Monday, 30 June, 2003
Why fantasy worlds need rules
Jeff Duntemann's diary entries for June 25 and June 29 helped me put my finger on something that has bothered me, but that I was unable to clearly identify. Specifically, that fictional worlds must have limits and rules. My case in point is Leo Frankowski's The Cross-Time Engineer series. The story starts out with a time travel incident, but I'm willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of setting up a story. A young man trained as an engineer is transported—inadvertently—from the 20th century to 13th century Poland. His ensuing adventures are great fun, until the author starts helping our hero out of tough spots with things from the future. By the end of the second book, you just know that Sir Conrad never has to worry about getting hurt, because his cousin (or uncle, or whatever) from the future won't allow it. Once I figured that out, I lost some of my interest in the books.
Beyond the help-from-the-future idiocy (which gets worse as the series progresses), the books have one other glaring problem: the author's absurd preoccupation with young girls. Okay, we get the picture. In 13th century Poland, a nobleman having sex with 14-year-old peasant girls was commonplace. That's made clear in the first couple chapters of the first book. There's no reason to slap me across the face with it every other chapter for six volumes. Don't get me wrong: the books aren't porn. The author doesn't describe sex acts in detail. But still, mentioning the perks of nobility once or twice would have been quite sufficient. I don't need the name and vital statistics of every serving wench the guy beds.