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wonky
09-04-2009, 12:18 PM
One of the things I appreciate about urban fantasy is the modern setting. It's nice not to have horses and castles and fire and arrows (though I could do with a bit less kinky sex, too, authors!) all the time.

Why do so many fantasies revert to that romantic, Tolkein-esque setting of kings and knights and magical swords?

I've wondered in the past if maybe fantasies are often trying to draw in female readers and medieval settings are popular in romances. But I dunno. I guess that fantasy probably has more women reading it than does sf, but Tolkein and his literary heirs really don't seem to be trying to appeal to the feminine. And based on the fanship, I'd say they tend to draw more male readers than female, but that's more a guess than anything.

Besides, I don't think authors are necessarily that driven to figure out what the readers want. If we assume for the sake of conversation that the authors are trying to place their stories in a setting that makes the most sense for the stories, what about the fire and pony settings make them better suited for fantasy?

I'm coming up with two reasons.

1. Better contrast with technology. If you have a society were you don't carry a Bic, someone with a fire-lighting magic is then remarkable and not explained away by science. When you want it to be ambiguous, you set it in the "real" world.

2. More conflict. Not only do we accept that people in a medieval-ish setting might be more likely to be set upon by bandits and more likely to get involved in sword fights and more likely to die of a scratch, but putting things in the "real" modern world gives less for the magic to do. Is telepathy all that great when you can pick up your Blackberry? Are magical weapons impressive when there are nuclear ones?

What do you think? Are these plausible ideas and/or do you have others?

Argent Towers
09-04-2009, 12:24 PM
I agree and this is why I loved Final Fantasy VII so much (and 8 to a lesser extent) but have no interest in the earlier ones or any fantasy game involving elves, dwarves, and all that other stuff. I like the weird mix of cyberpunk and late 19th-century-European-style aesthetic of FFVII and FFVIII.

Lemur866
09-04-2009, 12:32 PM
I'd say it's a sort of inertia. Modern fantasy grew out of fairy tales and epic poetry. So the people who made up the stories about King Arthur put the stories in what was a modern context for them. So King Arthur was a knight in shining armor because that was what knights at the time wore, never mind that Arthur would have had to have existed back in the Dark ages rather than the late Medieval period. We know every King of England since the Angles and Saxons migrated to England, and King Arthur wasn't any of them.

But the stories about King Arthur and Jack and the Beanstalk got frozen in time. They were first told when Europe was medieval, but they stayed medieval. And so when Tolkien wanted to create a new mythology, he did so by recreating the style of the medieval and dark age stories he liked, and that meant setting his stories in a pseudo-medieval setting.

AuntiePam
09-04-2009, 12:32 PM
I like the medieval settings in fantasy for the same reason I like historical fiction -- escapism. I should be able to escape in a modern setting, but it's not the same -- too much familiarity, maybe.

I've enjoyed some fantasy in modern settings (Gaiman, Vandermeer, Stross, Powers, Christopher Moore) but not nearly as much as the other.

It's not the romance that appeals to me. A little romance is okay (very little) but I don't like romance as the focus.

RealityChuck
09-04-2009, 12:58 PM
Because they sell.

Major publishers are only interested in fantasies set in either Medieval settings or in modern urban settings. If you are a well-known author, you can try other settings, but even that is iffy as far as sales are concerned.

The reading public is very conservative in their tastes. They want things that they know they'll like. This is a function of the price of books: as the cost of an art form increases, audiences become increasingly less willing to try things that are outside their comfort zone (you can see the same trend in movies and Broadway shows).

If you try to write a fantasy in a setting other than these two, you're not likely to get it published. In my own case, I wrote a fantasy set in the 1930s and another set in the Medieval setting. No agent had any interest in the 1930s one, but several have wanted to see more of the one set in a medieval world. There may be other factors, but I have to think the fact that the medieval one didn't deviate as much from what people are used to was the reason they were more interested in it -- it would be an easier sell.

xizor
09-04-2009, 01:09 PM
I tend to agree with point #1. If you have a setting without modern science in your way, it is so much easier to explain things with "a wizard did it" to move stories along.

Quercus
09-04-2009, 02:23 PM
Well, I think it's because
1) it's much more satisfying to the average male's reptilian brain to imagine yourself beating someone (or, an evil monster) to death with your muscles and a sword than it is to imagine yourself gunning down a monster, or targeting the monster with a laser-guided missle [although computer games do a better job of simulating the latter, which I suspect is why gunning down monsters is relatively more common on computers than in books].

2) escapism works better when the scene is simpler than the current day. Escapists prefer temporarily inhabiting the days when a man could hack a monster apart and not have to worry about having a current monster killing license, or spending all day filling out paperwork, or dealing with the tax implications of taking the monster's gold.

Finally, it's also partly a matter of definition. A tale of two friends adventuring through an imaginary sword-wielding country would probably be considered fantasy, even if there was no magic involved. Wheras a tale of two friends adventuring through an imaginary 1813 sea campaign would be considered 'historical fiction' or something.

wierdaaron
09-04-2009, 02:27 PM
Knights.

Knights had swords.

And armor.

They make a period of history that should be looked down upon as a low point in humanity way too awesome.

Malleus, Incus, Stapes!
09-04-2009, 02:28 PM
Generic fantasy kingdoms are one of my pet peeves. I'll put up with them if the story is good, but I get really excited when I read a story with an imaginative, well-drawn world.

Thudlow Boink
09-04-2009, 04:06 PM
I think the #1 reason is the one Lemus866 mentioned. Modern fantasy has at least some of its roots in European fairy tales (along with medieval folklore like King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc.), which grew out of medieval Europe and so of course has a medieval European-ish setting and accoutrements.


Because they sell.

Major publishers are only interested in fantasies set in either Medieval settings or in modern urban settings. If you are a well-known author, you can try other settings, but even that is iffy as far as sales are concerned.

The reading public is very conservative in their tastes. They want things that they know they'll like. This is a function of the price of books: as the cost of an art form increases, audiences become increasingly less willing to try things that are outside their comfort zone (you can see the same trend in movies and Broadway shows). Looks to me like it's the publishers who are the conservative ones, not the readers. I really think there are readers (and moviegoers) out there who want something new that they haven't seen beforeómore of them than there are of publishers and producers who are willing to take a risk on something that isn't tried-and-true.
If you try to write a fantasy in a setting other than these two, you're not likely to get it published. In my own case, I wrote a fantasy set in the 1930s and another set in the Medieval setting. No agent had any interest in the 1930s one, but several have wanted to see more of the one set in a medieval world. There may be other factors, but I have to think the fact that the medieval one didn't deviate as much from what people are used to was the reason they were more interested in it -- it would be an easier sell.Maybe people just don't like the 30s. It was a Depressing time.

There are lots of classic (and not-so-classic) fantasies set in worlds other than the cliched "castles and horses and fire and arrows and knights in shining armor" medieval European ones (or modern urban settings). (Harry Potter, for one huge modern example.)

