When I first typed the words ‘science’ and ‘fantasy’ together, I nearly had a heart attack. Wait a minute - isn’t that just sci-fi? Have I been categorizing my book incorrectly for months?
Google to the rescue.
Sci-fi is typically defined by a specific way science is used in fantasy - most commonly futuristic technology, time travel, creating monsters. I was right! My story was mostly fantasy elements, with a little science flair.
Most of the science included is biology and ecology - the studies of living things and how they interact with each other and their environment. It’s basically food webs and ‘circle-of-life’ kind of stuff. Why did I include it? Call me a huge freaking nerd, but I absolutely love this stuff! So much that I spent over 20K to go to school to learn about it and hopefully get a job one day learning more about it.
Science actually wasn’t a big part of the Runestone Guardian series until relatively recently. Early drafts had scenes of predators and prey living together in harmony, and all animals having human-centric wisdom. This is called anthropomorphization, kids, and when it’s overdone, it can be really bad, because people start to believe that animals act this way in the wild! I’ll save my rant about anthropomorphized animals later.
The knowledge I gained about animal behavior brought me to a critical question: why would wild animals help our heroes? Early versions answered this simply by saying ‘because they understood their home was threatened’, but I realized that wasn’t good enough. Animals fighting alongside our heroes meant that they were risking their necks. Despite all the ‘tools’ at an animals expense - claws, teeth, tough skin, speed, wings - most species do not fight until absolutely necessary. Animals will do whatever they can to avoid getting injured, because there ain't no health insurance in the middle of the jungle. The tiniest cut that gets infected could mean death. So, animals put their effort into displays and calls. They mark their territory with scents and scratches. The decision to confront is a calculated risk, depending on the desperateness of the animal and how well it knows its opponent.
Humans are largely an unknown opponent. We shut ourselves out of nature before it gets the chance to size us up. Add to that our barrage of strange scents and projectile weapons, and even the biggest of animals will run from a group of humans. This means that if a young girl walked up to bear and asked for help, the bear would maul her and then run away.
But gosh darn it, the story wouldn’t be the story without animals! So how can I get humans and beasts to work together? Ah - that is the question indeed, one that our heroes have to figure out for themselves. This world is no Narnia - if you want something done, you have to barter for it. If you’re asking an animal to fight with you, you better have something real special to offer in return.
Ha det bra!