0270 - Zee Caldav149 - 2022.12.05



Most "realism" is actually about the limits of your audience's imaginations. A lot of science fiction, for example, has aliens that are just humans with lumpy foreheads, monsters that are just big spiky bears, and space travel that's indistinguishable from seafaring. A lot of fantasy, similarly, has elves that are just humans with pointy ears, monsters that are just spiky bears, and potatoes in the medieval stewpots.

But the thing about "realism" is that it depends on what ideas you've already been exposed to, ideally during a formative developmental period. Trailblazers like Tolkien, Lovecraft, or Seigel & Shuster can create a whole damn genre, and, all of a sudden, audiences are capable of imagining a whole new type of story. It's kind of like being introduced to a new board game - it's hard to envision how it works until you've already been in it and played a few rounds.

(That is, of course, the proper response to anyone sneering at some new art and saying "Pfft, I could've done that". Of course you could do it now. That's the great secret to all art - with enough time and training and resources, any idiot can do it second.)

Reality, much to our species' chagrin, is not constrained by "realism". If you were to describe your day-to-day life to someone from 1764, they'd certainly have trouble wrapping their minds around it. I have to assume that if someone from 2167 were to describe their life to me, there are aspects of it that I'd find "unrealistic". Hell, there are aspects of my life here in 2022 that would be barely comprehensible to 11-year-old me in 1992.

The interesting thing about "realism" is that, according to studies, your ability to imagine something impacts how likely you think its analogues might be in the real world. This is, of course, why a certain type of fantasy connoisseur might insist that melanin has no place among elves or mermaids - a self-fulfilling cycle of non-whites not being Main Characters because non-whites aren't Main Characters.

It's worth your time to pay attention to what settings and characters and plot points you consider "realistic" or not. Is Star Trek realistic? Is Friends realistic? Is Forward realistic? Why or why not? Would other viewers agree with you?


0270 - 2167/07/07/02:17 - Lee Caldavera's apartment, bedroom
Zoa: I fucked up the name, huh?
LC: It was neither realistic nor easily parseable by humans.
Zoa: Well, it's a magical realm with wyverns and dragons. I remember, I said that part. Realism shouldn't factor in.
LC: But it does, though. Some parts of the realm have to be realistic, or I can't imagine it.
Zoa: Which parts should be realistic and which parts shouldn't?
LC: Remember how you said humans need to imagine rubber sheets to visualize gravity? Physics should be the same, at least while we're at ground-level. Magic can be added in, but it needs to work alongside momentum and heat and stuff.
Zoa: Got it.
LC: Human anatomy should be roughly the same, too. Humanoid races like elves can have pointy ears, but not... y'know... venom sacs or thirteen elbows or anything.
LC: Also, obviously, your made-up names should be composed of English mouth-sounds, ideally between one and five syllables that aren't already assigned to our vocabulary. Easy to remember.
Zoa: There are languages that use phonemes not found in English. Is Mandarin not realistic?
LC: Just... just make up names by remixing names you already know, okay? Can you do that?
Zoa: ......Zee. The human peasant labourer's name was Zee. Does that work?
LC: "Zee" is great! It's a great name! Now, did they have a surname?
Zoa: Caldav-one-four-nine.
LC: Okay, not every fantasy setting has to have surnames...