Fantasy: Keeping It Real
The characters in Awakenings live in our world, the one where Obama is president, Bloomberg’s the mayor, and no one can figure out the physics behind Donald Trump’s hair. My New York could be the setting for a Jonathan Franzen story, or a place where Carrie Bradshaw parties with her girlfriends. And it’s this universe that’s invaded by the “fantasy” elements. That mainstream/fantasy mix is the vibe I aimed for in writing Awakenings.
Take Callum the cop in the novel… I could have faked all the police actions in the book, but wanted the interactions between the cops to be authentic. I spoke with a friend in the NYPD to determine what the likely course of actions would be in certain scenarios. I got the correct signal codes for jobs, and more importantly, how the NYPD would communicate under those circumstances. There are also ramifications to the actions that occur, and I wanted the cause and effect to seem logical. A police officer should be able to read those scenes, and even with the fantastic elements introduced, not be pulled out of the story because it lacks credibility.
The irony is writers of fantasy expend tremendous effort to make the worlds in their story as “real” as possible, whether it’s about a boy living under the stairs, a girl who leaves the farm to save her dog from a crone, or a hobbit that wonders what’s beyond the Shire. We love these stories and come back to them because, except for Charlie Sheen, most of us fantasize about being something else (or somewhere else) instead of trudging through our daily existence for little pay and no accolades. We all want to be powerful heroes, great lovers, or sports gods. There has to be something recognizable in the universes these stories take place it. Fantasy stories tap into a primal part of ourselves that improve our regular lives. It’s why people crowded around the poet Homer three thousand years ago to hear him recite tales of gods and heroes. We fantasy readers get it, and I’ve seldom met a fantasy fan I didn’t like.
From the Tor/Forge August newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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