1. Shuvam Das
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    Shuvam Das Member

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    Why are all epic fantasies medieval?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Shuvam Das, Jun 15, 2015.

    When we think about epic fantasy, be it adult or YA, our mind is automatically flooded with a medieval setting. I don't exactly have anything against Medieval Fantasy, but I don't understand why authors always only create medieval worlds. I'm trying to write a YA Epic Fantasy, based in a world I'm building. But I'm making it based on the contemporary world. Of course it's not just that. There's also another part of it which is an urbanized form of hell.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to know whether authors only create Medieval worlds after all, or if I've just never read any such novel. If it's the latter, I'd be indebted to you all if you could suggest any such novel for a read.

    And by the way, I'm aware of all those dystopian novels, but I wouldn't call that contemporary, or anything close to it.
     
  2. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well the urban fantasy genre is set in modern times, though it's mostly actually set in the real world.

    If you're looking for secondary worlds with a contempory setting, some of China Mievilles falls into that category. ( possibly the rest of the new weird sub genre too - though I get confused by the definitions of fantasy's different sub genres)

    Or if world war II tech mixed with magic counts, then Terry Ervin, one of the published authors who frequents these forums has written it. (I should get round to reading his stuff one day)
     
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  3. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Modern epic fantasy is rooted in our conceptions of fairy tales, folk legends, and magic - which a lot of people associate with the Middle Ages before the dawn of the Enlightenment because that's where a lot of those stories originate (especially the Arthurian legend). And yes, that's a very Western and specifically British concept - but we live in an age where the Europeans were the were the dominant literary force for a long time - and frankly the sort of linear "magic system" speculative fanstasy concept is a very European/British idea of magic where people have control of it - whereas the Latin American tradition of magical realism is not so rooted in that idea, and the magic is unpredictable and controls the people. That's about showing how out of control we are as opposed to the more European notion of wizards dominating systematized magic.

    The other, more basic root of it is Tolkein himself. J.R.R. Tolkein pretty much invented contemporary epic fantasy as a concept, and many people writing in the genre either start from his base, or start from bases who were themselves starting from a Tolkeinian base. Which is not to say there aren't non-medieval fantasies - I've heard of Victorian fantasies, Asian-based fantasies, and African-based fantasies. But epic fantasy as a genre is rooted in the Tolkeinian British medieval template, which is itself embedded in the Arthurian template of epic British stories.
     
  4. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Epics are all medieval? Uhhh...What do you call The Iliad and The Odyssey?
     
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  5. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    You're probably just thinking of High Fantasy, which simply dominates the market due to its popularity stemming from Tolkien, and more recently people like Rothfuss, Abercrombie and George RR Martin.

    There are other fantasy genres out there, they're just shadowed by the immense success of High Fantasy.

    I don't particularly like his books, but Martin Millar has written contemporary urban fantasy stories about cliched anorexic girls and antisocial fire sprites, and you can find all manner of crappy vampire books like Incubus Dreams by Laurel K Hamilton (Oh, sorry, I haven't actually read it, but the first few pages got me pulling my fur out)
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I would have to add sci-fi to that list. What I want to know is why do all these epics involve war? There is no war in my sci-fi. Social ills, yes, plenty of them, but they aren't fixed by a war.
     
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  7. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    My sf involves a war >.> In fairness it's not one that 'fixes' anything; it and the preceding preceding war are widely agreed to've only made things worse, as wars are wont to do. I think wars are a popular plot device because people tend to think they're a way of fixing things, beating the bad guys, etc. I wonder how Americentric an idea that is? Plus it gives you a default vast, epic sort of setting and it's something that's familiar on some level to most people (as sad as that is).

    Anyway, yeah, I think most semi-modern epic fantasy being medieval can be blamed on Tolkien. You can hold him accountable for the prevalence of elves and dwarves as humans' contemporaries, too. Honestly, I wonder how much the term 'epic fantasy' is at this point defined by a pseudo-medieval setting? If it's not medieval can you really call it 'epic' or does it have to be 'urban'? How do we even define 'epic', really. Idk. This may or may not be a totally useless post, sorry.
     
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm not saying someone shouldn't write about epic battles and great wars, or not so great wars. Readers love that stuff. :agreed:

    I'd just like more options for non-warring sci-fi.
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Inertia.

    You yourself mention "When we think about epic fantasy .... our mind is automatically flooded with a medieval setting." What we think of, what comes to mind when a word or term gets used, isn't necessarily in sync with the reality of the thing. Lots of folks who don't or won't read Science Fiction think that Star Wars is representative of the genre, ergo, it is the genre in the minds of those who don't know the genre better.