Lynn Bodoni
09-04-2009, 04:13 PM
The generic European middle ages fantasy is comfortable to some people because they are pretty familiar with how that sort of setting generally works. Magic will work, if there are unicorns then they'll be attracted to virgins, if there are dragons they'll breathe fire, etc., etc.

Get ahold of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. This isn't a novel, it's a list of fantasy tropes, with the common mistakes that many writers make. For instance, Jones notes that most writers treat horses as machines, not animals with their own quirks and needs.

typoink
09-04-2009, 04:51 PM
Yeah, I think inertia is the biggest reason why that's the case now. The early "inventors" of the fantasy genre (especially Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) were drawing on fairy tales and medieval Romances to create their works. Practically every author since has been working in the shadows of said authors, and so it goes.

In fact, one could argue that the pseudomedieval settings are practically a defining element of fantasy as a genre. Genres are really determined by their deviation from an archetype -- since the archetypal "fantasy" novels are medievalish, it's practically impossible to write a book that IS "fantasy" outside that setting unless you make the rest of the book extremely archetypal (i.e. the plot is "a dark wizard has stolen an artifact, and a young adventurer and his plucky companion must set out on a dangerous journey to recover it lest darkness befall the land; also, there's a king and probably some talking animals involved"). Incidentally, I just realized how close I just came to describing the plot of Neverwhere, probably one of the most successful attempts at non-Medieval fantasy out there. Gaiman obviously shares my opinion. ;)

So, if you want to write a "fantasy" novel, you pretty much have to make either the plot kinda generic or the setting kinda generic. I think most authors are happy to go the latter route in order to have more freedom with the plot.

If you want freedom on both fronts, go ahead by all means. But don't be surprised if many people have trouble accepting your book as "fantasy," even if you've still got a dragon up in there.

typoink
09-04-2009, 04:57 PM
The generic European middle ages fantasy is comfortable to some people because they are pretty familiar with how that sort of setting generally works.

Which, as you point out, always amuses me because the way most fantasy writers write such settings nowadays basically amounts to writing about a modern town where the cars neigh, the houses have thatch roofs, and people speak in a creole of Modern and Early Modern English.

People seem to want non-medieval fantasy; I'd like to see CONVINCINGLY medieval fantasy for once. ;)

Hunter Hawk
09-04-2009, 06:45 PM
Yeah, I think inertia is the biggest reason why that's the case now. The early "inventors" of the fantasy genre (especially Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) were drawing on fairy tales and medieval Romances to create their works. Practically every author since has been working in the shadows of said authors, and so it goes.
William Morris was the ur-author, and he was deliberately going for a medieval-romance style.

Tristan
09-04-2009, 07:41 PM
People seem to want non-medieval fantasy; I'd like to see CONVINCINGLY medieval fantasy for once. ;)

"There once was a strapping young lad, who was king, though did not know it on account of having been adopted by swineherds at an early age after his true Royal parents had been killed in a palace coup, which was besides the point, as the King died of pneumonia at the ripe old age of 7."

I like it, but I don't think it'll be optioned for a movie anytime soon.

GuanoLad
09-04-2009, 08:58 PM
I've always thought it had something to do with magic superseding advances in technology. You end up remaining in a mediaeval era, because other technology like steam and gunpowder aren't required.

But I guess that's not really the question being asked.

It probably comes down to the romantic idea of knights and princesses and chivalry, mixed with the brutality of close quarters combat, and the wonders of magic and fantastical creatures.

King Arthur, Robin Hood, Beowulf, and fairy tales, are just simpler yet evocative eras to play in.

Sleel
09-04-2009, 10:04 PM
Reason #1 is a factor, so is #2. There were some SF/F ideas from RPGs that spawned a few books, especially in the 90s; Rifts and Shadowrun. Those incorporated cyberpunk with fantasy, positing either dimensional crossover or a reawakening of magic, including magical beings. The ideas proved of limited appeal.

The kind of fantasy you're talking about is High Fantasy, which is set in an invented world, or a fictionalized past. Low Fantasy is the real world with some supernatural trimmings. Epic, heroic stories are almost always set in a high fantasy world.

I think a major reason for this is that we know how the real world works, and epic heroes don't fit all that well into it. In The Matrix, for example, Neo is essentially an epic hero in an SF setting. Look how hard most people started rolling their eyes when this started to become clear in the later installments. Prophecies, unexplained and unexplainable powers, and interference in the real world with what is essentially magic messes with people, to the point where even fans started to reconcile the inconsistencies between the Matrix's Zion and what we know about the possible future of reality by positing that the "real world" is just another layer of the Matrix, and no more real than the machines' control program.

It's harder to gain suspension of disbelief, and the author has to do more research if things are set in the real world. Your points factor in here. Technology has partially superseded the powers of magic in most fantasy worlds. Think about how unimpressive Excalibur is when a Barrett .50 cal can halfway vaporize your anachronistic ass from a kilometer away. It's not very believable that even the companion sheath could make the reborn Arthur "take no wound nor lose no blood" when just about everyone who has seen live modern military footage knows what kind of damage even conventional small arms can do.

Escapism is another thing. When I read fantasy, I do often want to go to a different place, where the rules of reality don't work, or don't work the same way. I'm into martial arts, and medieval and ancient warfare. I like reading stuff set with that kind of fighting, since the closest I'm ever likely to get to that in the real world is an SCA tournament. Firearms and explosives are game-changing things. Even with wizards around to perform minor miracles of offense and defense, tactics would change drastically.

The cultural settings are necessary for many of the trappings of high fantasy to work too. What a lot of fantasy readers like are the politics, social maneuvering, etc. of nobility, the stress between classes, the contrast between high and low status. They also like the world building, getting to know a different place, language, people. They already know this world, they want to explore a new one.

foolsguinea
09-05-2009, 04:26 AM
Knights.

Knights had swords.

And armor.

They make a period of history that should be looked down upon as a low point in humanity way too awesome.Barbara Tuchman has an interesting take on the High Middle Ages, which I paraphrase as, "when kid gangs ruled the world."

guizot
09-05-2009, 04:56 AM
...1) it's much more satisfying to the average male's reptilian brain to imagine yourself beating someone (or, an evil monster) to death with your muscles and a sword than it is to imagine yourself gunning down a monster, or targeting the monster with a laser-guided missle [although computer games do a better job of simulating the latter, which I suspect is why gunning down monsters is relatively more common on computers than in books]....This has always been my gut-level understanding, too. Medieval fantasy appeals to people (mostly men) who feel physically thwarted and impotent, and the characters you're supposed to identify with get to physically avenge themselves with their own arms and stick-like weapons (swords, etc.)

Ironically, it's the guys in cubicles in front of computer screens who will be doing more and more of modern warfare (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/07/23/wus.warfare.remote.uav/), sitting in an office in Nevada remotely directing un-manned drones on the other side of the planet.

