So, oldest daughter and I were getting ready to watch Game of Thrones together, because there’s nothing as good for bonding as howling at the television together. Ask men: that’s why they watch sports.
There were some technical difficulties before we could get DirecTv’s “watch anywhere” computer program to work. They keep updating it. I keep hoping that they’ll fix the sound quality. So far, no joy. But, daughter was steadily cursing her computer browser and I was flipping through channels and I found “Krull.”
Yes, THE Krull: the truly terrible 80’s fantasy movie that was, I believe, a huge part of why movie studios thought that fantasy movies were unprofitable, un-doable, and generally bad news for everyone involved. They’re just now coming out of that, but we’ve got a whole sheaf of bad movies to blame for their decision. Krull is just one. Remember Legend? Or, dare I say it, Excalibur? Uck.
So, at the point of the movie where we landed, Our Hero and his Loyal Companions are riding horseback through a forest. Then they’re mucking through a swamp on foot. Where did the horses go? Who knows. Maybe there was a last-minute horse stable before the swamp started. They’re slogging through that odd “quicksand” that looks like nothing so much as some bad granola breakfast cereal spread over brackish water, they make it out, and then, POOF, there’s aliens in bad costumes shooting lasers at them.
And then, fencing. Why? I guess they ran out of charge on their lasers. They were only three-shot guns, so it became a tussle between the elegantly coiffed Hero and the Daleks. Ahem. I mean the Beast’s minions. Because the Beast, apparently, is a shape-shifting alien who just happens to be preying upon the medieval folk of this fantasy universe, where hairspray is ubiquitous and shapeshifting bards can turn into plump basset hound puppies.
Like I said, it’s a terrible movie.
But the thing that kept haunting me over the past week was the lasers. Zap! Got one of those wool-clad mercenaries right in the kisser.
It was SO out of place, unexpected, and wrong.
And I knew that, no matter how much research I’ve done into the planet that I’ve created, as soon as I put “magic” into it, I must discard my lovely back-story and commit to writing it as straight fantasy. Because, well, the readers just roll like that.
Science fantasy is not a fan favorite. I mean, I loved Darkover. I loved Pern. I loved Shannara and all of those crossover mutant blends that crisscrossed over the line between fantasy and science fiction. I think it can be done and done well. I’m just not sure that it’s necessary for my novel. I don’t really need the readers to understand the ecosystem or the history or the linguistic threads that have to be woven in. I just want them to shudder at the “supernatural” seeming beasts that hunt in the night, believe in the “magic” that cloaks the heroine from her pursuers, and accept without question swords co-existing with early industrial levels of technology. Like they say, magic and technology become indistinguishable at a certain point. But I don’t want my readers to be tripping over that line every time they come across something that could be questionable. I just want them to love the world itself, not to fret over how it got that way.
I believe, from my own youth spent reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s magazine and books (and getting rejected by her for said magazine), that the fantastic elements were the most beloved of the themes in her stories. You never saw as many stories written about the spaceships and colonists. People wanted to write about the Renunciates and the horses and the swords and the Keepers and the towers. Forget the rivets and bullets, they wanted the fantasy world.
It’s a tough lesson to learn from a bad fantasy movie, but I’m glad I figured it out NOW and not, say, 150,000 words from now . . . .