America?
So when we understand that the YA market is not very hot on historical fiction, they might be referring to fiction set in medieval England or colonial America?
And a YA novel set in the 1960's or the 1980's with some cultural diversity might not be so likely to get the proverbial thumbs down that "historical fiction" currently does?

Steve     :typing
#8 - March 03, 2008, 09:58 AM

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...the real question becomes do agents & editors look for 1960's or so more than other historical fiction?  or vice versa?  ...
And a YA novel set in the 1960's or the 1980's with some cultural diversity might not be so likely to get the proverbial thumbs down that "historical fiction" currently does?

FWIW, I think if anything, they might get a surplus of 60's-70's stories that are only set in that period b/c the author is writing about their own childhood... which is NOT the same as using that period for a story that needs to be set then (as somebody pointed out earlier).

Like most anything.... if it's good enough, it will sell.
#9 - March 03, 2008, 11:15 AM
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Another factor to consider ... in the 50s and 60s with a little spillover into the 70s, you have Korea, Vietnam, Kennedy, Civil Rights, Sputnik, the space race, moon flights, major political assasinations, not to mention the rise of rock and roll - a major time of social change with dramatic events that have shaped life in this country for two generations.  It's pretty easy to latch onto that time period with a story that ties in directly with things that were happening in that time.

I'm not sure what the 80s has to offer to top that.  Sure, you could make a list of things, but the drama of the 50s and 60s is pretty hard to top.  I'm thinking (as someone who has lived through the last five decades) that it would be a lot harder to set a story in the 80s or 90s that would have a unique need to take place in that era.  Pass the Watergate era and I'm not sure what could be compellingly turned into a kids story that would catch the fancy of young readers like the 50s and 60s could.  Even Watergate, as fascinating as that is, I think would be a much harder draw to sell as the backdrop of a kids' book.

That said, in about ten minutes someone will think of something, post it here, and prove me wrong.
#10 - March 03, 2008, 11:57 AM

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...I'm not sure what the 80s has to offer to top that <the 50's and 60's>.... Even Watergate, as fascinating as that is, I think would be a much harder draw to sell as the backdrop of a kids' book.

That said, in about ten minutes someone will think of something, post it here, and prove me wrong.

:dr :dr :dr
#11 - March 03, 2008, 12:14 PM
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I'm not sure what the 80s has to offer to top that.  Sure, you could make a list of things, but the drama of the 50s and 60s is pretty hard to top.  I'm thinking (as someone who has lived through the last five decades) that it would be a lot harder to set a story in the 80s or 90s that would have a unique need to take place in that era. 
That said, in about ten minutes someone will think of something, post it here, and prove me wrong.

Ooh, pick me! Pick me! My "historical" novel that HC will publish in 2010 is set in the 80's but it does indeed relate to fallout from the Indochina Conflict that spanned decades prior. My MC has to escape Communist Laos and enter the refugee system in hopes of starting a new life in America.
#12 - March 03, 2008, 12:34 PM
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My MG takes place in '73, during the summer of Watergate. I've been told that novels set in the 70's are a tough sell.  :faint
#13 - March 03, 2008, 12:42 PM
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Ooh, pick me! Pick me! My "historical" novel that HC will publish in 2010 is set in the 80's but it does indeed relate to fallout from the Indochina Conflict that spanned decades prior. My MC has to escape Communist Laos and enter the refugee system in hopes of starting a new life in America.

Good one!

That said, I think that twenty years from now, our own post 9/11 era with the War of Terrorism is going to be ripe pickings for Historical novels.  (After those of us who are using that topic right now while it's a contemporary subject get done with it.)
#14 - March 03, 2008, 12:47 PM

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Novels set in the '70s and '80s are probably hard to sell because the publishers are having a hard time thinking of their adulthood as historical. :dr :dr :dr :dr

 :woo
#15 - March 03, 2008, 12:48 PM
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Novels set in the '70s and '80s are probably hard to sell because the publishers are having a hard time thinking of their adulthood as historical.

Uh, don't you mean their CHILDHOOD?  :lol
#16 - March 03, 2008, 12:54 PM
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Uh, don't you mean their CHILDHOOD?  :lol

Ditto.  Been to a conference lately?  This is a YOUNG industry.  Heck--I'm one of the younger members of my critique group (by almost a decade), and I'm still older than my editor.
#17 - March 03, 2008, 01:30 PM

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oops :drinkingdone
#18 - March 03, 2008, 04:55 PM
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I've been told that anything more than twenty years before the date you write your novel is historical.
#19 - May 01, 2008, 08:38 PM
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I read somewhere (an agent's page?  can't recall) that they defined before 1950 as historical
Anyone can use their own delineation as it is not clear.  Agents and publishers get to decide.

