Here's a question for you.... How do you feel about historical figures being fictionalized? And I'm not talking about historical figures used in fiction in the correct context of the time the author is writing about. I'm talking about authors who take historical figures and give them fictional lives, lives that might be completely foreign to who these people were in reality.
I ask, because recently a particular book was published that used historical figures as main characters, and these characters were apparently put into hardcore sexual situations. The historical figures themselves, in real life, were conservative, upstanding folk. Yet this author took extensive liberties with these people in the story, putting them in scenarios that are not only unflattering, but could be perceived as downright offensive to some. (I won't say which book, author, and publisher because this really isn't intended to be a bashing session and I mean them no disrespect. What follows is my personal opinion about situations like this in GENERAL. I have not read the book in question. I base my comments above on the book's blurb and the general promotion buzz I heard prior to the book's release.)
I felt uncomfortable when I heard about this story. To me it seems in very poor taste, and it also seems rather lazy (and perhaps even a bit dangerous in our litigious society) on the part of an author to use real people, no matter if they lived a hundred and fifty years ago. Those of us who write fiction for a living have absolutely no limitations on where our imaginations might take us. To be rather blunt, we get to play God on a daily basis with our stories and characters. We can create hundreds...thousands...of fictional characters in our lifetimes. Characters of any possible race, creed, physical description, lifestyle, and personality. Do we really need to "borrow" real people to write about? Real people who probably still have family alive somewhere who wouldn't at all be pleased to find out their great, great, great grandfather or grandmother is being fictionalized in adult material.
I've certainly read historical fiction that took some liberties with real life people--Queen Elizabeth I having conversations with fictional heroes and heroines, historical nobility participating as secondary characters in intrigues that never really happened, maybe even key historical figures having secret fictional love affairs--and the vast majority of the time it hasn't bothered me if done with taste. But where does one draw the line? I guess what I'm wondering is how far is too far?
I'm curious what readers think about situations like this. If you have any thoughts on the matter you'd like to share with me, drop me an email.