Martini Enfield
09-05-2009, 07:15 AM
The Middle Ages were so long ago most people can't relate to them in a historic sense, either.

I've been working on a Steampunk adventure and the biggest obstacle I keep running into is people saying "But the Victorians didn't have Spaceships or steam-powered robots!" It's odd- people happily accept the idea of dragons and wizards in 13th century Europe, but apparently Victorian spacefarers- despite having a rich literary history in the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells- are just "too out there" for the modern reader.

Vihaga
09-05-2009, 07:45 AM
I always thought part of it was that it's easier to plunk a story in an era where it seems like people could reasonably believe in magic than it is to just have magic show up at a time when most of them can't.

If I pick up a high fantasy novel, and magic shows up, the characters might be surprised, but they accept it pretty easily, or it's part of the "rules of the world" to start with. When magic shows up in a more modern setting, you have to deal with everyone's disbelief, because you know that it's not likely that they'd just believe in it. For me, that diminishes the escapism. Also, when I read a fantasy novel that follows the medieval convention, I can be confident that (usually) the magic is going to actually be magic, I'm going to get the kind of story I'm expecting (and wanted, or I wouldn't have picked up the book)and it's not going to turn out to be technology or aliens or some kind of sci fi. (Now, I like science fiction well enough, but sometimes I just want a fantasy novel.)

Ranchoth
09-06-2009, 07:40 AM
"There once was a strapping young lad, who was king, though did not know it on account of having been adopted by swineherds at an early age after his true Royal parents had been killed in a palace coup, which was besides the point, as the King died of pneumonia at the ripe old age of 7."

I like it, but I don't think it'll be optioned for a movie anytime soon.

What if we make him a zombie? That could work. :D

Jerseyman
09-06-2009, 09:07 AM
If Tolkien was medieval then it's early, much more Dark Age tribal with one or two Great Towns and it comes with the Dark Age feel of decline from a higher culture. Most of us know far more about 1950s Hollywood Middle Ages than anything realistic.

It's a great period to throw anything at. It's modern enough to have some sort of urban life and political intrigue but with no kind of scientific understanding, anything can happen and mostly does. Magic works - like magic. If you actually read 'modern' magicians like Crowley, who were in turn going back to the Grimoires, even a relatively simple spell takes the kind of effort to assemble a small nuclear bomb in the garage and about as dangerous - especially as it is likely to be described in bad Latin and Hebrew coded flowery language to be deliberately misleading. James Blish's Black Easter about a modern Black Magician loosing Hell for a day (and causing the Apocalypse) goes into a lot of the detail of having to forge your own ritual sword at precisely the right astrological moment and so on. He says he did enough research to leave a lot out in case it gave anybody ideas! So fantasy magicians are usually more like shamans from a much less developed era.

When else could you have a magical setting? There's always antiquity but the great Empires were a bit too organised to have adventurers wandering all over the place starting a fight without falling foul of the law. That's a requirement: the setting is essentially lawless. That means that a lot of the time it doesn't even have the kind of warrior codes that actually existed among people like Vikings (who were as well intensely litigious). At the same time it mustn't be so disorganised that there are no real power structures at all. The exception is 'historical' Arthurian when a mixture of revived druidery and decaying Roman towns is acceptable.

OK, nobody knows any laws of science so they don't know that magic doesn't work. They are not so completely barbarous that there aren't a few towns around, so fighting has some interesting weapons and not sticks and stones. The fact that a decent sword probably cost as much as an automobile, so you don't risk it lightly is neither here nor there: adventurers come festooned with the things and a medley of armor from across the centuries and can still run anything down. Unlike Ned Kelly, nobody ever goes for their legs.

Terry Pratchett says he has a fairly equal mixed sex following. I think that may be because Discworld is essentially 'modern' and he's said that he started from looking at all the bits the fantasists ignore. So he has female characters with more to do than dig the yard or run the castle, which needs an urban setting and his witches are 'socially acceptable'. But the stories themselves are rarely the typical fantasy yarn - they are essentially modern stories in various fantasy settings. You can follow the fantasy, laugh at it, or get some of the messages (when he's not getting too preachy determined to get a message across). Whether male or female you can identify with a lot of the lead characters because they are not restricted to boy things reliant on huge muscles and a bigger ego.

There is an alternate kind of far future fantasy 'explained' as psychic science. I can't remember who by but there is a Celtic setting where a powerful matriarchal order runs a secretive magical (ie 'psychic') world order in parallel with a more conventional masculine one that seems to have settled into some kind of techno-feudalism. And then there's PERN.

The natural human order tends to feudal. When things fall apart, powerful men fight over the scraps and the less powerful get caught up in a protection racket. Magic is a kind of back staircase something like the Church in the real Middle Ages.

Carmady
09-06-2009, 09:27 AM
I think guns mark the turning point. The classic fantasy setting is really just "somewhere technology has not created guns", not specifically medieval times. There is no effort to actually portray medieval reality.

It isn't only that fighting with guns isn't as cool as fighting with swords or magic. It is also that surviving against enemies with guns isn't as believable.

You can have a "classic" fantasy story in modern times if you explain away the lack of gun use. Wizards don't understand technology, or gunpowder doesn't work in Amber.

RikWriter
09-06-2009, 09:39 AM
I'd say it's a sort of inertia. Modern fantasy grew out of fairy tales and epic poetry. So the people who made up the stories about King Arthur put the stories in what was a modern context for them. So King Arthur was a knight in shining armor because that was what knights at the time wore, never mind that Arthur would have had to have existed back in the Dark ages rather than the late Medieval period. We know every King of England since the Angles and Saxons migrated to England, and King Arthur wasn't any of them.


Quibble here.
If Arthur existed, he existed after the Angles and Saxons migrated to Britain but before they took over the whole island. (Well, they never really took over Scotland or parts of Wales, but you know what I mean.)

constanze
09-06-2009, 10:00 AM
I don't have the link anymore, but I once read an article criticizing Star Wars, Superman, Lord of the Rings and general fantasy /Sci-Fi outlook as anti-democratic. The main argument was that in fantastic stories, heroes are born, chosen, part of an elite. They aren't elected by the masses because they have worked hard at being competent, they have been chosen by fate and are superior to everybody because of that. (Which also makes it good and easy escapism: the office worker who in real life doesn't amount to much beyond his coworkers can dream that really, his destination is to save the world with heroic deeds, he just hasn't been revealed yet).

Also, despite the huge advantages and betterment science has brought to our lifes, there's no scientific thinking there. In a real modern /sci-fi society, if you have a superstrong hero mutant, a Jedi knight or a ring of power, the scientists would take it apart/ take blood samples to see how it worked, and then make everybody super strong/ gives Jedi powers/ make a second ring or an anti-ring that cancels the first.
But in the false medieval world, only the chosen few get the sword of destiny, ring of power, superhero powers, and the hoi polloi are not important.

I also would call it laziness from the writers - they don't do research into the real middle Ages and show their bad side, they take the generic Lord of the Rings/ Hollywood Middle Ages and add and subtract the stuff they need for their story.

