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Interviewing the AH Community: David Flin of Sgt Frosty Publications

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#4
I am very here for comparing Doctor Who to Sarah Jane.

(Is there really not that much historical fiction for kids? It feels like there should be, but that's probably me remembering some from when I was a kid and forgetting things change)
 

David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
#6
I am very here for comparing Doctor Who to Sarah Jane.
It's interesting to compare Sarah Jane Adventures, Dr Who, and Torchwood, purely with regard to plotting, characterisation, and background.

The first has a much more equitable distribution of the spotlight; Sarah Jane was clearly the central character, but the others had a key part to play in the "team". With Dr Who, one rarely gets the feeling that the companion is there simply to make the Doctor look good, and it usually felt as though you could swap the companions around, and it would make very little difference to the story. As for Torchwood, well, that existed in order to have adult themes, and plot, characterisation, common sense, continuity and everything else could go hang provided it had its adult theme.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#7
It's interesting to compare Sarah Jane Adventures, Dr Who, and Torchwood, purely with regard to plotting, characterisation, and background.
I did spend a lot of the time SJA was on thinking it had more consistent strong episodes than its parent show, for the reasons you list as well as having some more coherent events and threats. I'm still not completely sure what's up with the Saxon plot but I know how the Trickster works
 

Stateless

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#8
Terry Deary did some historical fiction for children/young adults. I had the first book in a series which was okay bit couldn't be bothered with the second. This was late 90s? It was set in the Tudor period, but my brain keeps shouting 'IT WAS CALLED WOLF HALL' at me, making it impossible to find.
 

Gary Oswald

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#9
Terry Deary did some historical fiction for children/young adults. I had the first book in a series which was okay bit couldn't be bothered with the second. This was late 90s? It was set in the Tudor period, but my brain keeps shouting 'IT WAS CALLED WOLF HALL' at me, making it impossible to find.
Tudor Terror about the Marsden family. Was the first fiction I ever read set in towns nearby like chester-le-street.
 

Stateless

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#10
Tudor Terror about the Marsden family. Was the first fiction I ever read set in towns nearby like chester-le-street.
That was it. It lacked the humour of Horrible Histories, the plot was weak, the historical accuracy not great and the central characters not entirely likeable. 10/10.
 

Artaxerxes

Great! Barrington's up Edmund!
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#VALUE!
#12
It's interesting to compare Sarah Jane Adventures, Dr Who, and Torchwood, purely with regard to plotting, characterisation, and background.

The first has a much more equitable distribution of the spotlight; Sarah Jane was clearly the central character, but the others had a key part to play in the "team". With Dr Who, one rarely gets the feeling that the companion is there simply to make the Doctor look good, and it usually felt as though you could swap the companions around, and it would make very little difference to the story. As for Torchwood, well, that existed in order to have adult themes, and plot, characterisation, common sense, continuity and everything else could go hang provided it had its adult theme.
At the same time, certainly with modern Who, the companion has to be Special in some way. The only one who wasn't was Martha.
 
#14
The secondary school libraries were full of good historical fiction - that is to say, plausible stories with realistic events and people you cared about - when I was at school in the mid-Seventies. (The library at my school was set up c. 1958-60 and most of the hardbacks seemed to have been kept since then; the authors featured were mostly writing in the 1950s and 1960s but had finished by c. 1970.) I agree that Rosemary Sutcliff was brilliant; I was brought up on her books, especially 'The Eagle of the Ninth' and its successors. (My 'Alternative History of Rome' blog article on the revolt of Carausius and Allectus in Britain against the Empire in 287-96 relied heavily on my memories of RS's book on the episode, 'The Silver Branch', a sequel to Eagle of the Ninth.) RS also wrote 'The Lantern Bearers' on the end of Roman rule in Britain and 'Sword At Sunset' on a plausible Romano-British warlord as 'King Arthur', calling on old Welsh literature and legends - and my knowledge of the latter (and of Irish legends)mainly came from a 1960s Puffin Books retelling of them , Barbara Leonie Picard's 'Hero Tales From the British Isles'.


Also a lot of good books were written in the 1930s to 1960s by Geoffrey Trease, a radical (by 1930s standards) left-wing self-made journalist who caused a major fuss with sniffy critics in the mid-1930s by subverting the usual 'patriotic' and socially conservative pro-aristocracy tone of historical novels by writing a children's thriller about Robin Hood , 'Bows Against the Barons', with RH as a sort of communist people's hero and the barons as evil and greedy oppressors. GT is best known today for his only children's thriller still in print, 'Cue For Treason' (an Elizabethan spy mystery featuring Shakespeare), but wrote dozens of books covering from Ancient Greece ('Crown of Violet', another favourite that I read aged about 12) to the Second World War, and was still writing in the 1980s - and created a rare State school children's adventure series about a mixed group of boys and girls at school in the Lake District in the late 1940s, the 'Bannermere' books. GT has dropped out of sight and his books are rarely seen today, but could do with a revival and he was very non-sexist and anti-public school for his time, with a semi-disabled girl as co-hero in the Bannermere series and people from all sorts of countries and social origins in his stories. Another good writer, but with fewer books, was Hilda Lewis, eg her 'Harold Was My King' on 1066 - another favourite of mine. I admit that I learnt a good deal more history from these sort of authors than from textbooks, and the lack of equivalents today to inspire young people is a shame - though they do have video games on(cliched) versions of historical periods.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#15
I admit that I learnt a good deal more history from these sort of authors than from textbooks, and the lack of equivalents today to inspire young people is a shame - though they do have video games on(cliched) versions of historical periods.
I get the impression this was also true of old war comics - the sheer amount of them, and the sheer amount of content each needed, meant a lot of young boys (and girls) in the 20th century learned the broad strokes of various theatres and all the technical bits. And outside of video games aimed at older teens, that won't happen as much
 

