I was having an interesting discussion a few days back with an author who writes in a different genre to myself. The upshot of it was that they thought I was very lucky was it didn’t really matter what details/setting/skills I added to my sci fis and fantasy as it was all made up anyway. ROTFLMAO.
Um no, this may be a popular assumption, but it is an incorrect one. Take Darkspire Reaches, for example, which is a fantasy world, not Earth. Ah, you may say, in that book you used Earth words to describe trees and stuff. Yep, I did. Of course I did. I had gone to a great deal of trouble to construct this world, decided on its geology, weather patterns, temperature, zones, types of flora and fauna that could possibly live successfully in this place, so naturally I used the words people would recognize. If I stick a rabbit in a story I am not going to commit the stupid trope of calling it a flubble, or a werible. If it looks like a rabbit and acts like a rabbit, then it is a rabbit.
Why all the fuzz over stuff fitting into a setting? In one word, feasibility. I can’t have violets and roses flowering at the same time. A lot of people know this doesn’t happen in reality. I can’t have a xerophyte spudded in at an unlikely location. It has to be consistent and realistic to allow the reader to sink comfortably in the world.
What about history? Yes, that is enormously important. With the Shadow Series, beginning with Shadow Over Avalon, I wanted to find what the true King Arthur might have been like. This involved going back to the original Welsh legends to avoid the politically correct fabrications firmly in place by the time of Mallory. Fabrications? Oh yes. In Medieval times it was considered almost necessary to go on a pilgrimage; something the church really promoted as the end destination raked in on cha chink right royally. In those times, Glastonbury Abby ‘discovered’ the bones of King Arthur and his queen in their precincts. (One hopes they were not over-zeolous about procuring the right sort of bodies). Now the problem was that hyping up the Arthurian legends meant mentioning women of power. Oh quel horreur! Women couldn’t have power! That couldn’t happen, therefore one Geoffrey of Monmouth set out to discredit pagan priestess Morgan Le Faye and he made a bang up job of it. Now to elevate Arthur, who was most probably a pagan king. Easy enough with chivalry, knights and holy quests, excepting there were no knights in Arthur’s real time-frame. Also look closely at the objects in the major stories. A sword and a grail. Writing was a real pain way back when and I imagine it took Geoffrey’s whole life work to put all this down on vellum in beautiful script done with a quill or two, not to mention the gold leafing trim. This explains the absence of the other two power objects, the wand and the pentacle.
Look at the old Tarot sets and the names will be very different. Swords, Cups, Pentacles and Wands; not Swords, Chalices, Coins and Batons as they became to fit in the need for the right sort of chappy to go visit on a pilgrimage. Arthur was Christianize, as were many of the trappings from the pagan days. Of course the monks could get away with whatever they wanted to say to swing a pilgrimage route in their direction. At that time, they were the only ones, aside from a very few nobles, who could read. History is absolutely fascinating when taken back to the nth degree.
I will only use a small fragment of the material I researched for the Shadow Series. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is I have a real handle on Arthur and his times. And just how did ancient men raise Stonehenge? The jury is still out on that one.