Of course it would be far more interesting to set a story in another time, because it would be more of a challenge to the author to figure out how to set a band of adventurers roaming the land if there's a civilsed country/ Roman Empire etc, and you need a permit to kill dragons cause they are endangered.
Or do research, and tell how it's expensive to buy a sword and armor, and that horses need rest and feeding and shoeing.

Kyla
09-06-2009, 04:27 PM
People seem to want non-medieval fantasy; I'd like to see CONVINCINGLY medieval fantasy for once. ;)

I recently read Cynthia Voigt's YA fantasy novel Jackaroo, which I remembered liking as a kid, and I was struck by her portrayal of a really poor and dirty and unhappy sort of world. I can't think of any other writer that's even attempted to show that aspect of living in an agrarian society.

Personally, after living in an impoverished rural agrarian society for a couple of years, I find fantasy novels less interesting. It just annoys me that life is somehow easier for these fictional characters without electricity or modern plumbing than it was for my village in the European Union in 2008. (Unless one is living in a George RR Martin novel, of course.)

Carmady
09-06-2009, 04:33 PM
Personally, after living in an impoverished rural agrarian society for a couple of years, I find fantasy novels less interesting. It just annoys me that life is somehow easier for these fictional characters without electricity or modern plumbing than it was for my village in the European Union in 2008.


I'm sure it helps to have a magical wallet of infinite food (and various other helpful magics).

Lamia
09-06-2009, 04:37 PM
Get ahold of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. This isn't a novel, it's a list of fantasy tropes, with the common mistakes that many writers make. For instance, Jones notes that most writers treat horses as machines, not animals with their own quirks and needs.This is a really entertaining book. It's a sort of encyclopedia of fantasy cliches, written in the style of a travel guide. It explains how a visitor to Fantasyland can treat horses basically as bicycles, because they never tire and rarely require food or drink. That's perhaps just as well, because practically the only thing Fantasyland humans ever eat is stew...despite it being more time-consuming to prepare than say steak.

See also Poul Anderson's essay On Thud and Blunder (http://www.sfwa.org/2005/01/on-thud-and-blunder/), which was IIRC written in the '70s but describes the kind of cliched, poorly-research pseudo-Medieval Europe fantasy setting that remains common today.

As Anderson points out, there are plenty of non-European historic cultures that could be adapted for fantasy settings, but even today hardly anyone makes use of them. I have occasionally encountered "Arabian Nights" style Middle Eastern settings or settings based on feudal Japan or China, but not often. Fantasy cultures based on Africa, the Indian subcontinent, SE Asia, or the pre-1492 Americas are even more rare in fantasy novels. I'm sure for a lot of authors it's a lot easier to go with the same old pseudo-Medieval European Fantasyland setting than it would be to both research and explain a culture that would be unfamiliar to most American fantasy readers.

Lumpy
09-06-2009, 04:43 PM
I think guns mark the turning point. The classic fantasy setting is really just "somewhere technology has not created guns", not specifically medieval times. There is no effort to actually portray medieval reality.

It isn't only that fighting with guns isn't as cool as fighting with swords or magic. It is also that surviving against enemies with guns isn't as believable.

You can have a "classic" fantasy story in modern times if you explain away the lack of gun use. Wizards don't understand technology, or gunpowder doesn't work in Amber.I think the turning point is the time that modern science first got started- early to mid Renaissance. Before that tech was empirical- what had been worked out by trial and error- and was as much the work of "artisans" as "craftsmen". The only other ways of explaining how the world worked were magic and/or religion. There's a sub-genre around now that might be called "post-apocalyptic fantasy", where for whatever reason the laws of physics have stopped working or been drastically altered, and people have had to revert to a pre-tech existence or try to work out how the new laws of reality work.

DeptfordX
09-06-2009, 04:43 PM
One of the things I appreciate about urban fantasy is the modern setting. It's nice not to have horses and castles and fire and arrows (though I could do with a bit less kinky sex, too, authors!) all the time.


Amen, if i want to read porn i'll go find some. If Jim Butcher ever starts introducing the whole kinky sex theme into the Dresden Files i swear i will have no choice but to go on a chainsaw rampage.

Lumpy
09-06-2009, 04:53 PM
Well, I think it's because
1) it's much more satisfying to the average male's reptilian brain to imagine yourself beating someone (or, an evil monster) to death with your muscles and a sword than it is to imagine yourself gunning down a monster, or targeting the monster with a laser-guided missle [although computer games do a better job of simulating the latter, which I suspect is why gunning down monsters is relatively more common on computers than in books].I dunno; given the recoil, muzzle blast and nearly injurious noise levels of some firearms, like a 50 BMG rifle, I feel quite macho imagining being able to wield one as a shoulder arm and blasting gory holes completely through opponents. Besides, firearms mean you can take on inhuman opponents ten times your mass and win instead of merely three times. :p

Nava
09-06-2009, 04:57 PM
Get ahold of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. This isn't a novel, it's a list of fantasy tropes, with the common mistakes that many writers make. For instance, Jones notes that most writers treat horses as machines, not animals with their own quirks and needs.

People seem to want non-medieval fantasy; I'd like to see CONVINCINGLY medieval fantasy for once. ;)

One day, we were walking up a mountain, with snow up to midthigh, and during a chocolate break my brother the D&D DM said "next time a moron complains about 40km being too short for one day's journey, I'll snow on the party, damnit."

Our friends couldn't comprehend that the reason big villages in Spain are almost always 40km-ish from several others is that, not so long ago, that was a day's journey, whether you traveled on horse, in a cart or on foot. You get squares or triangles, but if there's a place where two big villages are 20km apart... there's a mountain pass in between.

One of my problems with CSI-type shows (and one that I know I share with every scientifically-trained Doper, as it's been mention to boredom) is that I know they're breaking the laws of Physics by making things (from travelling to one end of Miami to another, to running a DNA match) last a lot less than they should. Albertus Magnus save us from their scientific exposition :smack:, that's worse than the FTL travel on I-95.

By setting things in a fantasy world, the writer is automagically transporting the reader to a world about which the reader knows that he knows nothing. So long as the world is internally consistant and the writing is decent, it will work. Mixing fantasy elements into an actual current(ish) country, its legal system, its technology and its social conventions in a believable way is a lot more complicated.

magnusblitz
09-06-2009, 10:25 PM
I think guns mark the turning point. The classic fantasy setting is really just "somewhere technology has not created guns", not specifically medieval times. There is no effort to actually portray medieval reality.

It isn't only that fighting with guns isn't as cool as fighting with swords or magic. It is also that surviving against enemies with guns isn't as believable.

You can have a "classic" fantasy story in modern times if you explain away the lack of gun use. Wizards don't understand technology, or gunpowder doesn't work in Amber.

