When we were children it was easy for us to become enchanted by stories and films that were riddled with unrealistic combat, scenarios and outcomes. Stories designed for children and the wider audience are more often than not unrealistic on purpose. After all, fairy tales, stories written by brilliant minds in the Middle Ages, intentionally contain absolutes and one-dimensional characters because they’re important for the growth of our children’s moralities and identities. This is why many modern fantasy novels, if inspired by medieval fairy tales, which most of them clearly are, continue this pattern of ‘writing for children and the wider audience’ and so, if you’ve chosen the path of a medievalist or simply are passionate about medieval living like I am, you probably already know that it’s very hard or near-impossible to be satisfied by the current fantasy genre despite our love for it. There are of course gems like The Traitor Son Cycle and A Song of Ice and Fire which are intentionally inspired by actual history rather than fairy tales and these end up being the books younger audiences can’t enjoy because, as they sometimes say, they’re too complex or complicated. In other words there aren’t that many medieval fantasy books that are purely designed for adults only. And by ‘designed for adults only’ I don’t mean more blood and sex; I mean an academic vocabulary and impressively realistic detail that, for true medievalists, never fails to hit the G-spot so to speak.
My life purpose is to create medieval fantasy stories that even the most scholared of academics can not only enjoy but also lose themselves in just like they do when they read actual historical documents in their preferred niche. Currently I am extremely far from reaching my life purpose but (here’s a brief update on book three of the Siege after Siege trilogy) I have been doing more studying and editing than writing lately and, after personally learning the valuable lesson of never revealing something half-finished first hand, I will be releasing third editions of “Knights of the Dawn” and “Knights without Honor” before I release book three, “Knights on the March”, (hopefully in 2018) because I’m never making that mistake again! When I release book three I want to be able to sit back and know that the trilogy is finished so I can finally make physical copies and move on, and doing that requires more work than you’ll believe because, as I said, I’m intentionally writing for those rare people who appreciate medieval realism and not those who are easily enchanted by the current state of things. And more passionate than this dream of satisfying scholars is my dream of directing movies. Not yet to this day is there a medieval fantasy movie, a medieval historical fiction movie that deserves the description ‘realistic’ no matter how many of them claim to be so (excluding historical epics from the 1920s to 1980s like A Man for All Seasons).
Once you’ve truly delved into medieval history–like I have just recently started doing with my learning about Bretwalda, chevauchée, cheminage, curtanas, moss-troopers, the impressiveness of Robert the Bruce and the Black Prince, etc–you too will realize how unrealistic even the newest of medieval films and TV shows really are. For instance the movie “Ironclad” has thatch that’s only as thick as my thumb; “The Last Kingdom” shows everyone, even the rich, wearing drab clothing; “Game of Thrones”, perhaps worst of all despite its reputation, shows swords stabbing through breastplates!
Realistic fantasy will never be better or worse than unrealistic fantasy because at the end of the day the wider audience will still need something to read. All I’m trying to do is give those rare fans of a certain kind of fantasy what they’re craving because, frankly, there’s very, very little of it! I decided to share these thoughts today, despite it not being the wisest move, because some people have been wondering why it’s taking so long to release my next book. My standards are growing daily and if you’re at all interested in this ‘niche’ or ‘style of realistic fantasy’ then I, out of respect for your time and value of life, suggest that you check back here every few years because things are going to get AWESOME!
And for further reading consider the volume Misconceptions About the Middle Ages edited by Stephen Harris and Bryon L. Grigsby
Once again I make a shout out to http://manuscriptminiatures.com/ for the amazing photograph!