You might think that there’s something easy about choosing a “current day” setting. After all, it’s the world in which we live, right? If you, the writer, are in it every day, then naturally you know it, don’t you?
Rakers takes place right around now. Maybe a little bit in the future, but not far enough to have drastic changes (the vague date serves a story purpose – which is to remove real-life current events from the scope of the books). This gives the characters a lot of toys to place with – things like modern smartphones, cars and weapons. All sorts of fun. These, of course, are also things the reader will know about and have expectations for.
Ever watch a horror movie and laugh about how a cell phone would ruin the plot (or watch modern ones and shake your head at how they convolute things to make ever-present connections to the outside world go away – isolated cabins are so popular these days)? It’s the same thing with Rakers – these are “real” people who would react and communicate in real-time with one another. Every bit of information, including the locations of friends and family, is readily available and in their hands. Rather than run away from the complications this could introduce, in Rakers, those kinds of elements play a part in the story.
Take, for example, Jaycee. As Fade’s daughter and a sophomore in high school, she’s the sort of character that could get sidelined by other settings. Either not old enough to fight dragons or trained enough to pilot a starfighter, it’s a gray area reserved for stories where the kids are often exceptional (Hunger Games, Divergent, Harry Potter, etc.). In Rakers, though, Jaycee is able to both be herself and be effective simply because our current world gives a wealth of possibilities to people at almost any age. That Jaycee is able to have an impact is almost as surprising to her as it was to me when I was writing it up.
And that, I think, is one of the better gifts a setting can provide: agency for characters that might otherwise have none. Jaycee’s arc is driven, to a large degree, by the setting and the natural skills a person like her would have in our current environment.
So, while it can be easy to choose a fantastical setting for the benefits it offers (spells, light speed travel), I found that by putting Rakers right around today that there was so much to do, so many neat twists and turns that could come about thanks to the magic we live with every day. And even without lasers or giant swords, Rakers was still a blast to write.