This is exactly what I was going to suggest. I've yet to see a magic system which couldn't be relatively easily defeated/outdone by guns. (Probably one of the reasons the Harry Potter books bother me, it's a bit of a stretch to believe that no one in the Wizarding world would have just gotten a Glock and solved all their Voledemort problems). And we just tend to see the Tolkein-esque setting because it's the default Western one; Eastern fantasy stories exist but are less heard of in English.

Even FF7, which Argent Towers mentioned (and I also personally love the setting of), is a bit silly whenever you see someone get hit by a giant sword or fireball and it does more damage than the burst of machinegun that just hit you.

Ludovic
09-06-2009, 10:32 PM
Even FF7, which Argent Towers mentioned (and I also personally love the setting of), is a bit silly whenever you see someone get hit by a giant sword or fireball and it does more damage than the burst of machinegun that just hit you.

I dont know how they do it in FF7, but getting around that's pretty easy. Guns don't have some critical animus that is imparted by holding cold steel in your hand, (since when your sword is touching you you can empower it with your spirit,) or casting magic. Bullets are easily countered by magical protections since they don't have any "magical spirit" behind them.

MrDibble
09-07-2009, 05:41 AM
I don't have the link anymore, but I once read an article criticizing Star Wars, Superman, Lord of the Rings and general fantasy /Sci-Fi outlook as anti-democratic.
It wasn't this David Brin piece (http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/06/15/brin_main/), was it?

Lynn Bodoni
09-07-2009, 10:11 AM
This is exactly what I was going to suggest. I've yet to see a magic system which couldn't be relatively easily defeated/outdone by guns. (Probably one of the reasons the Harry Potter books bother me, it's a bit of a stretch to believe that no one in the Wizarding world would have just gotten a Glock and solved all their Voledemort problems). And we just tend to see the Tolkein-esque setting because it's the default Western one; Eastern fantasy stories exist but are less heard of in English.

Even FF7, which Argent Towers mentioned (and I also personally love the setting of), is a bit silly whenever you see someone get hit by a giant sword or fireball and it does more damage than the burst of machinegun that just hit you. My favorite DM made it clear to each new player in his gameworld that gunpowder simply doesn't work in that world. The gods have decreed that this is so. The players can gather ingredients and mix them up to their hearts' content, but those ingredients will never go BANG. The DM suggested that anyone who wanted guns should play an Old West, Modern Times, or SF based RPG instead.

My father served in Korea, and after I became an adult, he would sometimes talk about the battles. He was amazed at the way I'd point out flaws, and other ways of working around a particular situation, but really, firepower is firepower, whether it's planes strafing the fortress or a bunch of wizards casting Fireballs from flying mounts. Sure, the range and damage stats are different, but that's fairly easy to adjust for. I guess FRPGs really are good military training, given the right GM.

I love the Final Fantasies, but most of them will mix magic and technology...and the male main character, or one of the male main characters, will tend to carry an oversized sword, at least up till FFX, which is when I quit playing the series. The main character in FFIX used a pair of daggers, but that's the only exception I can think of. And I loved almost every bit of FFVIII, but that gunblade strained my suspension of disbelief, as did the "we're all from the same orphanage except for Rinoa" subplot.

MrDibble
09-07-2009, 11:13 AM
My favorite DM made it clear to each new player in his gameworld that gunpowder simply doesn't work in that world. The gods have decreed that this is so. The players can gather ingredients and mix them up to their hearts' content, but those ingredients will never go BANG. The DM suggested that anyone who wanted guns should play an Old West, Modern Times, or SF based RPG instead.

In one of my worlds, gunpowder is the same composition as red dragon pheremones. You know how moths will fly miles for a female's scent? Now imagine instead, 5 or 6 randy male red dragons rock up...and find an alchemist rather than a female. Hilarity (brief & blazing) ensues everytime. There are never any survivors for miles around. The formula is now more proscribed and regulated than, say, modern nuclear weapons are.

Lumpy
09-07-2009, 02:01 PM
It wasn't this David Brin piece (http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/06/15/brin_main/), was it?Possibly it was Norman Spinrad's essay "On Books: The Emperor of Everything", originally in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction, January 1988 and reprinted in Science fiction in the real world. In this essay, Spinrad explains the motive behind The Iron Dream, his satire on heroic fantasy.

Lumpy
09-07-2009, 02:20 PM
(Something I read somewhere when I must have been twelve or so, I don't even remember if it was a novel or a role-playing system, but-)

In some fictional fantasy world there was an extremely simple, common, elementary spell, which even the lowest hedge wizard or village witchwife could do and was universal among all magical creatures. The spell caused the damage done by any blunt impact to depend entirely on the mass of the projectile, rather than it's mass times velocity. Essentially, the faster something hit you the faster it would bounce off, with the damage it inflicted being constant. So small fast projectiles like bullets (if they had existed) did no more damage than slingstones. Only edged or pointed weapons that cut you, or blunt impact weapons dependent on sheer mass like maces or warhammers could inflict any damage. I remember that one feature of that world was that it heavily favored large body size and mass, which explained the abundance of 6 1/2 and 7-foot tall warriors armed with broadswords and double-bladed battleaxes. :p

Malthus
09-07-2009, 02:25 PM
(Something I read somewhere when I must have been twelve or so, I don't even remember if it was a novel or a role-playing system, but-)

In some fictional fantasy world there was an extremely simple, common, elementary spell, which even the lowest hedge wizard or village witchwife could do and was universal among all magical creatures. The spell caused the damage done by any blunt impact to depend entirely on the mass of the projectile, rather than it's mass times velocity. Essentially, the faster something hit you the faster it would bounce off, with the damage it inflicted being constant. So small fast projectiles like bullets (if they had existed) did no more damage than slingstones. Only edged or pointed weapons that cut you, or blunt impact weapons dependent on sheer mass like maces or warhammers could inflict any damage. I remember that one feature of that world was that it heavily favored large body size and mass, which explained the abundance of 6 1/2 and 7-foot tall warriors armed with broadswords and double-bladed battleaxes. :p

I'd be careful not to lean against any large rocks in such a universe. :D

Cisco
09-07-2009, 02:28 PM
What is urban fantasy? Like The Dresden Files and Harry Potter?

I love medieval fantasy, but I haven't overdosed on it by reading several 5+ volume LotR-wannabe series or playing every RPG EVAR like I know a lot of people have.

wonky
09-07-2009, 02:43 PM
What is urban fantasy? Like The Dresden Files and Harry Potter?

I don't consider Harry Potter urban fantasy. Dresden Files, yes. Though Butcher is one of the few urban fantasists with male protagonists. Usually, they star a Buffy-like young woman of power.

C K Dexter Haven
09-07-2009, 03:16 PM
Longing for or interest in medieval fantasy isn't new. In the early 1600s, Cervantes spoofed the whole genre with Don Quixote romanticizing back to the era of knighthood etc. In the early 19th Century, again, Sir Walter Scott was immensely popular with tales of knights and castles.

