Finding a Passion in Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction
“Write what you know” is one of the core pieces of advice for writers. That means to either write from experience either lived or gleaned through research. Furthermore, “write what you want to read” is also a core piece of writing advice. Even if what you want to write doesn’t have a large audience, there will be an audience. And hell, a new trend may start.
I’ve been thinking about this recently as I’ve been stymied on a few fronts. Even though researching medieval history hasn’t been as boring as I feared it would be, I still experience a distinct lack of enthusiasm for it. How can I write a medieval influenced historicist fantasy if I can’t muster the necessary passion for the world building, let alone writing the damn thing?
Perhaps I’m being unduly influenced by the simple fact that so much of fantasy is inspired by Europe’s medieval period. Maybe I should take a deep breath, take a step back, maybe sketch some, and think about what really interests me. What is my, for lack of a better phrase, passion? (or I could call it obsession).
Tolkien was a scholar of Old English and related historic languages. Outside of Middle Earth, he wrote one of the best essay on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and (I think) he was instrumental in reintroducing Beowulf. Though Middle Earth is his single greatest creation, Tolkien was no scholarly slouch. Hell, would Middle Earth even exist if it were not for Tolkien’s occupation?
George RR Martin isn’t a medieval scholar, but his passion for the medieval is undeniable. If you peruse his blog, it is possible to find him writing about his passion for toy knights and castle replicas. Clearly, the passion for the influence infuses A Song of Ice and Fire, even if he is equally famous for other works as well.
I’d be interested as well to see what interests and expertise other fantasy and science fiction writers have. Added to that, obviously, is how those interests affect the worlds created and stories dreamed up.
Bringing this around to me, it still doesn’t answer my initial problem. If I’m not as passionate about medieval history, what am I passionate about? What period of history influences me the most?
When I’ve touched on this subject before, I’ve stated that my areas of interest lay in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as in the ancient world. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that my area of passion is, really, located in one area.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries. While my historical interests may be rather broad at times, if I were a historian, if I had to make that choice, I would choose the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During the time when I really wanted to be professor of literature, my primary area of interest was in modern and post modern literature.
So, really, my expertise, my passion is in the modern/ contemporary world. And the times I’ve toyed with going outside the modern world, I’ve always tried to update them. Think of it as similar to how Kishimoto combined modern elements with medieval Japanese influences to create the world of Naruto.
Imagine Babylon connected to Nineveh by high speed rail. Or the Trojan War fought with tanks rather than chariots. Which might not be a bad idea…
So, my passion lies in the modern with other periods adding bits of inspiration. Now the challenge: how to incorporate that into an active world?
Do I create a hidden world out of contemporary Earth or do I create a constructed world that is, in itself modern? Is that even possible? And how do I make it unique?