1. TwistedHelix

    TwistedHelix Member

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    Fantasy - limitless but so limited on Earth objects.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by TwistedHelix, Jun 29, 2019.

    Hi All,

    My WIP is a fantasy (Yes, saturated I know). However, it is a technological fantasy - similar technology level to Earth right now, maybe with an exercise of 15-20 years more advanced.

    There are two groups of people; those without magic, and those with. Obviously, those without continued to develop technologies.

    There seem to be few works of fiction that slam these two together - with most authors preferring steampunk or such variants.

    My main issue is using Earth terminologies, and how it does indeed seem jarring. The world is not Earth, the magic system is truly on a grand scale, yet people are bustling around cities and driving in cars, and flying in planes etc. It does seem clunky at times.

    Some fantasy novels try to use clever wordplay, like "Ranger" for a car, or a "Transporter", etc, to give both familiarities but differences, in the hopes of offsetting the blatant Earth word car. Others go further and make an entire series of made-up words for everyday normal things.

    Both have their merits - though unless you get a cult-level readership, the entirely new language avenue rarely works; and many have pet-peeves on its usage.

    I guess this is where I rant. It's not fair. Fantasies have horses, an Earth creature, they have beer and wine. They have men and women. They have so many Earth animals, processes, and systems, that for most objects, people smile and read the next sentence. Add a car into the mix, and they check the front cover, frown, assure themselves they haven't had a stroke, and squish their nose in disgust.

    Those writing Earth-Other World fantasies can skip a fine line between this issue and get away with it. But when your first chapters are clearly a very alien world, but with similar Earth-like tech, people hate it. Yet for many fantasies, we accept alien worlds having our species, our customs, our drinks, food, animals, and government systems, flora, weather, and geology.

    But I don't get to put a bloody car in without a lot of raised eyebrows lol.

    Anyone ever come across tips and tricks on how best to ease readers into realising it is just like any other fantasy, with plenty of magic; they just also happen to have got past the horse and cart stage. I find fantasy has stagnated recently with everything constantly being set circa 16th century tech and has the same "crunch points"

    Will they arrive in time at a horses pace
    Will the message arrive in time for the beseige
    The new mad general has a weird contraption (Oh my god a catapult?!) to take over the big indestructible castle.

    All starts to get a bit samey.

    But a car chase with people flinging fireballs all over the joint - that's cool...Right?
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    There are a few.

    Shadowrun--a roleplaying game--had/has both science and technology.

    Babylon 5 had techno-mages.

    In the Dresden Files, yep.

    There are probably a bunch more that I'm not thinking of.
     
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  3. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Active Member

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    Is this not just a type of Urban Fantasy, or am I completely mistaken?
    I don't really see the problem of setting up such a world. You can make up words for your vehicles, but why do they need to have new words to begin with? An automobile is a familiar concept. It's not a stretch for a non-earth planet with similar technology to have similar vehicles. Perhaps, they are run on something other than petrol. Maybe they use magical crystals instead. Perhaps the technological half of the society has created a power cell that can harness a lightning bolt; but then relies on a magic user to create the lightning. You mention having a grand magical system; could you not use this as you incorporate vehicles into your world.

    If you have a novel length project you are working on, there is time to incorporate your vehicles however you see fit. It's your world after all... Perhaps you can have fun with it, and name your vehicle from an acronym.

    High fantasy yes, but is this what you are creating?


    Or perhaps I am missing your point...
     
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  4. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Am I correct in assuming you're talking about writing in a secondary world that has 21st century technology?

    Your best bet would probably be in ditching the notion that magic and technology have to be separate. Integrate them. Have train tracks laid along ley lines, with the engines harnessing magic instead of steam or internal combustion to move. Instead of gasoline and diesel, your cars and ships and planes run on the blood of a dead god. Instead of power plants, specially trained magicians conjure electricity. That sort of thing.

    As for the names of things, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Call a car a car. It's much less tiresome for your readers.
     
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  5. TwistedHelix

    TwistedHelix Member

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    I don't want to integrate magic and technology as the premise is non-magic users wan't to be independent to a source they have no power or control over. Similar to how we don't like being dependent on OPEC for oil and it is causing issues.

    If they rely on magic to power a train, why not just have a system where you have magic teleport "zones" that transport you? Why build an entire train to just use magic at the end. It makes no sense. They have to be separate for logical consistency - but many seem to reject this notion.