Lamia
09-07-2009, 05:49 PM
I've yet to see a magic system which couldn't be relatively easily defeated/outdone by guns. (Probably one of the reasons the Harry Potter books bother me, it's a bit of a stretch to believe that no one in the Wizarding world would have just gotten a Glock and solved all their Voledemort problems).Not a very good example, because destroying Voldemort's body would really only be a temporary setback for him. Since this isn't an HP thread I won't get into spoilers for the last two books, but even if someone had blown Voldemort to smithereens he still could have returned in a new body (as he does in the 4th book).

Other wizards could be killed with guns, but if the killer was also a wizard then I don't see any real advantage to using a gun instead of magic. Even kids still at Hogwarts would know plenty of spells that could be used to distract, disarm, or disable a gunman. A wizard taken by surprise could be killed with a gun, but no more easily than he could be killed with a curse. The same would be true in many fantasy magic systems.

Lamia
09-07-2009, 06:38 PM
Which, as you point out, always amuses me because the way most fantasy writers write such settings nowadays basically amounts to writing about a modern town where the cars neigh, the houses have thatch roofs, and people speak in a creole of Modern and Early Modern English.

People seem to want non-medieval fantasy; I'd like to see CONVINCINGLY medieval fantasy for once. ;)I get a bit annoyed by very modern attitudes about gender roles and sexual relations in a book supposedly set in the Middle Ages. Things can also go too far the other way -- the Middle Ages weren't the Victorian Era, no matter what some Victorians would have liked to have people think -- but I don't like seeing cultural values treated as some minor obstacle. I'm fine with fantasy cultures that clearly have different values than historic cultures (if both men and women can become powerful magic users that would be an obvious reason for early social equality between the sexes), and stories where a person goes against the established values of their own culture are fine too. But if the latter is the case it should actually be difficult for the character to go their own way. It shouldn't go like this:

PRINCESS: Oh, it's so boring being a princess. I think I'll be a knight.
KING: You can't, you're a girl!
PRINCESS: Yes I can, I can do anything boys can do!
KING: You're right. How foolish I was. Here's your sword.

Not that dealing with sexism has to be a Big Serious Issue in an otherwise lighthearted story. I think Patricia C. Wrede handled this pretty well in her YA novel Dealing With Dragons. The heroine, a princess who doesn't want to play the typical storybook princess role, runs away to live with the dragons. She is able to lead an independent life this way, but her family apparently never accepts this (I don't think she ever sees them again) and she has to put up with well-intentioned knights and princes trying to "rescue" her all the time.

Lumpy
09-07-2009, 07:09 PM
One reason I love the Dresden novels is that Dresden has no problem with using a .44 Magnum when appropriate to deal with problems. He's pointed out that quite often his enemies never expect him to use something mundane like a gun, just because he's a wizard.

I'd be careful not to lean against any large rocks in such a universe. :DI don't remember exactly how that was handled. (This was something I think I read in the school library thirty-five years ago). If I'm not conflating it with another story, it was one of those "person from our world is transported to an alternate realm" deals, and the person involved was a physics professor. It might have been something like the damage you took from an impact would be proportional to the momentum (mass times velocity) rather than the kinetic energy (one-half mass times velocity squared). I'd have to reread the book because I could easily have misunderstood the pseudo-scientific explanation. But the point was that trying to kill someone with a bullet that weighed ounces or less simply didn't work.

elfkin477
09-07-2009, 08:29 PM
I like urban fantasy too, because it's set in the here and now, but it is in pretty stark contrast to sword and scorcery fantasy. Are there fantasy stories set after the 1700s, but before ~1985? (War For the Oaks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_fantasy) was published in 1987 and sparked the urban fantasy subgenre) I'd love to read a fantasy novel set in the 1940s or 50s, for example, even if written far more recently.

wonky
09-07-2009, 08:32 PM
I like urban fantasy too, because it's set in the here and now, but it is in pretty stark contrast to sword and scorcery fantasy. Are there fantasy stories set after the 1700s, but before ~1985?

Greg Keyes's The Age of Unreason starts in the late 1600s. I haven't read it so I don't know how much time it covers.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is set in an alternate 1800s.

Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle books are set in the late 1800s.

Captain Carrot
09-07-2009, 08:33 PM
PRINCESS: Oh, it's so boring being a princess. I think I'll be a knight.
KING: You can't, you're a girl!
PRINCESS: Yes I can, I can do anything boys can do!
KING: You're right. How foolish I was. Here's your sword.That kind of happened in Tamora Pierce's Alanna series, except that the third line of dialogue took several years, and Alanna wasn't a princess, and she disguised herself as her twin brother, who wanted to be a wizard, and shit seriously flew when she was revealed. In fact, I can't think of a series where it wasn't very difficult for a woman to assume the military duties traditionally assigned to men.

Lynn Bodoni
09-07-2009, 11:28 PM
In one of my worlds, gunpowder is the same composition as red dragon pheremones. You know how moths will fly miles for a female's scent? Now imagine instead, 5 or 6 randy male red dragons rock up...and find an alchemist rather than a female. Hilarity (brief & blazing) ensues everytime. There are never any survivors for miles around. The formula is now more proscribed and regulated than, say, modern nuclear weapons are. Oh, now, that would have been lots of fun to watch...if it wasn't MY character who was the alchemist. What's more, it's actually somewhat logical.

Lumpy
09-08-2009, 10:32 AM
I like urban fantasy too, because it's set in the here and now, but it is in pretty stark contrast to sword and scorcery fantasy. Are there fantasy stories set after the 1700s, but before ~1985? (War For the Oaks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_fantasy) was published in 1987 and sparked the urban fantasy subgenre) I'd love to read a fantasy novel set in the 1940s or 50s, for example, even if written far more recently.Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede have written books set in a magical alternate-Regency. Sorcery and Cecelia a.k.a. The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, The Grand Tour, and The Mislaid Magician

Thudlow Boink
09-08-2009, 10:58 AM
I like urban fantasy too, because it's set in the here and now, but it is in pretty stark contrast to sword and scorcery fantasy. Are there fantasy stories set after the 1700s, but before ~1985? (War For the Oaks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_fantasy) was published in 1987 and sparked the urban fantasy subgenre) I'd love to read a fantasy novel set in the 1940s or 50s, for example, even if written far more recently.Try the novels of Thorne Smith (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorne_Smith)?

plankter
09-08-2009, 06:28 PM
See also Poul Anderson's essay On Thud and Blunder (http://www.sfwa.org/2005/01/on-thud-and-blunder/), which was IIRC written in the '70s but describes the kind of cliched, poorly-research pseudo-Medieval Europe fantasy setting that remains common today.
I started reading the essay, and a bit over halfway through fetched up against this:
A stallion [...] is not safe to have around a menstruating woman.That hit the FAIL gong, hard. The rest of Anderson's text will have to wait until my inner ear stops ringing.

