Logistics, Fictional, Assumptions

Earlier this week twenty-odd of my self-pub books disappeared off a distributor’s dashboard, and my multiple requests for information have met with silence. The books have returned, but they were still gone for a significant chunk of time and I have no idea why. Plus, I’m being ignored.

Always wonderful. *sips coffee*

I did manage to take about half of yesterday off. I watched no few amateur historians take apart a few weeks in WWII, always a fun time. Documentaries and deep dives on logistics always fascinate me. I look at battles and think How did everyone get there? How did the guns and the bullets get there? Who carried all that?

I suppose it’s a function of worldbuilding. Things I spend a lot of time thinking about when writing an epic fantasy are where the food comes from, how the shit gets carried away and treated, and who’s doing all the sewing. We don’t realize just how labor intensive cloth is to create (if you’d like to find out, I suggest Women’s Work by Barber) and how the spindles, needles, and looms women worked kept everyone from being naked and dead all through history.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how food and cloth get to the characters, not to mention weapons, but hardly any of that goes into the finished book. Rather, it lurks below the surface, giving the iceberg weight and heft.

Another thing I think about when writing epic fantasy (and since I just finished CEs on a whole trilogy it’s on my mind) is how slow news and travel is under certain conditions. Horse, ship, and foot power were the only things we had to distribute information and goods for a very long time, and all three take far longer than modern people suspect. Unless you’ve got some kind of magic communications network operating (and magic, like everything else, has to be paid for) characters are going to make decisions based on what they know at the time, and those decisions have unexpected consequences. (For want of a nail a shoe was lost, and all that.)

When you add intriguers lying to suit their purposes of the moment and making risk calculations based on the information they have and what they can extrapolate, things get even mistier. Which is great for story purposes, but I’ll never forget a certain copyeditor asking me, in a baffled aside, why a certain character (known to be an unrepentant liar for an entire previous book and a half) was saying something that had been contradicted in a previous chapter from a different point of view hundreds of miles away. “But don’t they know?” the copyeditor asked, and I had a vision of these preindustrial characters in court regalia whipping out smartphones to check the news headlines.

It made me laugh. One takes one’s amusements where one finds them.

Modern assumptions not only color our approach to history, but also distinctly deform our imagination in fiction. Thinking about who grows the food, who (and what) deals with sewage, and how cloth gets made are good ways to start considering aspects of one’s speculative-fictional society and worldbuilding one hasn’t before.

The pace of technological change just since the 1950s has been utterly stunning, and things in even my own living memory have been superseded with speed that leaves one breathless to contemplate. Rotary phones, phone booths, telegrams–when I was born, telegrams were still a thing. A fading thing, but still a thing, and they’re no doubt in use some places still. It’s interesting to see how the convenience of “instant” communication has pulled apart some standard fiction-writing assumptions and strengthened others.

An interesting time to be alive. And since I’ve all sorts of work looming today, I’d best stop nattering and get to it. The dogs won’t walk themselves (thankfully, can you imagine the hijinks?) and Carl the Crow is waiting.

See you ’round.