Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Breaking the laws of physics
In and of itself, fantasy tends to break the laws of physics – for instance, with magic. So it sometimes takes a little more blatant and striking a twist to really catch readers’ attention, to give them a sense that this is a much stranger world than Ye Average Medievale Lande.
One way to do that is to not just break the laws of physics, but chase them down and ravish them senseless. Or to put it less floridly…
These can’t happen in real life (though apparently people still submit proposals for perpetual motion machines to the US Patent and Trademark Office). They can be spectacular in fantasy, though. Imagine constant wild weather, such as the Whirlwind in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen series, or the storm on Jupiter which is wider than the Earth’s diameter and has lasted for well over a hundred years.
Another twist would be to make such a feature mobile – such as a great, permanent fog or abyss that moves slowly and randomly across the map.
Ice-cold pools in the desert. Rapids with fire substituted for water. I’m also inspired by Jacek Yerka’s art in this, such as his painting “Sun Spots” – since sunspots are a couple of thousand degrees cooler than their surroundings, the sunspot is actually part of the countryside, complete with trees, grass and a little pond surrounded by a wooden fence. Around that is a boiling blaze of hydrogen being fused. It’s a stunning image.
Negation of gravity or the flow of time
If you ever have a chance to look at the maps in the Edge Chronicles books, you’ll see a river which flows right off the edge of the world (hence the name). No need to plan out an alternative water cycle in a fantasy world. And the Edge Chronicles also feature huge rocks floating in the sky, one of them serving as the foundation of a city and tethered to the ground by a thick chain.
Make such features a normal part of the world, and it’ll be all the more fantastical as a result.