Lamia
09-08-2009, 07:11 PM
In fact, I can't think of a series where it wasn't very difficult for a woman to assume the military duties traditionally assigned to men.My little Princess Knight story was an exaggeration, I've never seen anything that silly in a serious novel. But I have seen characters ignore Medieval gender roles and sexual taboos with little or no consequences. A female characters setting out on an adventure or quest might for instance decide to wear trousers instead of a dress. In the Middle Ages it was considered acceptable, even admirable, for a woman to disguise herself as a man in order to protect herself...but if she wore trousers out of convenience or personal preference that wasn't just being a tomboy. It was a serious offense and in extreme cases could result in the woman being burned at the stake*.

Both men and women in Medieval/pseudo-Medieval fiction often have very modern attitudes toward sex and romance, and are by the standards of the time quite impractical about marriage.

This isn't to say I want to read fantasy novels where everyone lives up to Medieval ideals (something few real people ever managed anyway), I just think it's silly to pretend that people in the Middle Ages had all the same social values as people 500+ years later.

*This was the legal justification for the execution of Joan of Arc, although the English obviously had other reasons for wanting to make an example of her.

wonky
09-08-2009, 07:21 PM
The problem with holding fantasies to the standards of medievalism is that they aren't set on Earth. Well, most of them aren't, anyway.

Lamia
09-08-2009, 09:18 PM
The problem with holding fantasies to the standards of medievalism is that they aren't set on Earth. Well, most of them aren't, anyway.Where do they get the horses, then? :)

I don't think a fantasy novel should be held to a strict standard of historic realism, but if an author wants to use a Medievalesque setting then they shouldn't just ignore all the difficult things about living in a pre-industrial feudal society. It's as silly as forgetting that horses need to eat and sleep. In a fantasy it's possible for authors to invent their own reasons why people in a pre-industrial feudal society wouldn't have Medieval values or Medieval problems, and good fantasy authors do just that. For instance, it makes perfect sense for fantasy characters to have premarital sex* pretty casually if they can get reliable birth control from a local witch (paging Nanny Ogg!) or if their culture doesn't stigmatize unwed mothers and illegitimate children.

*Only Firefox spellcheck prevented me from posting this as "premartial sex".

wonky
09-08-2009, 09:25 PM
Where do they get the horses, then? :)

They gots people, why not ponies!

It seems like you're thinking that whatever attitudes we have in this world are somehow inevitable unless specifically accounted for. To me, authors get to make up rules without apology for what history might have been.

Lamia
09-09-2009, 12:07 AM
It seems like you're thinking that whatever attitudes we have in this world are somehow inevitable unless specifically accounted for. To me, authors get to make up rules without apology for what history might have been.No, I'm saying that if they're going to make up their own rules they have to actually make up their own rules. All of these rules don't need to be spelled out for the reader, but it's lazy to set a story in generic Fantasyland without ever giving any thought to how things work. Good fantasy writers think about how their fantasy world functions and what people living in such a world would be like. Their attitudes don't need to be consistent with any real period in history, but they should be consistent with the setting. They shouldn't just be the attitudes common in the author's own time and place if this doesn't make sense within the setting.

Lust4Life
09-09-2009, 03:14 AM
My two pennorth,escapism.

The present day world is all around me,with or without Zombies.
Disc World isn't.

wonky
09-09-2009, 07:49 AM
No, I'm saying that if they're going to make up their own rules they have to actually make up their own rules. All of these rules don't need to be spelled out for the reader, but it's lazy to set a story in generic Fantasyland without ever giving any thought to how things work. Good fantasy writers think about how their fantasy world functions and what people living in such a world would be like. Their attitudes don't need to be consistent with any real period in history, but they should be consistent with the setting. They shouldn't just be the attitudes common in the author's own time and place if this doesn't make sense within the setting.

I just disagree that you can know better than the author what makes sense within the setting.

Ranchoth
09-09-2009, 08:28 AM
I just disagree that you can know better than the author what makes sense within the setting.

What about the works of Ed Wood? I mean, you could to say he was doing an exquisite job at showing a surreal, addle-brained universe, but most observers would say he just wasn't a very good director. I mean, there's giving the benefit of the doubt, and allowing for stylistic choices, but after a point you have to be able to recognize when you've got a shovelfull of...well, this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3jfPCsKEFs).

wonky
09-09-2009, 08:46 AM
Nothing I've said says anything about whether an author or director is any good.

But for us to say that we know what people in X would be like because we have a history of Y isn't reasonable to me. We have only ever had one medieval period. We don't know what's inevitable and what's not, or how changing this item over here completely alters that attitude over there.

That doesn't mean we have to agree with the author, and in rereading what I wrote it sounds like I mean we can't disagree. I should have said instead that I don't think it's reasonable to expect an author to have to account for every change from "reality."

Lamia
09-09-2009, 08:47 AM
I just disagree that you can know better than the author what makes sense within the setting.I can if the author isn't very good! Things don't automatically make sense just because someone happened to write them down that way. I don't need any special abilities to recognize inconsistencies or to notice when certain tricky issues are just ignored. A fantasy obviously requires some suspension of disbelief, and minor worldbuilding flaws needn't ruin an otherwise enjoyable story. But good fantasy writers (and I could name plenty of good ones) need to think more, not less, about how their world will work than do authors writing fiction set in the ordinary modern world.

Lamia
09-09-2009, 08:55 AM
Looks like we simulposted.

That doesn't mean we have to agree with the author, and in rereading what I wrote it sounds like I mean we can't disagree. I should have said instead that I don't think it's reasonable to expect an author to have to account for every change from "reality."I didn't say an author should account for every single little change from reality. I'm saying that it makes no sense for characters to have attitudes that are inconsistent with their culture. A particular character or group of characters might go against the status quo, but if members of this culture in general possess 21st century American values in a setting that closely resembles Medieval England then the author had better have a good reason for it.

wonky
09-09-2009, 09:07 AM
I just don't see what the contradiction is between whatever values the characters have and the shallow resemblance to any particular historical period. If it isn't Earth, it isn't Earth. Obviously, the closer they mirror Earth, the more assumptions the reader will make, but that doesn't privilege those assumptions.

ETA: I hope it's clear that I just consider this a minor difference of opinion and not some Declaration of Fantasy War, complete with knights and stuff.

Nava
09-09-2009, 09:12 AM
Longing for or interest in medieval fantasy isn't new. In the early 1600s, Cervantes spoofed the whole genre with Don Quixote romanticizing back to the era of knighthood etc.

He also murdered the whole genre, at least in Spain. Some of the genre's most important pieces were from the late Middle Ages themselves (Tirant lo Blanc is from 1490). There's Arturic material and epic or romantic poems, older than that, which also show a romantiziced vision... of the life their listeners were living, in a fashion not so disimilar to many current novels. When was the last time you read a "current times" novel in which horses smelled? (I know most "current" novels don't include horses, but one of my last airport buys did, and let me assure you those horses never needed to be cleaned).

