Lady Merreth’s stories belong to the Flintlock Fantasy genre. Flintlock fantasy is characterized by early gunpowder weapons, some magic involvement, issues of class and social advancement, complex plots, and fairly high levels of violence. Here’s a more comprehensive description. The genre is relatively young and is still evolving. I was delighted to see many elements of Lady Merreth’s stories align so neatly with the definition.
However, in the early drafts of Western Watch I was feeling my way in the genre, taking inspiration and information from what sources I stumbled across to craft the story. I thought my readers might be interested in what some of those sources were/are. So here are six writing resources for Flintlock Fantasy which have influenced Lady Merreth.
Flintlock Fantasy: Non-Fiction Resources
Jack Kelly’s Gunpowder, Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive that Changed the World. If you want to write Flintlock Fantasy (or its sibling genre gunpowder fantasy) you need to know about gunpowder.
Jack Kelly’s book is an easy read to bring you up to speed on the origin, use, manufacture, and history of the stuff. It’s a great book, and I reviewed it last year.
Krista D. Ball’s Hustler’s Harlots, and Heroes, A Regency and Steampunk Guide. Because Flintlock Fantasy typically takes place in a world with a roughly 18th century tech level, it seems that a lot of cultural, class, and demographic information from that era winds up in novels of the genre.
Krista’s work is a great way to get a taste of the little nuances of that time which can add colour and depth to a Flintlock Fantasy novel. I acquired her book (along with its companion What Kings Are and Wizards drank) as soon as I became aware of it.
It’s a great introduction to how the “have-not” people lived, what they did for employment, entertainment, and social advancement. Lots of good stuff to work into a story.
Flintlock Fantasy is, by definition, ahistorical. Yet the primary weapons system — the flintlock (and cannon) — is pretty pedestrian in the novels I have read. By that I mean the weapons depictions don’t vary much from historical norms.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re looking to provide your heroine with unusual but still historically accurate weaponry, you should check out the Forgotton Weapons YouTube channel.
Their short video explanations have many devoted to the flintlock era, focusing on little known weapons variants which would make a dandy addition to any Flintlock Fantasy novel.
This channel is the sole reason why Lady Merreth will eventually get her hands on a Puckle Gun.
Flintlock Fantasy: Fiction Resources
Bernard Cornwell’s novels dealing with the adventures of Richard Sharpe in the Napoleonic Wars are an invaluable inspiration to Flintlock Fantasy writers. Sure, you can read history about the era, its politics, culture, and warfare, but Cornwell’s portrait of a common soldier elevated to the officer corps brings it alive.
Cornwell’s novel’s detail the adventures of Richard Sharpe as he fights through the Spanish Campaign against Napoleon’s forces, starting as a lieutenant and gaining promotion after hard-fought promotion.
There’s no magic, of course, but the Flintlock Fantasy writer will find inspiration from the depictions of class, warfare, society, the common soldier, and the aristocracy. Start with Sharpe’s Rifles and move on from there.
Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Guns of the Dawn is an excellent Flintlock Fantasy novel for those who favour strong female protagonists, as I do. In the story Emily Marshwic, member of the middle class in the Kindom of Lascanne, is drafted into the army.
The war is going poorly and the King requires more soldiers than the available manpower pool can provide. The story follows Emily through her induction, training, posting to the front, and the brutal combat that follows.
Magic is integral to some of the plot but does not play a large role in combat — sorcerers are few and far between and act as short-range, direct fire weapons. Great characterization, period dialogue, and good writing makes this novel worth a read.
Django Wexler is another other in the Flintlock Fantasy genre. His Shadow Campaigns series — of which The Thousand Names is the first book — combines magic, flintlocks, battles, and political skullduggery in a volatile and satisfying mix.
Like Guns of the Dawn, the Shadow Campaign books feature some pretty kick-ass female characters. I’ve grown to quite like Winter and lately the Gray Rose (I’m on book two of the series).
The novels have a different style than Guns of the Dawn with multiple viewpoints, a greater focus on politics, somewhat more majgic, and references that any history junky will recognize.
Well plotted and fast-paced, I look to the Shadow Campaigns for inspiration in character development and political intrigue.
So there are six Flintlock Fantasy resources I use (though they are not the only ones) when writing in the genre. What about you? Have you used any? Do you have any that you like? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading, and I will see you again next time.