Catchy headline isn’t it? Best I could come up with to talk about the importance of setting (as Daily Post brought up the subject yesterday). In the genres that we write – sci-fi, fantasy and horror, we do have far more flexibility about the setting of a book. Alternate history and future often trades off of the dichotomy between what we know about a period and what might have been.
Yet we do set boundaries for ourselves. We have rules about what we can and can’t do within our genre and we stick to them. Despite being set in a fictional fantasy land and having magic, Lord of the Rings has a degree of reality and technological appropriateness. If we cared little for “historical” (for want of a better word) accuracy, then we could have indeed given Frodo a GPS to find his way to Mordor and done away with the treacherous Gollum when he first arrived on the scene. “Route to Mordor, Gollum? No thanks. TomTom will show me the way!” Lord of the Rings does have an medieval feel to it – Gondor has an Anglo-Norman feel to it whereas Rohan is definitely based on the early medieval kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England and Francia. Making Andúril into a machine gun would not have worked either!
So just because you are creating a world, it doesn’t mean you should have no limits on the technology of the time. Unless, of course, you happen to be writing steampunk – in which case toss out the rule book completely! The above photograph is a promo shot from the film Sucker Punch. It’s a funky, sexy sci-fi, fantasy type thing. The ever-fantastic Emily Browning is committed to a psychiatric institution after she fights back against her abusive step-father and accidentally kills her younger sister. Her coping strategy is to imagine herself in a brothel; inside it, she teams up with the other inmates to find five objects that would allow them to escape. Each object is inside another fantasy world, one of which is a Paris battleground fought between German steampunk zombies and the allies – the girls are a team of special forces.
If you’re going to throw in the anachronisms, then you’ll have to make sure that you can get away with it – the weirder the better because by that point your reader / viewer is not going to care. If you intend to play it for seriousness then your setting is going to come off very poorly, just as Solomon Kane did to this historical pedant.