February 3rd, 2012, 01:24 PM #16
maybe it has something to with weaponry also. Machine guns and carpet bombing have taken all the fun out of fighting. Harrison Ford may be fun when he fights a double sworded sheik in the Cairo Bazaar, but there's nothing heroic or epic about getting mass slaughtered from a distance.
Although some of the mages in fantasy epics are more dangerous than a H-Bomb , so my argument kind of defeats itself.
February 3rd, 2012, 04:20 PM #17
Yeah but there's still everything before the American civil war left as fodder though (which I believe was the big debut of the machine gun and it's capacity for mass slaughter). I could be wrong there but it's about that time, early to mid 1800's, everything before that offers great fodder for less than modern adventure and warfare. I haven't read the book but the movie Last of the Mohicans had tremendous action scenes, all mobility and speed, rush to the next loaded musket, kill someone with it, move on. Found it very entertaining, certainly not a bad pattern for exciting adventurous combat at all. Plus a lot of these pseudo-medieval/renaissance fantasy settings aren't shy in the slightest to jump ahead a couple hundred years whenever someone gets on a boat for some good old-fashioned piracy fun. I know there have pretty much always been pirates but the stereotypical pirate we all know and love seems to me to have lived in a much different time.
I think a lot of it just boils down to cool factor. Lots of people, myself included just enjoy reading about guys in armour with hand weapons trying to smash each other to pieces. Armour and heraldry when done right is pretty badass if you ask me and even though we have moved on in how we fight we can still see the influence of our armoured european heritage at lots of modern sporting events.
February 3rd, 2012, 06:02 PM #18
February 3rd, 2012, 09:58 PM #19
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I don't like that fantasy is either stuck in the middle ages or secretive if it takes place in modern times.
I want to see Lord of the Rings with cell phones and cars and airplanes with dragons, elves and dwarves. But NOT make it a secret. I think this is largely due to what sells and that publishing houses are slow to change.
A lot of what Steven King writes could be fantasy set int he modern world (but get labelled as horror). In fact, The Stand comes pretty close to a Lord of the Rings type adventure. No elves or dwarves, however.
February 3rd, 2012, 10:37 PM #20
The Trashcan Man makes a pretty damn good Gollum substitute though.
February 4th, 2012, 07:38 PM #21
Well let's see what I've got on the shelves that I acquired more recently. I've got:
Elizabeth Bear's first novel in her category bestseller series The Promethean Age, that's contemporary New York; Toby Barlow's bestselling werewolf free verse novel Sharp Teeth, that's set in Los Angeles; N.K. Jemisin's category bestseller The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which is a secondary world fantasy -- parts of that you could consider medievally, but they have a city in the sky, elevators, machines, etc., so call it a mish-mash, I guess; Emma Bull's category bestseller Territory, set in the American Old West; Stephen Boyett's bestselling Elegy Beach, long awaited sequel to his bestselling Ariel, which are set in a post-apocalyptic future/alternate Earth; Joe Abercrombie's category bestseller The Heroes, set in his First Law world, which loosely bases itself on the early Renaissance period; Felix Gilman's category bestseller Thunderer, which also uses the Renaissance -- airships, etc., but more of a mish-mash; Hal Duncan's category bestseller Ink, sequel and partner to Vellum, which is a multiverse novel involving all sorts of different worlds ranging from medieval to contemporary Earth to historical Earth to futuristic; Benjamin Tate's Well of Sorrows and Leaves of Flame, which is set in a secondary world loosely based on colonial/settlement of America; Ken Scholes' Lamentation, which is another mish-mash secondary world involving ancient period, medieval period, and steampunk with mechanical magical men and the magical equivalent of a nuclear bomb; I picked up the last of C.J. Cherryh's bestselling Rusalka trilogy, which is an alternate Earth historical fantasy in the Eastern European Slavic states -- the exact time period isn't entirely clear on that and it could be latish medieval, Renaissance or early 1700's -- on the covers, they tended to go for early 1700's look -- but I would be comfortable putting it in the medieval category, given the history and folklore she's using; Seanan McGuire's category bestseller Rosemary & Rue, that's contemporary Earth; Tim Marquitz's Armageddon Bound, ditto; Lincoln Crisler's Wild novella, that's back to the Old West of Earth which I enjoy; Liz Williams' bestselling Inspector Chen series, got the final book on that one, which is set in an alternate, futuristic Earth in China; J.A. Pitts' category bestseller Black Blade Blues, another contemporary Earth one; and Kevin Hearne's Hounded, that's another contemporary fantasy; Laura Resnick's Esther Diamond series, that's comic contemporary fantasy; James Barclay's Cry of the Newborn, which is set in a secondary world that is like ancient Rome, so before the medieval period; Gail Carriger's Soulless, a comic novel which is set in an alternate Victorian England; Terry Pratchett's comic The Last Continent from his mega bestselling Disc World series, which is certainly medieval-ish but full of non-medieval anachronistic things and ancient time cultures on purpose because it's a satire using mish-mash; I'm almost finished with Towers of Midnight, the latest before the last book in the mega bestselling Wheel of Time series from Robert Jordan with pinch hitting from Brandon Sanderson and that's a tricky one -- it's very medievally, but in previous ages, the secondary world had hover cars and all sorts of machines, and in the current age, they wear waistcoats and pants which are not medieval or even Renaissance, and sometimes have machines and have developed canons, so mish-mash would be most accurate but most people say medieval so I guess that's accurate enough but stuck there would not be the right verb for it; Caitlin Sweet's Pattern Scars, which is in a secondary world analogous to ancient Byzantium, but since it drifts into medieval and even Renaissance here and there, I'd say you could make it medieval-adjacent mish-mash; R. Scott Bakker's category bestselling Prince of Nothing trilogy -- got the last book on that one which I kind of ended up liking the best, and it is a medieval secondary world, but very early medieval since it's borrowing from the historical First Holy Crusade; and Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords, a secondary world one which could be medieval, ancient period or early Renaissance -- don't know yet because it's on the TBR pile at the moment.
So what we're really talking about is secondary world fantasy, which always seems to worry people so much. Secondary world fantasy takes up about 40 percent of the market. The Middle Ages was a thousand year time period in Earth's history -- 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D., in which quite a lot happened and so the beginning of the period is very different from the later period. Before the Middle Ages, there were thousands of years of the Ancient period, and after the Middle Ages, there was the Renaissance, which lasted from the late 1400's to 1700 approximately. Then the Enlightenment, which was basically the late 1600's to early 1800's and then what is usually called the Victorian Age, which is the rest of the 1800's, after which we get into specific decades.
If you're doing a secondary world or portal or multiverse fantasy, you're not really bound in any way by Earth's history or possible futures from the predictive past. But secondary world authors usually are borrowing folklore and bits of historic culture and then twisting them into something else. They tend to mix those cultures up. For instance, it's rare that you get a medieval type secondary world where the majority of people are bare legged or wearing tights or leggings, as they did in most areas throughout the Middle Ages. Instead, they wear pants (long trousers,) which didn't become standard until the 1600's, though the equivalent of pants was worn in the East and in northern climes.
And what also happens is that the secondary world is often based on ancient cultures, or the Renaissance when fire arms were in various stages of development, and yet these books will be called medieval, even if they are much closer to The Three Musketeers or Ben Hur than King Arthur. I've had people tell me China Mieville's New Crobuzon books are a medieval setting, despite the trains and clockwork where Mieville mixes 1700's, 1800's and 1930's noir. There seems at least to be a psychological perception around the sword, that swords are medieval, and that palaces are always medieval castles.
