Today we have D.E. Olesen, author of the Eagle’s Flight, here to talk to us a little bit about realism and the importance of historical accuracy in fantasy. How goes it, Daniel?
It’s been two weeks of blue skies and clear sunshine, which is almost unprecedented for Scandinavia, so I would say it goes very well – at least until the universe decides to punish us for it with a massive deluge or something.
Well if it does, consider it karma for all those viking raids on Scotland.
Anyway. Lets get right down do it and talk history. I hear you’re a bit of a history buff?
I prefer the term ‘history hoe’. It encapsulates the unhealthy relationship better.
You’ve mentioned to me in the past that you prefer a more realistic and historically accurate approach to fantasy: preferring to draw from history rather than creating something entirely new. Why is it that you favour this approach?
Let me first specify I prefer this approach for myself; I’m happy to read what others can invent out of thin air. But for me, this approach comes with many advantages. I already read all sorts of historical texts and works, so I might as well put that knowledge to use. It’s also a great source of inspiration; truth can often be stranger than fiction, and reading about actual events has given me many ideas that I’d never imagine otherwise. Lastly, for a genre such as fantasy, immersion, world-building, and suspension of disbelief are often key. By drawing heavily on facts and realism, you ground your fantasy to make the suspension much easier – and when the fantastic does appear, it may do so to greater effect.
So do you feel that by providing a more realistic “base” for your story, you can enhance the reader’s experience?
Yes, within the context that I am already creating a secondary world based on our own. If I were writing “Alice in Wonderland”, trying to keep it realistic would obviously be to its detriment. In this case, any realism and detail adds depth to my world. It helps the immersion and establishes the authority of the narrative voice. Nothing makes the reading experience deteriorate faster than starting to doubt whether the narrator has a complete grasp on their own setting; for instance, having someone thrust a sword straight through plate armour is a clear indication that the narrator does not understand how plate armour works. For me, the only reason to have my secondary world deviate from our world is due to necessity (e.g. geography must necessarily be different) or because it serves a purpose for the narrative, causing changes that allow for a more exciting story.
On that note, let’s talk weapons. If we’re keeping things historically accurate, what do you think are the common things fantasy novels and TV shows usually get wrong? What should they be doing?