    I can think of lots of epic fantasies that have nothing to do with medievalism. Clive Barker has tons of epic fantasies that don't answer the medieval call, and so does China MiƩville. The question becomes: Does the default medieval picture that pops into our mind even allow us to call Clive Barker's Imajica epic fantasy? Do we read China MiƩville's Bas Lag novels and think "Yes, clearly elements of fantasy and the story is quite epic, spread across three dense novels, but that's not epic fantasy because... well... because... that's not what I think of when I think of epic fantasy!"

    The signifier becomes the signified. The word becomes the thing. Is it there and you don't see it because it won't answer to what you call it? I know that there is an ocean of epic fantasy that has not a jot of the medieval, but I was never an ardent fan of the Tolkien style, so for me, it doesn't define.
     
  10. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    The most popular fantasy you've ever seen or heard of happens to take place in out of space.

    And don't think I didn't see that @Wreybies, we'll talk about it more later.
     
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  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Trala. :bigtongue: See? Someone was paying attention. :whistle::agreed::-D
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The question I have is "Why are so many fantasy fans so poorly read in the genre?" Only explanation for repeatedly seeing some variation on this question.
     
  13. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think that people who have only read say Lord of the Rings, ASOIAF, the Belgariad, and Wheel of Time have still read so many words that many still feel like they are seasoned fantasy readers.
     
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  14. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you're 18, you know everything. If, when you're 21, you still know everything, you're still only 18.

    I think that the poorly-read fantasy fans are 18.
     
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  15. Shuvam Das
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    Shuvam Das Member

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    Yeah, I agree. Fantasy shouldn't always be epic length. Standalone fantasy novels are an endangered species.
     
  16. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Dungeons and dragons has a lot to answer for
     
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  17. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Not sure if it's epic fantasy but Piers Anthony is the author that pops into mind when I think fantasy, and it ain't no medieval fantasy.

    Specifically Blue Adpet et al. Xanth from memory.
     
  18. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could create a story that's a blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy, where the nobles live in large stone castles, defended by robotic knights in shining armour. Wizards wield the power of science, having crafted their devices into small, wand-like casings.

    Finally, there's not a human to be seen, as the whole thing takes place on another planet.
     
  19. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Looks like someone didn't read the OP properly. They said 'epic fantasy', if it was an epic, as in an epic poem, then you might have a point. But so few people read epics these days. Certainly in a setting the author does not literally think is real.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2015
  20. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    What is not fantasy about The Odyssey? Every aspect of it is fantastical. If it had never been written, and an author today were to write The Odyssey, you don't think it would go under the "fantasy" section of a bookstore?
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    You missed the distinction between the two words 'epic' and 'fantasy'. They aren't the same thing, even if you take them separately as Epic as in epic poem and fantasy as in JRR Tolkien.

    Homer's work would ... I don't know, be classed as magical realism if wrote today? Or low fantasy? Not epic fantasy or high fantasy. They are set in another world, while Homer's epics are very much set in our world. And has an extension (guess what) that describes the Trojanizing of Italy. Now, what does that lead to I wonder? ;)
     
  22. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    [double post]
     
  23. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    The problem is, it is set in our world, but I've noticed a dinstict lack of harpies, sirens, giant gods who pop down every so often, invincible men, cyclops, and magic demi-goddesses, and going to hell to meet up with your old mates.

    "a genre of imaginative fiction involving magic and adventure, especially in a setting other than the real world."

    Granted you mentioned settings other than the real world, but I think most atheists (and certain religions) can agree Hell is not a real place. I mean the rest of his works have historical backing, Lotus-Eaters existed, Troy happened... But I'd still say it's quite high fantasy.
     
  24. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Shuvam Das You should read The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (first book: Storm Front). Don't let the blandness of the TV adaptation fool you, these books are the single most epic urban fantasy that I have ever read in my life.

    Harry Dresden is a fantastically sarcastic first-person narrator, he is fantastically flexible about finding non-magical solutions to magical problems and vice versa, and let's face it, if the series is capable of doing THIS halfway in
    [​IMG]
    and continuing to escalate the coolness from there, then you know the author is on to something :D:D:D:D:D
     
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  25. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    You have no idea what you are talking about. Something like Man in High Castle or Mr Strange and Mr Norrel is set in our world, a version that does not exist, but it is still our world. Something like Eragon or whatever isn't. Eragon or George RR Martin is the type of fantasy being discussed here.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2015
  26. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    Out of curiosity, would you also label the Divine Comedy an epic fantasy? I doubt Dante intended us to believe he literally engaged on his famous journey at the midpoint of our lives, but it was certainly meant to comment on things his audience held very much to be real.
     

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