As so often happens, the discussion that wrapped up Wednesday’s WFoD session has stayed with me, giving rise to much mulling and musing in the interim. It occurs to me that my dismissal of some of the points raised was a tiny bit offhand or at least more energetic than I really feel about it.
The point is, I think, that if an author offers an explanation for whatever state of things exists in the “built world” of the fiction of interest, and that explanation depends on the “facts of life” in “the real world,” then indeed the explanation must needs be consistent with those facts. If our dystopia is the result of an asteroid collision then certainly the laws of physics as we know them apply and the author is not free to flout them and just “make shit up.” In Dukesport, for example, I’m constrained by reality because I’ve specified that my setting is a small mill city at the mouth of a major river in post-world-war-II New England. So I can’t introduce stuff that contravenes what we know or believe to be “reality” of that time and place. Unless I want to go all supernatural on the reader.
On the other hand – and we’ve had this fragment of the discussion before – an author is perfectly free NOT to explain away the state of things in a post-apocalypse/catastrophe world of the fiction under scrutiny. Or to explain stuff in purely fictional terms. If the state of things in Budge’s world is a result of an inversion in the chronosyncrastic infandibulum, well then by gawry who’s to say that said inversion didn’t also cause a warp in gravity? Since it’s a fictional world, can we really say that anything “couldn’t” happen?
But I’m still a fan of non-explanation, or at least as little explanation as possible. I stick to my guns that the important thing is not how things got that way, but the effect of them being that way on the people of the time and place and the effect on “what it means to be a human being.”
So (to continue with the example near and dear to my own heart) “How did Budge’s world get that way?” Dunno. But “it is what it is and here’s what it’s like for these people.” And that’s where the story lives, for me.