You don’t need no stinkin’ boyfriend! So there!
One thing you don’t see much of in historical fantasy fiction is humor. The sub-genre itself – folklore and fairy tales included – tends to skew more in the direction of some pretty impressive levels of gravitas. By and large I don’t mind, and when handled well, drama can enhance the reading experience, particularly if the story’s rich in fantastical elements.
Most of my own output has been dramatic and in some cases, angst-ridden. But I’ve written comedies (Masks and Desmond and Garrick), and I think you can go pretty far with humor. Contemporary settings are natural for that; it’s easy to make readers laugh with snark, sarcasm, and bizarre reversals in familiar and very modern ways. Attitude counts for a lot.
With historical fantasy, though, you have to walk a tightrope of sorts. There’s only so much room for anachronism, I think, without toppling over to the other side and coming up with humorous moments that fail more often than succeed.
The anachronisms in the trailers for Brave are handled very well. There are enough of them to make me chuckle over the jarring “displacement” of certain words, phrases, and behavior – at least in terms of historical setting. It’s like seeing a modern family in Scotland once upon a time and satirizing their experiences through a clever blend of history and the contemporary world.
Contrast that with, say, Dreamworks and Shrek, which has its funny moments, but it also suffers from so much heavy-handedness where contemporary elements are concerned. To me, the series is too self-conscious in trying to link modern culture to a fairy tale. After a while, the anachronisms get pretty damned tedious to sit through, and the humor goes beyond absurd.
I’d love to try my hand again at humor in a historical fantasy. I’ve no idea whether or not Desmond and Garrick succeeds with regard to comic elements, but that series was pretty fun to write, though I didn’t (couldn’t) use anachronisms for comedic effect. Maybe anachronisms will work next time, but I don’t know. I guess I’ll go watch Brave first and see what kind of inspiration it stirs up in ye olde head.