Here or There

By Chantal Boudreau

I often get asked if my Fervor series is set in a far future version of our world or someplace altogether different. I won’t answer that. I want the possibility that it could be us in future without defining the story that way, leaving it open to either interpretation. Some people may not like the fact that I won’t share my own impressions, but I’d rather they focus on the social and political commentary within the story rather than whether or not I’m saying it’s something I’m projecting for our future if we keep to a certain path. It shouldn’t matter if it’s here or there – the fact that anyone could see it as something that might happen should say enough all on its own.

I’ve had that criticism before with other stories – that people want the location defined for my urban fantasy romance or my sci-fi horror tale set in the near future. “What city is it? Where is it happening?” They suggest defining the location might add something more to the story.

I say it might detract from the story as well. The problem with selecting a specific location is that if people aren’t familiar with that place, they may feel less connected to the story. If you provide a setting that could be almost any urban location, the reader can superimpose a place they can identify with as the city where the action is taking place. Naming the place and adding in specific identifying features can take that away.

Not that I always hold to this. Sometimes, the story demands something less vague. In “Intangible” my yet to be published paranormal thriller, landmarks are important to the plot. For that reason, I identify the location from the very beginning and make reference to places that actually exist in the city and the surrounding area. There’s no point in not being specific under those circumstances and giving details in this case will add to the story.

What I think is funny is that I do give place names and details in The Snowy Barrens Trilogy, my tribal dark fantasy trilogy, but people still assume that because the story borrows elements from North American Native mythology, it is set in the past in North America. That’s not the case, and there are several Easter eggs seeded within the trilogy that link it to the world that serves as the setting for Masters & Renegades, my standard fantasy series, to support this. Barb used to say people think of it as historical in nature because the characters seem so realistic – it was hard not to imagine that they actually once existed.

I guess I should take it as a compliment then that people come to the conclusion that the story takes place here and not there. After all, realistic fantasy has always been one of my primary goals.

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4 comments on “Here or There

  1. It seems like no two readers like the same amount of descriptive detail, doesn’t it? I have to wonder whether a person’s setting description tastes have anything to do with their reading habits. If they read a lot of epic fantasy, maybe they’re used to lavish descriptions of the major settings and cities and they feel a story is lacking without that strong sense of place. I don’t know — just a thought.

  2. I personally like naming places even if they are fictitious places within real places. You know, like fake street names in the middle of say, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. When it comes to fantasy, I assume it’s way out there, another realm, a parallel world or not in this universe. I don’t want it based on one single place on Earth. There’s no fun in this world, and fantasy is all about fun, so it has to be somewhere other than boring ol’ here. But that’s just me and my idea of fantasy.

    If a story takes place on Earth and the place is not named, I feel lost. However if the place is described well and I can imagine it to be up north or on a tropical island or wherever, I can find my bearings.

  3. My epic fantasy series take place in obviously made-up worlds, so there’s no issue with them. My Icarus Fell urban fantasy series, however, is in our world, but takes place in an unnamed city. The streets are named, though somewhat generically, as are businesses, but the city never is. I’d like the reader to have an opportunity to think it might be their city that welcomes angels and demons on a daily basis.

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