I want to thank Glen for inviting us onto his blog. While I would not, I’ll confess, wish to live in an underground warren during the Great Depression with a bunch of deathless folks who turn into zombies when they get out in the sun, the title of this post is not about Glen’s world but about the one I write about with Matthew Schick (my co-author).
We’ve been writing epic fantasy novels together for a long time (20 years and counting), and in that long time I’ve met a lot of other epic fantasy writers. Internet author forums are filled with us, each one peddling the world we’ve imagined to anyone who might be interested. “Psst. Hey kid, would you like a world with telepathic dragons? How about grim dark pixies? I can show you a world with two suns, three moons, and stars that are really angels. You like angels, don’t you?” If there are no readers to entice, a group of fantasists can transform a forum into a game of “I’ll let you tell me about your world if you’ll let me tell you about mine.”
I’m not hating. I’m every bit as guilty of this as anyone. Epic fantasy writers tend to be really, really fascinated by the worlds they have created in a way I suspect might be a little creepy to casual observers. I’m reasonably certain I’m not the only fantasist who obsesses over the history, geography, and science of impossible things. Right, guys? Right?
Over the years, I have heard countless fantasy writers wish that they could live in the world they write about. This is perfectly normal for my kind. From the perspective of someone trying to follow the “write what you know” axiom, I’ll admit that there can be no greater immersion in a fantasy world than actually living in it. Yes, we all know that’s not possible, but we’re fantasists. Just because we have a firm grip on reality doesn’t prevent us from entertaining flights of fantasy and engaging in wild thought experiments. Don’t think I haven’t wished it a time or two (hundred) in the last twenty years.
But when I’m in my right mind and not all dewy-eyed over some nifty magical landmark or totally awesome character, I’ll take a pass on that wish.
Why? Have you read any fantasy novels? Dark gods, monsters, epic battles, powerful wizards – fantasy worlds tend to be, well, dangerous. The ones without those things? They probably have cities ruled by ironfisted governors or patricians who murder anyone who challenges their rule. Or organized crime is completely out of control, and gangs are murdering people all the time. Or merchant princes who have rival merchants murdered to increase their own wealth. Are you seeing the same theme I am, here?
Part of this is just storytelling. No one wants to read 250-1,000 pages about the peaceful time of the happiest people you can imagine. Setting is a source of drama in epic fantasy. Man versus Nature works in any old genre, but Man versus Trolls can only happen in fantasy.
More important but seemingly not as obvious, well-thought-out epic fantasy worlds are alien – especially to someone like me who isn’t really big on routine mortal peril. When I go to work, I don’t have to worry that I will see something there I shouldn’t and end up being killed to hush up the horrible truth about my employer’s business. It is reasonably unlikely that a dragon will show up at my place of work and devour my co-workers. I remain confident that I will not be kidnapped by a necromancer on my way home, to be used as the subject of unspeakable experiments in the Dark Arts. As I drift off to sleep, I don’t have to concern myself with the possibility that some fae being will strangle me in my sleep or that a demon that feeds on dreams will hunt me in a nightmare that only ends when my heart gives out.
Our four-mooned fantasy world? A sentient sandstorm whose touch petrifies living flesh is not a reality I want to face on my morning commute. With my luck, one of those kids whose magic prevents them from getting bitten by snakes will toss something scaly, angry, and poisonous at me for fun, and that would be an embarrassing way to die. A world where a child’s wish can grant a man godlike powers probably would not agree with me.
That’s just the corner of it we explore in Kingmaker. The swamps and moors of Marrishland (where Lesson of the Fire is set) have both monsters and wizards who solve all their problems with violence, and that doesn’t seem like a very good environment to raise a family. The rainforests and jungles of the Flecterran Valley? Tempting, but the art thieves, ghost pirates, and lake monsters are kind of a deal-breaker, especially when taken together. The other options aren’t much better.
I can talk about our fantasy world for days, for years, even. I’ll stick to putting its fictional characters in mortal peril, though. I love writing about it. I’m proud of the work we’ve put into developing it.
But I wouldn’t want to live there.
Glen here. Just wanted to say that Eric and Matthew run a fun blog for both readers and writers. http://fourmoonspress.com/news/
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