I’ve mentioned my qualms about bringing science to bear on the world-building of a fantasy author. The Web provides a brilliant example of what I’m talking about. Lyman Stone knows about demographics and geography, and tries to apply them to Westeros, from A Song of Ice and Fire. It doesn’t go well for George R.R. Martin (a.k.a. “Railroad”, many years ago).
Martin is interested in the contention between noble houses, and contorts the world around the aristocrats as necessary to set up the scenes he has in mind. He hasn’t made any effort to ensure that there are sufficient agricultural populations to support the cities, or that the ethnic diversity of the population matches the speed of transportation and communications.
And that’s OK. The book he’s writing doesn’t need all that. But you have to be careful — you can’t increase your appreciation for a book by walking around the backdrops and looking at the hastily-nailed lumber and spilled paint. You have to stay on stage. Or, as C. S. Lewis put it in Meditations in a Toolshed, you have to look along the story, not at it.
Elegantly put, Mr. Lewis. Now, how do we define a coordinate system so I can place scientific disciplines on the proper axes with respect to a work of fiction?
P.S. Some ASoIaF fans who don’t read very closely laid into Mr. Stone’s analysis, and were duly smacked down in a follow-up post.