Steve   :typing
#20 - May 02, 2008, 10:18 AM

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My YA is set in 1974. It takes place in South Korea and events such as Nixon's resignation, the Vietnam war and the assassination of South Korea's first lady come into play. A couple of agents rejected it, citing the fact that historical fiction is a tough sell. But many more have asked for pages, so it depends on the agent.

#21 - May 02, 2008, 01:06 PM
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80's/90's historical events...  The Berlin Wall, Gulf War 1, Reagan, Solidarity, Pope/Reagan assasination attempts/ Challenger Disaster

Or, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, MTV, nintendo......

I could see a story that HAD to be set in the 80s, especially if the MC was say (drawing on people I've known) a Polish girl who's dad was a leader in the solidarity movement and whose family had emmigrated to the US because the communists had threatened to kill her and her sister as retribution for her dad's political activities.

Hypothetically, of course.

(Actually, that would really make an AWESOME novel--  but it's not mine to write, since it would feel like stealing an old friend's childhood. So if anyone around here has the time to research and write it.........

Also, there were a LOT of kids who came to the US fleeing the Civil War in El Salvador (know a few of those, too)

So yeah, I'd say there are DEFINITELY events that would make for a novel set in 1980's America.

Oh, the S and L crash, too.....

And these are just the events that really loomed large in my childhood (born 1977)-- And they'd all be completely distant history to kids today, because, well, they fall under the heading of "When your mommy was a little girl".....
#22 - May 02, 2008, 01:30 PM

I honestly think it depends upon the story.  I'm currently shopping a novel set in 1972 during the aftermath of Civil Rights.  Civil Rights plays in the background but it's not the driving factor of the story. I'm shopping it as a YA Literary.  Does this make sense?

BeeBee
#23 - May 09, 2008, 10:10 AM

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Honestly, as a writer, and especially for children, I think anything before 1990 would have "historical" elements.

The hubby and I were just talking about writing a modern stroy vs. one set even fifteen years ago.
With all the technology, you have to explain things you wouldn't have to worry about before. Why doesn't the MC's cell phone work? Or why doesn't anyone else have one? Why can't they just get money from an ATM, or use a credit card? How can they get lost if they have a Garmin in the car? Why can't they just Google it? What the heck is a "stereo" anyway? I've seen more and more really clunky explainations for these things in newer books and movies.
And for a teenager- my sister, for example- these things have always existed. At under 30 (slightly) I'm pretty much in the last generation that will remember a day when you had to hit the bank on Friday night, or there wouldn't be any money for the weekend. And that was still before I had a job or a bank account. By the time I was in college, there was a cash machine in every store.
#24 - June 02, 2008, 07:43 AM

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Then there is the fact that no one makes a big deal out of the space shuttle taking off.  It is an everyday thing now going into space...

In the fifties and sixties, well it just didn't happen like that, anything that went up into space (that wasn't a top secret  :hahaha mission) was all over the news and in our Weekly Readers. 

We were all glued to our televisions to see the first person step onto the moon, now they don't ever bother with that... 

I think of how much technology has changed since I was a child and it pales compared to what my grandmother saw in her lifetime.  Today's kids have no concept of a lot of things, like stores being closed on Wednesday afternoons and all day Sundays.  Nothing open on Holidays, except for a few pharmacies...  Flying on an airplane was an event we dressed up for, a lot like going to church (I have no idea why, but everyone did.), Chain motels like Holiday Inns were considered too expensive to stay in and were avoided on vacations, now you pray you find a decent one.  We stayed in Mom and Pop motels and even tourist cabins (now those were a hoot and a half).  Ricky and Lucy slept in twin beds and still managed to have a baby. ?!?  Now on soap operas you have to really watch what your kids might see, let alone the movies!  (Of course it will not be the man that is naked, except for a fast butt shot).  The cowboys who died on television every Saturday did it so bad and were back the next Saturday, you never took it to be real (and somehow you knew cowboys didn't live like that although you wanted it to be true.) Name brand clothing in Grade School was JC Penney and Sears.  It wasn't until High School that brands became a topic and even then the majority of the people (and I went to a high school with a lot of children of wealthy families) did not make a big deal out of who wore what as long as you had the matching sweater sets and knee socks...  Blue Jeans were Wranglers and Levis until the Bell bottems came out...  Of course I never was a fashion maven, some times a trend setter, but never a fashion maven. 

However, just to write a story set during this time period, I think you have to put the right spin on it and center it around a specific type of event.  I admit I have a hard time as thinking of it as historic although I understand how kids feel about it.  I was fascinated by my mother's and grandmother's childhood times and always ask them questions.  They got a big kick out of telling me stories.  However the biggest story tellers in my family were my grandfather and great-grandfather.  They were the ones to give me my love of history. 

Liz
#25 - June 02, 2008, 02:14 PM
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