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I am trying to write a time-travel short story about two real people from history. The individuals are

  • Jack Sheppard, a robber notorious for being a popular criminal who escaped four times in his young life in the 1700s, and
  • Joseph Beuys, a German sculptor whose ideas I find hard to understand but believe he was interesting because of his spiritual perception and variety of ways of fulfilment.

I’ve been working on character duos and how they can bond over one specific interest. I want to try involving people who have popularity and skill in common - such as Sheppard’s reputation of intelligent escapes from prisons and Beuys’ ideas and personal but mundane story about being rescued by Tartars.

What genre should I say this is?

  • I'm not sure most of us really need to give our stories genre labels. The only thing about that you'll want to consider is when you submit it, you'll have to find a journal that's open to publishing experimental stuff. – Ken Mohnkern Aug 20 '18 at 16:38
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Genre is merely a case of marketing and terminology, but I would assume it's a mixture of Science Fiction (soft, if the time travel mechanics aren't well-explained) and Historical Fiction.

A (poor) example of this is the book A Symphony of Echoes. It's a 'funny' romp detailing the adventures of a government-mandated group of time-travelling historians.

It's a shame everyone's an asshole, antagonists appear and die without the audience ever knowing who they are or why we should hate them when they're just as, if not less, insufferable as the protagonists, and none of the people seem like they'd be trusted by a government not to mess up history.

But honestly, as bad as the book is, it's marketed as sci-fi. I think that's always a safe bet.

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Anything with time-travel in it is automatically going to be considered either sci-fi or fantasy (depending on the mechanics of the time travel). This is not necessarily a bad thing, since there's much more of a short-story market for such stories than for straight historical fiction.

If do you want to avoid this categorization, however, I'd advise you to reconsider whether or not the time travel aspects are actually essential to your story.

In passing, it's worth noting that unless a time-travel story is exclusively about the future, it will necessarily mix in history.

  • John Carter Dickson wrote mystery novels (sometimes considered the epitome of British mystery writers despite being from the US). Some of them were standard historical fiction (with murders to solve, of course). At least two had some sort of time travel (with murders to solve), and were generally treated as mysteries. – David Thornley Aug 17 '18 at 22:28

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