"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Climate in Life, Science, and Fantasy

I must admit, I've discovered over the last few years that January is a difficult month for me. The joy and companionship of the holidays seems to crash too quickly into unremarkable routine. The cold days of a northern winter demand isolation from the world outside with heavy coats and thick sweaters; the nights are long, and altogether too quiet.

My dislike of January is exacerbated by the absence of my husband, who, like many migratory creatures, heads south for the winter to spend the coldest weeks of the year with his family in the much more amenable climate of the tropics. I would gladly go with him if I could, but the academic calendar demands I stay in a place where trees lose their leaves and all the truly smart animals hibernate.

Still, we are three days into the new semester, and it is looking to be a good one.  Today, I ran my first ever environmental science lab at Avila University.  We simulated aspects of global climate mechanisms, and got to play with all kinds of fun toys like inflatable globes (I was very impressed that the class did not immediately disintegrate into a game of beach ball) and vials filled with convection fluids (which inspired multiple comparisons to lava lamps, and one request to search for "lava lamp" on YouTube so that students who had never seen one would know what that is).

Climate mechanisms have been on my mind for other reasons as well. 

A few days ago, for example, I sat down to sketch out my first map of Selenia's world (from Creatures of Light).  I've always had a vague idea of the location of her home city Talagna relative to other places of interest, such as the coastal city of Al'Panura and the jungle river of Ornoco.  Recently, I've decided to insert a high mountain range (something on the order of the Andes), with accompanying paramos and deserts.  Someday I'd like to take Selenia to all these places (although as you may know, it's going to be tough to get her across the sea alive, since women in her world are routinely thrown overboard to appease the sea god Mikrotus, but I'll cross that bridge -- or plunge into those depths -- when I get there). 

Part of building my dream of Selenia's voyage was manifested by drawing the map, and in drawing the map I had to think, once again, about latitudes, wind currents, land and water masses, and everything else that goes into climate.  It's a really fun puzzle to play with. 

One of my most popular posts of all time -- indeed, THE most popular post until this past fall, when my short piece on Hypatia went viral -- was Biogeography and Fantasy, published in July of 2011.  This post was inspired as I was trying to figure out the logic of the climate of Westeros, the stage upon which George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones plays out.  I extended the discussion to take into account various factors fantasy authors should keep in mind when building their worlds.  If you'd like to read more, you can visit the post here.

And just out of curiosity, here are a few questions you might like to comment on:

When you think about what you've read, what worlds come to mind that are particularly well articulated in terms of climate, geography, and distribution of resources?  Is it clear when some authors have put a lot of thought into this, and others have not?  Is it even necessary to get as geeky-obsessive as I do when laying out mountain ranges and major bodies of water?  All perspectives are welcome.  I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

In other news, this week on Heroines of Fantasy, Mark Nelson has written a wonderful post on the power of play.  Read his thoughts and share yours, as we venture into the New Year remembering the importance of the lighter side of life.