I’ve been slaving away to make the deadline for the Farthest Shore anthology, and I can now say with all honesty that anyone who believes that writing fantasy is easier than writing science fiction has never really tried to find out how much thought goes into the creation of your typical medieval castle. A quick Google or Amazon search however will be quick to reveal that there is more to that fantasy staple than four towers, a drawbridge, and a princess framed in a window.
Note to self: the next time you write a fantasy, set it in a wide open plain.
Unfortunately as my intended submission deals with a siege, there really was no way around doing at least some rudimentary research into the topic–even knowing full well that ninety percent of what I learn isn’t going to go into this story. In case anyone might find it helpful, I’d like to reccomend the book I used as my primary reference material: The Medieval Fortress by J.E. Kaufmann and H.W. Kaufmann.
Since I was a bit pressed for time, my research was focused only on certain portions of the book, but it’s safe to say it is a very useful resource for anyone planning to create a work in a medieval setting: it is liberally interspersed with charts and diagrams that clearly distinguish everything from siege maneuvers, to the parts of a fortified town, or layouts of famous castles.It goes through the development of the castle as a defensive structure, from its early beginnings to its fall from grace in modern times.
If I have any quibbles, it’s the fact that while the charts are clear, some of the black and white photographs are too dark and hence it can be difficult to make out the details in pictures of the actual edifices. Likewise, while it was helpful, I found the few pages devoted to social organization and army size to be a bit lacking, at least insofar as the “social organization” part is concerned.
Still, all in all I’d highly recommend this book for anyone looking to become more familiar with the architecture, history and rationale of castles. I bought it at a Different Bookstore for around PHP800 (on sale from PHP1000) but that was two years ago and I haven’t seen it since.