Staale Nordlie
09-09-2009, 09:17 AM
I've yet to see a magic system which couldn't be relatively easily defeated/outdone by guns. (Probably one of the reasons the Harry Potter books bother me, it's a bit of a stretch to believe that no one in the Wizarding world would have just gotten a Glock and solved all their Voledemort problems). (Strip by Norwegian cartoonist Mads Eriksen (http://i37.tinypic.com/11lo56g.jpg).)

Thudlow Boink
09-09-2009, 09:38 AM
I just don't see what the contradiction is between whatever values the characters have and the shallow resemblance to any particular historical period. If it isn't Earth, it isn't Earth. Obviously, the closer they mirror Earth, the more assumptions the reader will make, but that doesn't privilege those assumptions.Reading earlier posts in this thread, I sometimes got the impression that people thought fantasy novels had to be set in some particular time and place in this world's history. So maybe it needs to be pointed out that fantasy can be, and often is, set in a whole nother world where notions of "historical accuracy" don't apply. If the author is creating his/her own world, he/she gets to make the "rules" for that world.

Still, it is true that many of these alternate worlds are medieval-European in flavor, and that people ride horses instead of cars or camels, and fight with swords instead of rifles. This can be because the author is mindlessly copying other fantasy or following a formula, or it may be for worthier, more organic reasons.

sciurophobic
09-09-2009, 10:02 AM
Tom Holt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Holt) combines modern office satire with dragon slaying (http://www.amazon.com/Better-Mousetrap-Tom-Holt/dp/1841495042/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1252508478&sr=8-2).

Lamia
09-09-2009, 10:09 AM
I just don't see what the contradiction is between whatever values the characters have and the shallow resemblance to any particular historical period. If it isn't Earth, it isn't Earth. Obviously, the closer they mirror Earth, the more assumptions the reader will make, but that doesn't privilege those assumptions.Do you really not understand why it's strange for characters in a setting unlike 21st century America to have 21st century American values? It doesn't matter if the fantasy setting resembles a specific historic era or not, it could be something totally original, but if it doesn't resemble modern America in significant ways then the characters shouldn't act like modern Americans. Saying "Oh, but it's a fantasy world" doesn't explain why characters would behave like just like people from the author's own time and place -- quite the contrary.
ETA: I hope it's clear that I just consider this a minor difference of opinion and not some Declaration of Fantasy War, complete with knights and stuff.That's good to hear, although my personal army of chainmail bikini-wearing Amazon warriors might be disappointed. ;)

CalMeacham
09-09-2009, 10:12 AM
I've yet to see a magic system which couldn't be relatively easily defeated/outdone by guns.

It always seemed to be a cheat when Avatar defeats Blackwolf by pulling out a gun and blasting his evil brother (Avatar was supposed to be the good wizard) in Ralph Bakshi's Wizards.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076929/

wonky
09-09-2009, 10:41 AM
Do you really not understand why it's strange for characters in a setting unlike 21st century America to have 21st century American values? It doesn't matter if the fantasy setting resembles a specific historic era or not, it could be something totally original, but if it doesn't resemble modern America in significant ways then the characters shouldn't act like modern Americans. Saying "Oh, but it's a fantasy world" doesn't explain why characters would behave like just like people from the author's own time and place -- quite the contrary.

We don't know other worlds so we don't know how people on other worlds would act. They might all ride ponies and talk like Valley Girls. If they don't have something like Christianity, lots of assumptions get thrown out the window.

In short, why not? There's no way to rerun our history to figure out what was necessary or sufficient for certain cultural beliefs, so we can't know what would have happened if you drop this aspect or change that one. And even if we did, fantasy worlds are still not ours. They have magic, which means their physics isn't even the same as ours, and once the physics goes, all hell breaks loose!

Lamia
09-09-2009, 12:54 PM
We don't know other worlds so we don't know how people on other worlds would act.Having a different world as a setting isn't an excuse for an author to write any kind of half-baked, inconsistent nonsense that happens to float into his or her head.
In short, why not? There's no way to rerun our history to figure out what was necessary or sufficient for certain cultural beliefs, so we can't know what would have happened if you drop this aspect or change that one.We don't have to know what really would have happened if the world were different in order to recognize that some things just don't make sense. As I said before, I'm fine with authors making their own rules. But making your own rules involves actually making rules, not mixing together a collection of generic Fantasyland cliches and modern American social attitudes without considering how any of it would work. I'm not going to throw all critical thought out the window just because I'm reading a fantasy novel, and a good fantasy writer wouldn't want me to.

wonky
09-09-2009, 02:04 PM
I believe it's official. This one is going to require thumb wrestling. Thumb wrestling TO THE DEATH!

SSgtBaloo
09-09-2009, 03:04 PM
I like it, but I don't think it'll be optioned for a movie anytime soon.

Does anyone still make short subjects?

In one of my worlds, gunpowder is the same composition as red dragon pheremones. You know how moths will fly miles for a female's scent? Now imagine instead, 5 or 6 randy male red dragons rock up...and find an alchemist rather than a female. Hilarity (brief & blazing) ensues everytime. There are never any survivors for miles around. The formula is now more proscribed and regulated than, say, modern nuclear weapons are.

That's diabolical! I LOVE it!! :D

Do you really not understand why it's strange for characters in a setting unlike 21st century America to have 21st century American values?

Dude, it's fantasy! Specifically, pseudo-medieval fantasy. Suspend your disbelief or read something else (unless the story itself is so horribly bad that nothing can save it, in which case, why would you want to read it anyway?) It's like some folks decrying the lack of "realism" in the Superheroic genre. Dude, if somebody is strong enough to lift a 747 with his bare hands, I suspect the laws of nature are sufficiently different to allow for him to do so without accidentally ripping two handfuls of airplane off or sinking into the tarmac because he's concentrating the burden of said airplane on his own two feet, considerably smaller then the A/C's landing gear footprint.

That's good to hear, although my personal army of chainmail bikini-wearing Amazon warriors might be disappointed. ;)

Oh! I want a a personal army of chainmail bikini-wearing Amazon warriors too! Where do I sign up?

Seriously, one of my favorite "fantasy" movies was Cast a Deadly Spell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cast_a_Deadly_Spell). I'm still waiting to see the sequel (it's kind of hard to find).

Lamia
09-09-2009, 05:09 PM
I believe it's official. This one is going to require thumb wrestling. Thumb wrestling TO THE DEATH!No, TO THE PAIN!

I'm not sure exactly what that would involve in a thumb wrestling context, but this thread has gone on too long not to have a Princess Bride quote. Which, to get back to your OP, reminds me of another reason why medievalesque fantasy settings are popular -- the characters get to wear cool clothes. Some authors have even been known to get a wee bit carried away on that subject...coughRobertJordancoughcough.

SSgtBaloo
09-11-2009, 05:06 PM
No, TO THE PAIN!

I'm not sure exactly what that would involve in a thumb wrestling context, but this thread has gone on too long not to have a Princess Bride quote.

Thank you for providing such a vital public service! ;)

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled thread.

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