A Scientist in Fantasy-land

I write a lot of Science Fiction, but have recently completed a fantasy trilogy. Greta was rather surprised about this (yes, I do write fantasy) and asked me to tell her a bit about how the trilogy came about.

I thought it was a rather interesting illustration of the question ‘where do you get your ideas?’

A number of years ago, I belonged to a face-to-face writers’ group. We met (and as far as I know, they still do) at a SF/F bookshop every third Saturday of the month. This place was quite far from my home, and because the meetings were held on Saturdays, my husband could look after the kids while I went there.

One Saturday, the meeting was rather disappointing. For some reason, not many people showed up, and those who did hadn’t read any of the posted material, and couldn’t stay for a chat and coffee afterwards.

I was kinda miffed about that, so decided to have coffee on my own, to snatch a bit more quiet time before returning to the war zone (aka home). You see, during the short meeting, someone had said something (I can neither remember who it was and what exactly was said) that made me think of a ridiculous concept: a person without a heart living on as a ghost-like being.

I had a notebook with me and while I was sitting there drinking coffee, I jotted down random thoughts. A world in which it is possible for a person to live without a heart must be a pretty strange one, and one with magic at that. I didn’t want to call it magic, because I write a lot of hard SF and don’t ‘do’ magic, so I invented a life and energy-sustaining force called icefire, which behaves not unlike nuclear radiation.

For something like that to exist, the people living in the area affected by the radiation must have a resistance to it. Ergo, there would be other people who do not have a resistance to it, and they would live outside the radiation’s area of influence, in a different country. They also approach the dangerous radiation with logic. They’ve devised ways to measure the radiation, much like we would in the modern world. Much of their weather relies on pattern generated by this radiation.

Clearly, to chuck some tension into the story, I needed an event that created a situation where a large amount of radiation is released and encroaches upon the neighbouring country. Of course, tension is higher when it’s not a random event, but part of an evil plan.

Enter Tandor, the hapless evil guy. Hmmm. What does he want? Well, in years before he was born, his grandfather the king was using the magic/radiation to perform wonderful feats of technology, and to do evil things, such as taking people’s hearts so that they became mindless servitors which inflicted a regime of terror on the citizens. Then the current regime overthrew the monarchy. The survivors of the ex-royal family, having fled to the neighbouring country, have conveniently forgotten about the evil stuff, and claim that they want to restore the country to its previous glory, a concept that appeal to the common people who have suffered fifty years of poverty. You can understand that this makes the rational neighbours nervous, as they scramble for ways to deal with the burst of radiation.

A story that began with a throwaway comment led me to explore the issue of magic from two sides, and answer the question: if you could quantify and explain magic in scientific terms, what would it look like?

This, of course, forms the basis of the worldbuilding. The story itself follows a number of characters and their personal struggles in the grand scheme. I call it post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy. Although it all ends well, the story is quite dark in places, and it’s definitely for adult readers.



Patty Jansen lives in Sydney, Australia, where she spends most of her time writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. She publishes in both traditional and indie venues. Her story This Peaceful State of War placed first in the second quarter of the Writers of the Future contest and was published in their 27th anthology. Her story Survival in Shades of Orange will be published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

Her novels (available at ebook venues) include Watcher’s Web (soft SF), The Far Horizon (middle grade SF), Charlotte’s Army (military SF) and books 1 and 2 of the Icefire Trilogy Fire & Ice (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005TF1B9K) and Dust & Rain (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B006GODGVY) . Book 3 will be out in 2012 and will be called Blood & Tears.

Patty is on Twitter (@pattyjansen), Facebook, LinkedIn, goodreads, LibraryThing, google+ and blogs at: https://pattyjansen.com/

3 thoughts on “A Scientist in Fantasy-land

  1. Anhi

    Er…Bujold is not Space War! She gets ceovrs that kinda look like that, but the the Vorkosigan books are very much something else. Really good, though.

  2. Gloria

    Thank you Glad to know I’m not the only one who serugglts with her genre definitions. Crossing genres seems to be increasingly popular I think, when once it was something you were told to avoid. Fun times

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