Strange Bedfellows: When Science Meets Fantasy
Guest post by Marian Perera, author of the Eden series
I was browsing articles on Wikipedia one day (that site is almost as bad as TV Tropes for me) and I came across a picture of brain coral.
“What would happen if that acted like a real brain?” I thought, and imagined it transplanted into some unfortunate person’s skull. That gave rise to a monster which fitted perfectly into a series of sharkpunk novels I was working on, and which I want to bring back again in the future. It was just that disturbing—and fun.
I love throwing scientific spanners into the workings of fantasy novels. When I first started writing, I was heavily influenced by Tolkien, so I created some typical low-tech fantasy worlds where people fought with either swords or magic. Those places were complex in their own way, but generic.
But one day I came up with a world where, in one particular land, someone invented the steam engine.
Technology took off at a gallop. That’s another wonderful thing about fantasy; I didn’t need to be true to the pace of our history. The people of that land quickly developed calcium carbide cannons and forged ahead (no pun intended) into an Industrial Revolution.
The ripples from these changes spread out to other lands. To protect themselves, they had to either keep up with the arms race or develop their own resources, like the ability to control sharks and other marine predators, using those as scouts and shock troops. I have a feeling these two lands—one a seafaring nation with sharks defending their armada, and one a technological juggernaut on the verge of developing firearms—will eventually meet in war.
Winter is coming, and although it’s not a nuclear winter, we may be on our way there.
After shaking a fantasy world up like the slips of paper in a Reaping Ball, scientific principles can also settle matters down by making a story more realistic. One of my favorite reader comments about The Deepest Ocean was that I’d done my research when it came to sharks. The more convincing the real-world aspects of the story, the easier it is to buy the fantastic ones.
Plus, technology-inspired twists can be a great way to startle readers. I’m reminded of the scene where a swordsman faces Indiana Jones and does all kinds of cool maneuvers with the blade before Indy simply shoots him. In The Farthest Shore, one of the captains in an ocean-crossing race uses a technological trick to keep tabs on his competitors, and another Wikipedia article on rabies gave me an idea for a future novel which I’ll just describe as Jaws meets Cujo. Or in fewer words: rabid shark.
Science and fantasy may make strange bedfellows. But they also breed fascinating children.
About the Author
Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States and lives in Canada. For now. She writes hot fantasy romances with a scientific twist, and has three novels released by Samhain Publishing, with more to come. Sharkpunk a specialty, explosions frequent, underwear optional, happy endings mandatory.