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#16
The secondary school libraries were full of good historical fiction - that is to say, plausible stories with realistic events and people you cared about - when I was at school in the mid-Seventies. (The library at my school was set up c. 1958-60 and most of the hardbacks seemed to have been kept since then; the authors featured were mostly writing in the 1950s and 1960s but had finished by c. 1970.) I agree that Rosemary Sutcliff was brilliant; I was brought up on her books, especially 'The Eagle of the Ninth' and its successors. (My 'Alternative History of Rome' blog article on the revolt of Carausius and Allectus in Britain against the Empire in 287-96 relied heavily on my memories of RS's book on the episode, 'The Silver Branch', a sequel to Eagle of the Ninth.) RS also wrote 'The Lantern Bearers' on the end of Roman rule in Britain and 'Sword At Sunset' on a plausible Romano-British warlord as 'King Arthur', calling on old Welsh literature and legends - and my knowledge of the latter (and of Irish legends)mainly came from a 1960s Puffin Books retelling of them , Barbara Leonie Picard's 'Hero Tales From the British Isles'.


Also a lot of good books were written in the 1930s to 1960s by Geoffrey Trease, a radical (by 1930s standards) left-wing self-made journalist who caused a major fuss with sniffy critics in the mid-1930s by subverting the usual 'patriotic' and socially conservative pro-aristocracy tone of historical novels by writing a children's thriller about Robin Hood , 'Bows Against the Barons', with RH as a sort of communist people's hero and the barons as evil and greedy oppressors. GT is best known today for his only children's thriller still in print, 'Cue For Treason' (an Elizabethan spy mystery featuring Shakespeare), but wrote dozens of books covering from Ancient Greece ('Crown of Violet', another favourite that I read aged about 12) to the Second World War, and was still writing in the 1980s - and created a rare State school children's adventure series about a mixed group of boys and girls at school in the Lake District in the late 1940s, the 'Bannermere' books. GT has dropped out of sight and his books are rarely seen today, but could do with a revival and he was very non-sexist and anti-public school for his time, with a semi-disabled girl as co-hero in the Bannermere series and people from all sorts of countries and social origins in his stories. Another good writer, but with fewer books, was Hilda Lewis, eg her 'Harold Was My King' on 1066 - another favourite of mine. I admit that I learnt a good deal more history from these sort of authors than from textbooks, and the lack of equivalents today to inspire young people is a shame - though they do have video games on(cliched) versions of historical periods.
I tend to associate that kind of historical fiction (and just kids' history books in general) with the 1970s, there were a fair few books of that type left over in my school in the 80s and early 90s - though their distinctive illustrated art style made them look 'old-fashioned' to the neophiliacs.
 

SenatorChickpea

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#17
I do think that one problem with video games as historical fiction, and to a lesser extent children's TV and movies is the bias against inaction.

To come back to @David Flin's excellent interview, one thing I would- very slightly - quibble with is the comment about how children's fiction cannot afford too much description.

Now, I'm not going to say this isn't true. To use David's example, I loved the Fellowship of the Ring when my uncle began reading it to me when I was seven, but I doubt I would have stomached it without having enjoyed The Hobbit and for that matter the Narnia books first. But the description was some of the best bits- I remember vividly the Fellowship creeping through the halls of Moria, the first journey under the eaves of Lorien, the passage down the Anduin. But could I have enjoyed it without first learning that there was indeed adventure to come? That this setup would have payoff, that this joke would have a punchline, that these... I dunno, vegetables would have dessert? Help me, I ran out of metaphors.

I actually think that this is one of the things that literature can do that most children's entertainment simply won't. Video games, by their very nature, are interactive- they demand the active engagement of the child. Children's TV is still made to the demands of broadcast schedules and ad breaks. Children's films have only so long to tell a story.

But books can breathe. Think of the long passages in Sutcliffe which lovingly deal with the tacitile- the sharpness of a knife, the flickering of the flame. Think of Lloyd Alexander- to step away from historical fiction- and how Taren Wanderer takes an entire novel to let its hero try the crafts of pottery, of weaving, to reflect on the adventures he's had before. To use an Australian example, the absolutely superb work of children's historical (and fantastical) fiction Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park is sure to let its audience soak up up the vivid differences between Sydney in the 1890s and the 1880s.

Children's literature must excite, yes. But it can also teach children how to breathe- how great entertainment and art can enjoy holding a moment, soaking up what's around you. It can teach children how to use their senses- how to watch, listen, smell, feel the things that surround them. Historical fiction doubly so: by showing them what was different, it can attune them to the present.