When I chose to use real events in my novels and short stories, I never foresaw that critics and others would begin to refer to my work as “historical fiction.” That’s defined as fiction that has as its setting a period of history and attempts to convey the spirit, manners, and social conditions of a past age with realistic detail and fidelity to historical fact.
How can stories about what I lived through myself be historical? These things didn’t happen in the far-flung past. They occurred during my lifetime. Granted, I’m getting on in age. But I’m surely not old enough that my experiences are to be considered “history.”
Or am I? So often these days, at my presentations and readings and book sales, I meet people who are grandparents but weren’t even born when Saigon fell. My presentation on my role the 1967 battle of Dak To in Vietnam’s highlands describes events of more than 53 years ago. And I’m regularly the oldest person at events I attend. Maybe I am turning into an historical figure.
And maybe I should exploit rather than downplay my age. I’m already well past the average life span of American males. But I don’t look my age and am still athletic. Each year that passes, I become more unusual.
Maybe it’s time to welcome being an historical figure. Maybe I’ll give it a try.