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Fellow SciFan author Assaph Mehr has had his nose in a book since he was five, and had to yell at the librarian that he can read already so he could get a card. With a rather diverse taste in reading – from fantasy to philosophy, from ancient times to the far future – his first novel Murder in Absentia is a “historically-themed urban high-fantasy hardboiled murder mystery, with just a dash of horror”.
After years of reading and only dreaming of seeing his name in print, he suddenly started writing in 2015. He owes this to his wife, who complained that there was nothing good left to read. Once the challenge was accepted and Murder in Absentia was born, Assaph just kept on writing – short stories, flash fiction, and now a second full length novel. You can find them all on egretia.com.
When he’s not busy mashing up genres or interviewing other author’s characters on TheProtagonistSpeaks.com, this ex-Israeli-turned-Aussie enjoys his kids, cats, wife and even his day job. He hopes that his thirty years of martial arts make his fight scenes realistic, and that his love of history shines through his work.
He says, “Murder In Absentia is the story I always wanted to read. I have been in love with ancient history, and in particular Rome, since I first laid eyes on Asterix. Growing up in Israel, a country steeped in millennia of human history, and playing D&D just helped cement that love.”
A summary of Murder in Absentia is as follows:
A young man is found dead in his bed, with a look of extreme agony on his face and strange tattoos all over his body. His distraught senator father suspects foul play, and knows who to call on.
Enter Felix the Fox, a professional investigator. In the business of ferreting out dark information for his clients, Felix is neither a traditional detective nor a traditional magician – but something in between. Drawing on his experience of dealing with the shady elements of society and his aborted education in the magical arts, Felix dons his toga and sets out to discover the young man’s killers.
Murder in absentia is set in a fantasy world. The city of Egretia borrows elements from a thousand years of ancient Roman culture, from the founding of Rome to the late empire, mixed with a judicious amount of magic. This is a story of a cynical, hardboiled detective dealing with anything from daily life to the old forces roaming the world.
This is a story of Togas, Daggers and Magic – it will appeal to lovers of murder mysteries, ancient Rome and fantasy.
Science Fantasy and Historical Fantasy
Historical Fantasy is “a category of fantasy and genre of historical fiction that incorporates fantastic elements (such as magic) into the narrative. There is much crossover with other subgenres of fantasy; those classes as Arthurian, Celtic, or Dark Ages could just as easily be placed in Historical Fantasy. Stories fitting this classification generally take place prior to the 20th century.” 
Even though History is part of the humanities rather than sciences, there is a close correlation to Science Fantasy for authors, in the amount of research needed for a well-crafted story. This often involves reading volumes of information covering the particular era: from general events such as wars, through profiles of important personages, to aspects of daily life such as available technology and food production. The information can be in any form – from condensed books, to research articles in respectable periodicals, to looser online articles. There are even groups practicing “experimental archaeology” and recreating anything from sword fighting techniques (from fighting manuals) to cuisine (from surviving original cookbooks and literary descriptions) to hairstyles (based on statues). A lot of this information is available in video format over the Internet.
However the information is gathered, it is the level detail and authenticity in the novel that separates Historical Fantasy from “just” fantasy. The author has to do the same amount (or almost the same) amount of research as good historical fiction authors – and then add the layer of “what if” that drives speculative fiction.
The research work for the author is significant. First, we must understand that there are many gaps in what we actually know, sometimes more gaps than direct evidence. Second, is that a lot of the evidence we do have is suspect – be it the interpretation of archaeological data, or the bias of contemporary written sources. It is the role of historians to piece together a continually changing image of what life was back then, and of the author to continually educate themselves. Then come the world-building aspect that characterizes Sci-Fi and Fantasy. More questions are raised, around the effects that the fantastical elements (be it magic or advanced technology) have on human society, the culture, the individual, plot elements from medical to security, etc. One must do so not arbitrarily, but in the historical contest of the chosen period, to preserve the delicate plausible historical “feel” of the setting.
When done well, the results can be extremely satisfying. Some very famous authors have made this sub-genre popular in recent years – Guy Gavriel Kay and Diana Gabaldon come to mind. The real world aspects usually result in a world that is far more convoluted than a single mind can imagine. Describing the Roman emperor eating an (historically accurate) jellyfish and brains custard, is at once more familiar and therefore more shocking, then describing an alien ‘Gagh’ or ‘Spoo’. When care is taken to research not just grand events but daily life, the level of realism that draws the reader in and immerses them can grow exponentially. On the other end of the spectrum, the fantasy aspects of the story add a little pizzazz to the story, something that has been captivating audiences throughout the ages. The result is a setting that is rich, immersive, and exciting.
What is SciFan? Find out here. Do you have a SciFan story to share with the world? Can you think of existing stories that should be properly classified as SciFan? Let’s revolutionize the publishing industry and clamor for the debut of the SciFan genre taking the stage! Come join our SciFan Society to learn how you can participate in this growing movement!