“Fantasy is even harder to write,” I alleged recently, “because you have to make the science work.”
If the science in a story isn’t plausible — whether you actually call it science, as in hard sci-fi, or whether it’s simply background dressing or setting, as in a romance set aboard a diving boat — the rest of the story won’t be plausible, either. In the romance above, for example, even if the story is supposedly just boy-meets-girl, if the couple blithely dives hundreds of meters without special equipment and resurfaces without ill effects, I’m not going to buy the happily-ever-after.
I’ve seen a few writers say they prefer fantasy because it’s “less work” and the science “doesn’t have to make sense.” And to that I say, Come over here so I can slap you with less work. Why should you come to get slapped? It doesn’t have to make sense.
Yes, I write stories with magic, but that magic had better make sense at least within the continuity of that world or my story isn’t plausible. And the more believable I can make my magic or other “unnatural” pieces, the better my story will flow. So for example my winged monsters in Shard & Shield have skeletons like birds, to better permit flight, and their resulting physiology influences their interactions with the humans and thus influences the plot, making for an overall deeper and more realistic world.
Sometimes the science isn’t exactly direct; anyone who wants to write contemporary romance or science-fiction can look up best practices in SCUBA or the theory of an Orion drive, but especially in fantasy, you can’t always research what you need. You have to get creative.
And that is why I presently have multiple tabs open researching elephants and fox genetics, for a story about mermaids. When I’m done, I hope you’re not thinking about elephants as you read, but I hope that you read a bit more closely and suspend a bit more disbelief because I did my research on the elephants.
And while this is one reason why writing can sometimes take so long, it’s also one reason why writing is so much fun.
Update: that story is now out, and you can read it!