I read this really interesting article today (well thinly disguised attempt by the author to promote their new book!) about world-building, but moreso, a discussion about infrastructure and how it can be an important and often overlooked part of many novels.
He used Minas Tirith as an example of a super large city surrounded by….nothing. Where is all the food coming from to feed the citizens? It certainly wasn’t being grown on the Pelannor Fields – nor do I suspect they were living on a 100% fish diet brought in from the nearby Bay of Belfalas. No – it was seemingly coming from no-where and to be honest, I couldn’t care less. As mentioned in that same article, the story was enthralling enough that it didn’t require explanation – well unless you’re the kind of guy who speaks fluent Elvish IRL in which case you have other issues.
Anyhow – the article got me thinking about real-world infrastructure and how little it’s used in fantasy settings – surprisingly so. Most settings have a standard King or Queen, an evil church and really not much else in between. There’s your usual orders of knights and protectors, a thieves guild, an assassin, blacksmith and…yawn.
There’s rarely any real world type infrastructure scenarios that play into the main plots and if they do, they’re usually a breath of fresh air. While I agree a story based solely around infrastructure – be it political or financial or what not would be dull in itself, the article certainly has me thinking of more intricate ways my knowledge of the real world – particularly the business world, could more interestingly integrate into a fantastical setting.
Oh and for interests sake, the article writers subtly pimped novel is called The Traitor Baru Cormorant and is available now. I haven’t read the book, but from the way the article describes the protagonist it’s certainly piqued my interest enough to check it out.