READER: “In a fantasy story, what historical inaccuracy has most made you grind your teeth?”
Ed Greenwood (author of Elminster Must Die): An inaccuracy I’ve read several times, from different modern American writers, who in their various medieval-era castles, swords, and dragons settings, have had things bought and sold (and assassination contracts arranged) in . . . DOLLARS. Presumably good old greenbacks. Wince.
Erin Evans (author of The God Catcher): I’ll mostly swallow historical innacuracies—it’s a fantasy world; I can buy that they have language/tech/culture that real world medieval societies didn’t---but anthropological illogicalities drive me bonkers. Cultural decisions have repercussions. Landscape and resources steer culture. And for the love of god, if you’re going to create a social inequity, do not rely solely on social pressure to maintain it, especially if your underclass is clearly unhappy and capable of overthrowing everything with their magic powers. (Friend Erin)
Christopher Rowe (author of Sandstorm): I guess you’re talking about quasi-medieval or otherwise historical fantasy here? Clocks in particular and the way people talk about and experience time in general can throw me out of a story where the industrial base doesn’t seem to exist for precise timekeeping. (Friend Christopher)
Mark Sehestedt (author of The Fall of Highwatch): When the commander yells at his archers to “fire!” Drives me crazy. That term was invented with the firearm. You do NOT “fire” an arrow. You “loose” or “release” an arrow.
Philip Athans (author of A Reader’s Guide to R.A. Salvatore’s Legend of Drizzt): Unless it’s specifically set in a real-world historical setting there can’t necessarily be anything inaccurate. Who says a fantasy world has to have precisely the level of technology found in Medieval Europe? What bothers me is when the story sets up its rules then breaks them with no explanation. This is the difference between realism and plausibility that I get into in detail in The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction. (Friend Philip)
Erik Scott de Bie (author of Downshadow): I’ve recently started being bothered by feet and inches. My own American egocentricity used to assume that the system made perfect, intuitive sense, but come to think of it . . . (Friend Erik)
Richard Baker (author of Avenger): I like the movie 300, but the fact that the Spartans aren’t wearing armor bugs the heck out of me. In their day, the Greek footsoldier was the most heavily armored warrior in the world. The reason a small number of Spartans could stand up to a huge horde of Persians (other than the tremendous terrain advantage) was because the Persians had almost nothing that could actually penetrate heavy bronze armor and big shields working together. (Friend Richard)
Rosemary Jones (author of City of the Dead): I grow weary of hearing characters spout the clichés of modern psychoanalysis. Back in the dark days of history, assuming you are writing medieval-style fantasy, people didn’t blame their parents for all their woes. The gods, devils, or destiny, yes. Mummy’s little bad habits, not so much. I like to see more magic curses creating bitter heroes and less “he grew up in a dysfunctional family.” On the other hand, if you are setting your story in Vienna in the late 1800s and your wizard crosses paths with Sigmund Freud, do talk about id, ego, and super-ego. By the way, this doesn’t mean you can’t have dysfunctional families in terrific fantasy stories: take a look at Oedipus or my favorite insane family, the House of Atreus. (Friend Rosemary)
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