Certainly there is room for more contemporary secondary worlds, although some of these get mistaken for alternate Earths instead. While a lot of authors interested in playing with the Victorian and colonial eras opt to write historical and alt history fantasy stories instead of secondary worlds, we do have some and we'll likely have more -- Sean Russell's Moontide and Magic Rise series, Jonathan Stroud's YA Bartimaeus trilogy, etc.
It's also true that gun powder is good at killing monsters and so there is a favoritism of having pre-industrial and often firearms free cultures in secondary worlds. But most of human history was pre-industrial and lacked firearms.
February 4th, 2012, 09:57 PM #22
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you know it could be possible that you just can't distinguish between the middle ages and many other similar time periods. and that's not necessarily a criticism at you, it can be hard.
February 4th, 2012, 11:01 PM #23
I agree that a lot of fantasy seems stuck in not only the middle ages but are also Anglo-European centric. Martin, Salvatore, Erikson, Bakker, and Cook, among others, have made this setting popular. But like others have pointed out, there is a lot of different fantasy out there. For fantasy that defies categorization, consider The Golden Compass, Dan Simmons' Ilium or Mythago Wood. Perhaps a better question may be why aren't other kinds of settings more popular? I am particularly interested in bringing back into vogue secondary world/fantasy (and just to clarify here, so I don't get any annoying nitpickers after me, I refer here to a secondary world which is very clearly NOT based on Earth-type myths; I am talking more of the kind of thing made popular by Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter series) and not just for pin-up calendars.
Last edited by EMMAXIS; February 4th, 2012 at 11:07 PM.
February 4th, 2012, 11:53 PM #24
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February 6th, 2012, 01:37 AM #25
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February 6th, 2012, 07:38 AM #26
February 6th, 2012, 10:26 AM #27
I don't know if this was addressed yet, I didn't read every comment.
Most books are set in medieval times because of the existence of magic. Most would agree that the existence of magic supersedes the need for technological advancement. Therefore if you have magic, and sustain magic, your society would not evolve like most modern societies would. And as many books have tried to portray, once magic goes away technology starts thriving, and vice-versa. Obviously this is fiction and one can write however they want. But if you want to apply LOGIC to the situation, then logically this is the reason most are medieval. But as many here have said, there are tons that are modern, post modern, or anything else.
February 6th, 2012, 12:26 PM #28
For many settings, there's little reason why magic would superseded or inhibit technological/scientific progress. It might change the emphasis, but for most settings, magic is not for the masses.
You rarely see, for example, magic used to mine iron, refine it, and craft it into armor and weaponry, let alone shovels, woodaxes, or cooking pots. You might get one Sword of Ultimate Power from magic, but if you want a functional society, you still need regular mining, smelting, and metalcraft.
Part of the problem is that modern people see science and technology as rarefied arts that only 10% of the population deals with. Likewise, we see pre-modern people as uneducated. But lots of technology is required to solve basic problems.
How do I irrigate a large amount of land?
How do I provide a city with enough water?
How do I build a wall to protect that city?
How do I build a boat to travel somewhere else?
How do I navigate that boat when I'm on the water?
How do I make my cows bigger so I have more meat to eat?
How do I preserve extra food?
How do I get drunk/high?
How do I make a road cross a large body of water?
Most settings don't use magic to solve these problems. And a setting where magic and magic users were ubiquitous enough to solve them consistantly would look very different from medieval Europe.
February 6th, 2012, 12:45 PM #29
But is it so bad to be stuck in medieval times? I still enjoy books that revolve around that era.
To me, I seem to run across books with more of a renaissance feel to them than medieval. But if I go into a Barnes & Noble, there sure seems to be a large variety of fantasy themes compared to what I may have found in a bookstore 10-20 years ago.
Fantasy appears to be representing itself well when I look at Best Sellers or recommended reading lists.
February 6th, 2012, 04:59 PM #30Originally Posted by Pugio
romantic notions of fighting someone face-to-face.
Originally Posted by hippokrene