The other day I was reading reader reviews of Rex Regis , a habit that my wife disparages, and there is, I must admit, a certain validity to that disparagement, but I occasionally find useful comments and every so often those which are thought-provoking.
The comment that I found thought-provoking was one reader’s comment that because a lead-lined room for limiting the power of imagers figured in the book, I had to be running out of ideas. To me that comment revealed a certain unrealistic short-sightedness. In the world of Terahnar, the use of lead-lined rooms for imagers dates back well before the beginning of Scholar, and there’s no secret to the usefulness of lead in this regard. Those who used the lead room did so exactly because that usefulness was well known, although they did employ another device that had just been developed, a fact seemingly overlooked by the reader.
Now and again, I’ve noted similar comments about other authors’ works as well; so my observations don’t represent something limited just to my work. As I have stated more than once, human beings will employ what is useful, and they will continue to use whatever they find useful until it is no longer useful or until they find a better way or tool. If more than one person uses a gun or laser or whatever, that doesn’t mean an author is out of ideas; it means he or she understands people and tools.
Somewhere, among a certain group of fantasy readers, there seems to be a belief that each and every problem must be resolved in a new and unique way, as if the only measure of author creativity is a new and different solution to each problem, even if some of those problems are the same nature as preceding difficulties. It’s one thing to use a new technique or technology if it fits into the story, can be supported by the magic/technology in use or is a logical outgrowth of that magic or technology, and doesn’t require resources beyond the ability of the individual or culture, but to throw in “new” gimmicks merely to keep readers interested or for the sake of trying to usually ends up undermining the credibility of the story… and the author.
Yet, at the same time, I do understand the desire on the part of readers for something “new,” for something to inspire that sense of wonder. The problem is that “new” things don’t happen that often in any civilization, and need to be introduced sparingly… or the author ends up producing a magic funhouse (in fantasy) or technoporn (in SF), neither of which are something to which I aspire. So it’s likely you’ll only see “new” techniques and/or gadgets in my work when they fit in the societies I’m describing… as I’ve tried to do all along.