Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

Writers of speculative fiction can share can share experiences and advice here.
By Ned Marcus
#517
Does anyone here write/publish historical fantasy?

I have a 7,000-word short story I hope to sell, but more than that, I'm considering writing something longer in this genre. At the moment, I'm just brainstorming ideas really. Any thoughts are welcome.
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By BrandonPilcher
#526
I've dabbled in that genre before. Sometimes what I do is take a historical setting and add fantastical elements like sorcery, gods, or demons. Other times I create my own world but pattern the cultures after historical ones.
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By BrandonPilcher
#573
Ned Marcus wrote: February 15th, 2024, 07:54 Which eras do you like to set your stories in?
I'm particularly fond of ancient Egyptian and other African history, as well as prehistoric times in general. I have played with other settings though. The last book I've drafted is inspired by Sinbad the Sailor from the Arabian Nights, mixed in with lost-world stories and the "legend" of the lost continent of Lemuria.
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By Christopher C Fuchs
#924
My epic fantasy has strong flavors of historical fantasy, as I get much of my inspiration from reading history. Even though mine is still a fictional world, I write realistic fantasy with no actual magic or monsters. There is detailed alchemy and fantastical martial arts like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. But "magic" is just a superstition and monsters are myths.
By Ned Marcus
#925
Christopher C Fuchs wrote: March 9th, 2024, 13:28 I write realistic fantasy with no actual magic or monsters. There is detailed alchemy and fantastical martial arts like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. But "magic" is just a superstition and monsters are myths.
Are you ever tempted to write in magic?

I'm curious because I like to include magic. Although, when I write historical fantasy, I rein in my desire for anything too excessive—magically speaking.

One more question. What is the purpose of alchemy in your stories?
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By Christopher C Fuchs
#929
Ned Marcus wrote:Are you ever tempted to write in magic?

I'm curious because I like to include magic. Although, when I write historical fantasy, I rein in my desire for anything too excessive—magically speaking.

One more question. What is the purpose of alchemy in your stories?
Oh man, you've opened the door for me to really nerd out on this stuff...

I have nothing against magic, but I'm not tempted to write it. I like for things to be explainable, grounded, and consistent--whether in what the reader sees or at least in my author's encyclopedia. The explanation doesn't have to be obvious, it can have many layers of belief until (or if) a character hits bedrock truth.

I do this for two reasons. First, I like the challenge of it. It is a constraint on what my characters can do to solve their problems or reach a goal. I know magic systems have constraints, but this is my way of doing it. Second, I really like exploring technological evolution, particularly the arrival of technology before its time as compared to the real world. I like to think about how medieval or early modern societies would have been different if specific technologies had been developed earlier. Such as advanced alloys, gunpowder, lighter than air flight, electromagnetism, and exoskeletons. And then, how would those societal differences affected relationships between nations and empires?

Alchemy plays a central role in my books as an agent of change. In the real world, alchemy was a proto-science. Alchemists chased wild ideas that would never materialize, but they also helped establish a process of trying ideas, documenting results, and testing the repeatability of those processes. It wasn't the scientific method yet, but it was a step.

In my Earthpillar world, alchemy is more like early chemistry without the unfounded belief. Alchemists pursue their arts because of concrete benefits. Medicine or poisons that work. The weaponization of candles and filled eggs. Primitive magnets that most people assume is magic. Armor fitted with pistons that cock weapons as the wearer walks (as in Lords of Deception). Additives that make fires burn hotter for new alloys or to produce strong lifting airs for airships. Much of this is based on my own research into elements, chemistry, and mechanics--but pushed to a further degree that I feel is realistic but still fiction, if that makes sense.

How does all this affect the stories? The early alchemists were eventually viewed as a threat by kings, so they were forced underground. Through a system similar to the real world Republic of Letters (but run by criminals in what I call the Sable Letter Exchange), underground alchemists trade their secrets, sell their wares, and plot their next move. Among them are members of a secretive group of assassins called the Order of the Candlestone, who aim to overthrow kings and return the continent to its primitive origins.

That may be clear as mud... :hmm:
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By Ned Marcus
#939
Thanks. It's interesting to read your thoughts.

Writing is more of a challenge when magic is constrained, I agree. Magic can become an easy way out, but I have a weakness for it—especially the unexplainable type.

Yes, the early commercial development of balloons or airships would have changed history. This definitely has potential in fantasy.

Alchemy interests me because of its dual nature. It was a precursor to chemistry (as you use it in your world building), but the alchemists also added a mystical component, which is the direction I'd probably go with if I add it into my fantasy worlds.
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By cupiscent
#945
Author Emily Tesh recently posted a fantastic and thoughtful thread on Bluesky that really evoked the science / mysticism of alchemy (something I drew on for my work as well). She talks about the observational and investigative science of history - specifically in her case, Ancient Rome - and looking at how people were doing the best they had with the information available, and the same critical faculties we possess today. As she says in the thread: "sophisticated intellectual elites, analysing the world they knew with the tools they had". How do we know magic / religion / prophecy / etc isn't real? It's all investigation, discussion, observation, dissertation. Read the thread here. There's a lot in here to inform worldbuilding of all kinds!