Tor.com content by

Mary E. Pearson

Uncovering Real Facts for Fantasy Stories

A while back, I was on a panel with five other science fiction and fantasy authors. When it was opened up for audience questions we were asked, “What is the strangest thing you had to research for your books?”

We laughed in unison. Our answers were all slightly different but most involved ways to kill people—we’re fantasy authors after all! And not surprisingly, there are a lot of ways to do it. Combine that bit of research with some of the other things we need to know about like explosives, poisons, arson, theft—you know, the things your grandmother didn’t teach you (or maybe she did!)—and all of us were fairly convinced we were on some big bad Watch List somewhere. (Is that why I was detained on my last international trip?)

But besides learning the most surefire way to kill someone with a knife and the ingredients for a variety of explosives, over the course of writing five books plus a novella in the Remnant World, I learned a lot of other fascinating things too. So much of it never ends up on the page, but small details about the planting seasons for various foods, the height of the Washington monument, army formations and battle strategies (you never know when a reverse slope defense might come in handy, right?), medieval architecture, and the erosion rate of various materials all add up to help make the world and characters seem more real. That’s my job, to suspend disbelief, and the more I can round out my fantasy world with real details, the more I can make it believable to the reader. Plus, some of these details are just plain fun to read about.

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