I recently saw a blog post about keeping archaeological facts straight in fantasy fiction. I had a few issues with the concept. First and foremost, they were talking about FANTASY, not historical, fiction.
FANTASY: noun, plural fantasies.
imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained.
the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing.
a mental image, especially when unreal or fantastic; vision:
a nightmare fantasy.
Psychology. an imagined or conjured up sequence fulfilling a psychological need; daydream.
a supposition based on no solid foundation; visionary idea; illusion:
dreams of Utopias and similar fantasies.
Aka- made up shit.
One of the things mentioned in the aforementioned article, was that some people complained about potatoes in Lord of the Rings because they weren’t a food staple yet.
Think about that for a moment.
LOTR is a PURELY invented world. Yes, it borrows heavily from the British Isles, but it is a FICTIONAL world. How do these naysayers know when that world discovered potatoes? Just because the background was similar to ours, last time I checked there weren’t wizards, golems, trolls, ents, or any number of beings found in LOTR, in our world.
Yet, they were upset about potatoes being around.
Now, to be fair, the post wasn’t focused on the LOTR issue, that was simply a side comment, but it did deal with keeping anachronisms out of your fantasy fiction.
Again we are back to that logic diagram in our heads (we all carry those around, right?).
An anachronism is something out of time. If a world is INVENTED, then unless you are the creator of said world, no one can say you have created an anachronistic event. Unless you contradict something already established by YOU in that world.
An example was given of an author who had prisoners taking a donkey cart to their work site. The author of the article was stating how they should have put that they walked, since that would be how it would have been. Ummm, says who? If you are writing historical fiction, damn skippy you’d better get it right, down to the exact type of buttons they used. But for fantasy? As soon as you’ve introduced wizards, witches, vampires, centaurs, dragons, faeries, etc you are NO longer in this world. Therefore, the rules aren’t the same.
The author of a world of fantasy is creating that entire world. Yes, we steal (borrow ;)) from various times in history, and some are very close to historical truth with just a slight variation added. But they have still deviated from the historical truth.
If you, as the author, are telling me that your hero in 1833 used a snargleblaster to blow away a swamp monster that climbed out of the Thames, I can’t really argue that the boat the hero used wasn’t around then. The author has already hijacked the timeline with a snargleblaster, and the fact that a sentient two-story being has crawled out of the Thames and is snacking on passer-by. Reality has changed. A type of boat that wouldn’t have been around in OUR 1833, might have been designed in 1830 in a world with snargleblasters (not to mention swamp monsters who are not living in swamps at all).
Now, if in the above example, the author states that a snargleblaster can never be used near large bodies of water because a safety (to be built and added to the weapon in 1840) was missing which would cause the hero to explode—and the hero fails to explode—we have another issue completely. The author has betrayed their own established reality.
So to all my other fantasy writers out there, I say let your wild ideas fly! There will still be troublesome naysayers, but just ask them where in YOUR world it was stated or implied that your culture advanced in the precise manner that “reality” did. (Just make sure you don’t contradict yourself ;)).