    I have no issue with magic and tech being combined by certain peoples being inventive, but I want there to be two separate societies operating under magic and technology. The issue is using Earth-like words on a non Earth planet. If after a few chapters of magic, you say the word "car" the feedback I have got is very negative - they were expecting pure fantasy. Even adding technology earlier in the novel gets negative feedback.

    As to high vs low fantasy, my understanding is high fantasy is a secondary world, whereas low fantasy is Earth based, or a similar Earth based model. My novel is a secondary world - just further along than horse and cart. It has similar themes and scope and size (or at least - I wish it to have that).

    My issue is fantasy has been kind of set in stone with certain expectations. People are happy to have a magical world set in medieval times with pretty much ALL Earth words for objects and people happily keep reading. As soon as you put a more advanced object Earth word in, suddenly it is "jarring".

    Most novels that have 21st century tech and magic are set on Earth - or an Earth character gets access to a secondary world and slips between the two.

    This one is an entirely new high fantasy world, but the non magical folk have advanced their technology beyond the usual horse and cart - but it seems to not go down too well.
     
  6. TwistedHelix

    TwistedHelix Member

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    It seems to be a purist issue. Most Sci-fi readers hate a space travel novel suddenly finding a dragon, and fantasy readers hate a dragon novel suddenly finding a space ship. Obviously, I have exaggerated to make the point there, but most novels lean to pure rather than hybrid formats. I blame decades of the same format being pumped out which has kind of cemented those formats as what the genre can accomplish. It is frustrating. Some popular novels manage to hybridise them, but they are far and few between.
     
  7. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Because teleportation magic requires much greater magical expertise or resources. Or there's a non-neglible risk that anything teleported might be lost forever in the dread dimension of Shadarkeem. Etc. You're creating the world, so you get to decide everything that can and can't happen in it.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Your question seems to assume that ALL problems are most easily solved by magic. But magic power for an engine might be much easier than a teleport.

    We don’t say, “If we rely on kiln-fired crockery for our plates, why use glass for our drinkware?” We don’t require that we solve all kitchen supply problems with the same thing—we use different technologies for different problems.
     
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  9. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    People build pictures in their heads, and things get jarring when something doesn't fit the image they expect. If you mention Amelia brushing her waist-length red hair on page 157, and up to this point it's not been mentioned so my mental picture of her has a little brown bob, it's going to be jarring for me.

    So the problem here isn't that you've got both cars and magic in the same world - many books manage this just fine - I'd guess it's that you haven't introduced the cars while your readers are still building their mental image of your world. Show that magic and technology exist together in the first couple of paragraphs and you'll probably find it's a lot easier. If you don't have magic and technology completely divided - that is, technology isn't magic-based but people who use magic will also use tech - then this could just be something like showing someone using a finding spell to work out where they left their smartphone.

    If you feel like the words specifically are the issue rather than the tech, is there any reason you can't just make it an alternate Earth?
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Erm ...the remake of Battlestar Galactica? At first it seemed okay, but then we 'learned' that the characters did not originally come from Earth at all, and Caprica was NOT a settlement of people who originally came from Earth. Yet there they were, calling each other 'hot dog,' driving jeep-like cars, eating sushi, drinking whisky, playing cards, worshipping Greek gods, etc. Irritated the hell out of me, although I hung in there, assuming there would be some explanation, eventually. There wasn't.

    Contrasting that show with something like Firefly? Firefly took place in a futuristic environment in space, but clearly had its stated origins in old Earth-That-Was. So Earth references in Firefly made sense. They didn't make sense in Battlestar Galactica. Sorry, but they didn't. It was a fantastic show in many ways, but I find it impossible to watch now, because of all the things about it that just don't make sense.

    I think technology or brand-name things connected to our culture can cause a problem with believability, if they are lifted from Earth, names included, and plonked into a setting that has no connection to Earth. I wouldn't have a problem with a 'horse' on another planet—horses (or something very similar) might well exist on another planet, having evolved from 'life' same as they did here—but I would have a problem with somebody eating a 'hamburger,' or using a Hoover, or driving a 'car.'
     
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  11. TwistedHelix

    TwistedHelix Member

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    This seems to be the most popular opinion. Sure, a horse like animal will evolve on another world probably - but they wouldn't call it a horse. Of course, the entire book is in English, including dialogue, despite not being based on Earth, but people accept that in order to tell a story some things are automatically forgiven. Horses are one of them. Cars are not. I am not suggesting this world has specifically a Tesla Model X. But they do have vehicles. I could use the word vehicle - but it is generic and doesn't flow naturally. If I have a society that has advanced its technology far, one assumes they would name said invention - I either adopt the Earth name, or my own name.

