Fantasy and Reality

My new book, Threeland, is by definition fantasy/science fiction.

But only by definition.

It is set some 600+ years in the future. Seas have risen. The world has gotten warmer. The changing weather patterns have destroyed CAWKI (Civilization As We Know It). That’s all backstory, by the way, that’s not explicit in the book. Threeland is an island, perhaps 65 square miles in size, with no sources of metal other than a few odd pieces that have survived from the beforetimes – and isolated enough that what happens in Threeland, so to speak, stays in Threeland. The 3000 or so Threelanders may be all that’s left of Homo sapiens… or not. It’s not stated and it doesn’t matter.

And orcas have developed a real mean streak. They’re bent on ensuring no one leave the island.

So by definition that makes it science fiction. It’s the future, one plausible if unfortunate future extended from our present.

A few characters, including the main character/narrator, have gifts, abilities that people don’t have today. Jonah can make people forget that he was there. (It’s mildly useful for petty thievery.) Gl’denning can affect mood, make someone feel better. (It’s not clear how useful that gift is… at least not to the narrator.) Another character… well, I won’t mention his gift, because it isn’t revealed until a few pages before the end, and even then it’s in doubt.

These kinds of abilities put it in the realm of fantasy by at least some definitions.

But…

Within those parameters, I’ve tried to be as absolutely hard-nosed reality based as possible.

I wonder if I need to be. It’s something I wrestled with in writing the book.

For example, the distances are accurate. (I have a detailed map, far more than would ever go on the frontispiece.) The trees are what this island would actually have. The descriptions of making a spearthrower (atlatl) are accurate. So are those for tanning a hide without chemicals, which the protagonists lack.¬†They don’t have bows and arrows, because they don’t have the kinds of trees from which you can make a useful bow.

I don’t know if any of this matters, but it mattered to me.

More importantly – and the more difficult task – I’ve tried to be accurate about what the characters might be feeling, what they’d be wrestling with. What’s it like to be exiled – sent to your death, even if you find a way to cheat death (or else it would be a ten-page book)? What happens when you feel betrayed by a friend, even though it’s your own misunderstanding that caused the betrayal, and deep inside you know it? How do an 11- and a 12-year-old survive without adults?

I asked my son about the last item a while back. He wasn’t making his bed and fighting about getting his own food (he was 11 then). “What do the characters in the books you read do? Who makes their beds?” He told me those kids still had parents to do it for them. (Or magic, I guess, in the Harry Potter series.)

I decided my characters weren’t going to have parents to do any of this.

That’s the hardest bit of reality, I think.

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