Non Fiction about medieval times?

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Asimovking, Apr 8, 2012.

  1. Asimovking

    Asimovking "Dime Store Rock"

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    I have 200 pages left in GRRM's ADWD and I'm really starting to get the itch to write my own medieval fantasy series. Really I have wanted to since I finished AGoT, but the itch grows with each book. Considering this is the first fantasy series I have ever read I don't plan on doing anymore than just outlining it for awhile until I read several other fantasy series. Otherwise it will come out as a lite version of ASoIaF :p

    For example I'm sure if I sat down to write the series right now it would have my own version of The Wall and the Night's Watch, X number of Kingdom's, a land seperate and completely different from the main land, I really like the idea of seasons lasting several years, dragons, monsters, a similar transition from a peaceful beginning to chaos, a multi-sided struggle (ASoIaF has 7 or so different factions vying for the throne), and probably several other similar things.


    But for the purpose of doing research so I can write the books and because I am interested in reading about it:

    What non fiction books about medieval times would you recommend for me to read? I would really like to get a solid idea of how people lived in those days. And maybe even a source that lists words they used back then, if they aren't in the books.

    How much of the content of ASoIaF is unique and how much of it overlaps with fantasy series in general? I would really like to come up with as unique of ideas as possible.

    Another question is what about naming characters and naming lands, items, towns, etc? Would it be a problem to have some of them the same as in ASoIaF? I don't mean to do it on purpose, but the series is so massive you forget most of the unimportant names. I imagine this happens in fantasy, but is it a problem? Like, can I be sued for simply having a name of something in my book that just happens to be the name of some random village in ASoIaF?


    My last question: Did people smoke tobacco or anything in medieval times? I don't recall it ever happening in ASoIaF. I'm wondering if any authors include smoking or is it left out because people didn't smoke back then?

    Thank you in advance,

    Asimovking
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2012
  2. Danogzilla

    Danogzilla Couch Commander

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    I've been reading a bunch of history lately. Some good ones I've found are:
    -The Middle Ages by Morris Bishop - nice overview
    -1066 The Year of Conquest - David Armine Howarth
    -The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century -Ian Mortimer
    -The Wars of the Roses - Alison Weir
    -The Northern Crusades - Eric Christiansen
    -Medieval Outlaws: Ten Tales in Modern English - Thomas H. Ohlgren

    Regarding your writing questions, it sounds to me like you are a little "close" to ASoIaF, and could maybe use a cooling off period reading other things. It happens to everyone. I say this to avoid writing what is essentially fanfic.

    And to answer your tobacco question, no, tobacco was a product of the Americas, and while there has been tobacco (and cocaine!) found in Egyptian sarcophagi dating back much much earlier, there was no transatlantic trade in the medieval era.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2012
  3. algernoninc

    algernoninc Now I'm an axolotl

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    I don't know if it is available in English, but for me the best book on the medieval period in France is by Maurice Druon - The Cursed Kings.
     
  4. Asimovking

    Asimovking "Dime Store Rock"

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    Thank you. I will check those out and I'm sure I will buy a few of them.

    I apologize for the confusion. I said this at the beginning of my post:

    And the following was just me rambling about why. Because this is what is going through my head right now, since it is the only fantasy series I have ever read:

    The fact that I only reference ASoIaF is because they are the only fantasy books I have ever read. Definitely going to read other series before I begin writing. On my TBR list are: The Steel Remains, The First Law trilogy and the Malazan series.

    I'm going to go ahead and re-arrange the OP so it will be less confusing (I hope).

    I wonder how readers would feel about it if I went ahead and had characters that smoke tobacco pipes? I mean it is fiction. Thank you for answering my question though, I had assumed it was in Europe first.
     
  5. Danogzilla

    Danogzilla Couch Commander

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    Very likely I missed a few key sentences (it was late :)).

    There are a number of vaguely middle age Europe fantasy books that involve to tobacco. The Wheel of Time series jumps to mind.

    As you say, it is fiction, and fantasy fiction at that. No one will hold a grudge if you fudge some of the rules of the period.
     
  6. Asimovking

    Asimovking "Dime Store Rock"

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    Ok awesome :)

    If anyone else can recommend more books please do so. And can anyone answer what I said in the OP about naming things?
     
  7. suciul

    suciul Read interesting books

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    One of the definitive popular history books on the topic is Norman Cantor's Civilization of the Middle Ages.
     
  8. Asimovking

    Asimovking "Dime Store Rock"

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    Thank you.
     
  9. chris777

    chris777 Registered User

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    Saxon stories.

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68527.The_Last_Kingdom

    It's basically ASOIAF + First Law w/out anything supernatural or fantasy esque. Good if you are into that sort of thing. I tried it...liked it. But I gotta have the fantastical to be truly satisfied. =/ It's a curse.
     
  10. s271

    s271 Repudiated Ursus

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  11. Danogzilla

    Danogzilla Couch Commander

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    Or his Arthur books, starting with The Winter King. Historical fiction, pre-Christian England.
     
  12. Mazarkis

    Mazarkis Registered User

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    I think you would find A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman interesting. But there is no shortage of medieval history books, and they range from coffee-table reading to intense scholarship. You can find books on almost any topic: women, technology, religion, art, nutrition, wars, literature, specific families, plague . . . there are thousands of books out there.

    P.S. The Structures of Everyday Life is another good one for general info, but it mostly covers a later era.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2012
  13. GeoffWilson

    GeoffWilson New Member

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    If you're planning on having battles in your book (I'm sure you are), you might find the book 'Agincourt', by Juliet Barker, useful. It describes the Agincourt campaign, but in the process provides all kinds of details about medieval armies, weapons, warfare, how campaigns were undertaken and so on. A fascinating read.

    As others have said, you can find books on almost every aspect of medieval life, but one I found oddly useful was 'Gestures and Looks in Medieval Narrative' by John Anthony Burrow. If you're wondering how people greeted each other (did they kiss on the cheek? shake hands?), bowed, embraced and in general what gestures they used towards each other, then this book is worth a look.

    Regarding tobacco, they smoke it all the time in The Lord of the Rings.
     
  14. owlcroft

    owlcroft Webmaster, Great SF&F

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    Cheating.

    A wonderful book that is not actually about the Middle Ages but rather about the end of Antiquity is Alaric: The Day the World Ended, by renowned fantasy author R. A. Lafferty. It is a thoroughly factual account of the fall of Rome (in fact, an earlier release was titled The Fall of Rome, a boring phrase), only told in the style of a fantasy novel. It brings the actions and the persons of that era alive as few or no ordinary history books do.