This weekend I was in Nottingham, for the British Fantasty Society’s FantasyCon2015. I was lucky enough to be on the panel discussing the question “Is Doctor Who the best idea for a television programme ever?” To which of course my answer was YES.
It was a very stimulating Con, with some great panels, book launches and readings, and interestingly the one that has stuck with me the most was one where I disagreed with most of the panellists was one about mundane issues in fantasy- the administration, governance and infrastructure of secondary worlds. I think it was Guest of Honour Brandon Sanderson who stated that readers of fantasty are willing to suspend disbelief and don’t need to know about plumbing; another author said that he “couldn’t give a shit” about waste management on his island setting.
Unfortunately I do care. I do feel that if the author of a book doesn’t know how the world they created works, how can I trust that it makes sense? Tension and plot in a SFF novel (at least the ones I enjoy) come from overcoming a problem that the structure of a secondary world presents, whether that is a governmental, structural, social or ideological problem. But if an author’s solution to these issues is to wave a hand and say “oh, magic” or “oh, secretly the son of the king ALL ALONG” or “oh, this Mage can restore a disabled body” then I feel cheated. And if poverty or disabilities are only metaphors for a protagonist’s strength of character, then I really can’t buy into an author’s secondary world.