I live in the most beautiful place in the world.
Now, even people who live here will argue with me on that, but I long ago decided that for myself, there was no where else that I had traveled or lived that brought that perfect sense of awe when I looked out the window in the morning.
Your tastes may vary.
In fact, when I view other media, it becomes obvious to me that most other people’s tastes vary.
One of the interesting aspects of reading a lot and reading widely is that I can track changes in genre over a long period of time.
It has been interesting to me how the unpopulated rural areas have slowly disappeared from stories and media.
There are still small towns and interpersonal connections but there are very few genres now that have stories about what it’s like to live twenty miles from your nearest neighbour.
Very few stories about being a person in town… where the next town is over fifty miles away.
When I see rural portrayed visually or in writing, there is always a sense of continuous habitation, even if it is less dense than it is in urban centers.
This may seem cosmetic, but there are very real differences that arise when you aren’t close to other people or larger communities.
Small medical complications can become life or death situations.
If the store is out of a product, it could be weeks before the product arrives.
When you travel into the backcountry, if something goes wrong, it could be literal months before they find your body.
There are advantages too, as I greedily horde the vision of our orchard in morning that no one else will ever see or share.
But I think that this lack of understanding of the knife’s edge takes a lot of the power away from the writing of rural living.
Ironically, where I see the lack of this understanding most keenly is in Fantasy.
Since so many epic Fantasy stories are set in some version of Medievalandia, they often involve road trips across sweeping outdoor vistas.
Unfortunately, it becomes very obvious very quickly when the writer of these stories has not spent much time in the outdoors themselves. Survival outdoors skills that you use where you know that you have no access to emergency services are very different animals than the kind of camping that takes place in parks with three or four hundred other occupants.
With all of these things, it is not always necessary to have been stranded in the backcountry to write about it.
But I think that the real power of writing outdoors adventures is better illustrated when that knife’s edge always lurks just beneath the surface of the beauty.
I’m always interested in portrayals of where the rural meets the wild. I like to think about those portrayals that I enjoy and those that I don’t.
I like to play with rural wildness in my own stories. If you’d like to see my take on these ideas, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.