Musing: The Science of Fantasy

Fantasy frequently features a medieval backdrop and it is mostly limited to swords and sorcery.  Weaponry is one of those things people tend to botch on all angles, from the weapons themselves to the way they are wielded.

Because of the nature of fantasy, we tend to make up stuff.  However, it is important for the craziest of happenings to seem plausible enough to match the world around it.  An author strives to achieve balance between believability and coolness.

My personal approach to this is considering the reason behind actions.  In a previous blog post I highlighted the difference between Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  The approach can be similar, but the delivery in Fantasy focuses on making it look natural rather than explaining it away in a block of text.

The ultimate goal is making the reader ooh and ahh rather than an outburst of:  “Oh come on!  That could never happen.”


Wow, looking badass DP, but how did you get that sword free?

I personally love making the improbable possible.  A simple example is how Naida wears her sword.   Any swordsman would tell you how terrible an idea it is to wear your sword on your back.   It is one of those things T.V. and Comics do all the time, but in practice, it is effectively suicide.

The problem of course is draw speed.  In some cases, you can’t even get a sword off your back to draw it.  Naida wears her sword on the small of her back.  Which does not work either… with a standard sheathe anyway.  If you try to draw the sword the standard way (by reaching across your body and pulling it free) you would need some long arms to make it possible.


Um. How is that coming free?

If you reach on the same side, you can get the sword out (with a small miracle) but the larger problem remains.  You are not getting that bad boy out quickly.

To fix the problem, let me break it down.  If the sword is at NAida’s back the problem starts when the blade is half way out of the sheath.  This is the point where you are wasting energy and time to get the blade out and ready.  So to circumvent this, Naida’s sheath has a long notch cut into it, that lets the blade fall free when she has it halfway out of the sheathe.

While Deadpool is doing yoga to get his sword out of his sheath at the halfway point, Naida’s sword drops free of the sheath, through the notch and the blade is ready to go.  Of course, any swordsman could tell you, it’s still slower than drawing a sword the regular way.  Also the act of drawing a sword can protect you from a frontal strike.  The blade goes across your body as you pull it free.


Inverted grips are typically used for small blades for efficient stabbings. With a longer blade the slash is a side-armed sweep.

Similarly, Naida’s method offers a small edge in offense, the position the blade is drawn from a standard grip offers no benefit but inverting your grip sets you up to slash right out of the sheath.  Speed is stil an issue, but there is potential for power to compensate.

This is just one example, but most issues with over the top details can be smoothed out  with some outside the box thinking.  If you think of the how, and put the detail in arms reach a sharp eyed reader will pick up on these details and appreciate it.   Skeptics may cry foul and look for a discrepancy, but if they find and answer you may earn their respect.

One thought on “Musing: The Science of Fantasy

  1. Pingback: Musing: The Science of Fantasy, Part 2 | Memories of a Dimanagul

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