    Both strategies don't work, as many cringe at specifically technology based words in fantasy (and Sci-fi too I guess - not a fan of battlestar galactica) and don't forgive it as much as a horse - though I would argue this is primarily due to grandfather tolkein. Anything in his novels, is immediately accepted in all other fantasies. Use ANY other word or technology - and suddenly you have to use derivative naming or generic naming. I find it bizarre. Readers accept all Earth words and Earthly inventions up to about circa 1549, and as soon as you get even close to industrial revolution age you have to start using derivative naming, or the reader goes "ewww this makes no sense why do they call it an engine too?! while accepting the 400 other items in Earthen English.

    I have tried adding technology in very early - beta readers still say it is jarring and doesn't work well. It seems technology + magic just doesn't hybridise well, but it is unfortunate as it opens up so many avenues. Some novels do exist in this format, though many flop, and those that don't usually have a small cult folllwing. It is also a lot easier when it is based on Earth.
     
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  12. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Contributor Contributor

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    Hmmm. Isn't most fantasy set in OUR world, just another version of it? This seems to make sense why we'd more readily accept the earth terms, because it IS earth. Westeros and Middle Earth for example.
    So, whilst I don't have an answer for you I'd ask why it's set on a different planet and not just a modified version of ours? If it's only 20 years more advanced than us and has so many similarities that you're having a problem differentiating a 'car' from a 'generic four wheel vehicle' - why not just set the damn thing on earth? Are you going to need a new term for toaster too, and tumble dryer etc? The medieval settings of other fantasy have far less technology, so of course there is less of a problem there.

    Personally, I'd much rather read that Wizbit the Mighty slammed the door on his Honda Civic than slammed the door on his F.W.A.D (four wheeled automotive device). I don't mind the occasional explanation of new technology but it can get a bit much - very quickly - if EVERYTHING has to be explained. Thus we lose the story in the crevices of all this description that 'seems interesting' but isn't story. Get back to Wizbit shooting fireballs from his arse at the approaching Robo-horde for heavens sake, is the vehicle really that important?
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2019
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  13. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    You may not want to integrate them, but I think that lack of integration is the genesis of your problem. It results in the societies feeling so distinct that presenting them side by side in the same world is jarring. At least, that's the impression I'm getting from your posts.

    You can still get that desire to be energy independent in a setting with integrated magic-technology, especially since magic users are likely to form an elite class and countries with access to lots of magic resources will greatly influence international politics.

    As has been pointed out, you have 100% control over what magic can do in this world. Maybe teleportation via magic is outright impossible. Maybe it's theoretically possible, but nobody has figured out how to make it actually work. Maybe it's possible but very inefficient, especially for the mass transportation of cargo and people. The sky is the limit.

    I'm not sure Earth terminology is the problem in what you describe. If you start off with a few chapters of magic and then drop "car" on your readers, obviously they'll find it jarring. You've created the expectation in their minds that this is a standard fantasy story. Now, you mention adding tech earlier. How early? Because to me this feels like something that needs to be established within the first chapter. Maybe on the first page.

    There are a number of popular fantasy worlds in various media that have moved past medieval/Renaissance tech levels, so I'm beginning to wonder if maybe your beta readers are part of the problem. Some people just don't want to leave their comfort zone (traditional fantasy settings in this case). It may be time to find new beta readers who better represent your target audience.
     
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  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Our Earth's place in the Battlestar Galactica timeline is discussed in this page (the first relevant Google hit that I found, and since I can't seem to make it stop previewing, I'll wrap it in a spoiler):


    I don't have a problem with the culture of the show being so similar to ours. I suppose part of that may be my acceptance of the show's phrase, "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again." There are lots of theories that one could form about why
    we (the distant, distant descendents of the Battlestar Galactical characters) might have re-developed, even remembered, that past culture.

    And partly, I don't see any need for fantasy (and I see Battlestar Galactica as being science fantasy) to create everything fresh. There's a story to tell, and some things must be changed to make the story possible, but I don't see any need to change the rest. That would be a huge investment of creative energy, and for that matter of reader energy in identifying with the world, to, IMO, not much purpose. My fantasy WIP has not one fruit, vegetable, insect, or any other natural element that doesn't exist in our world.

    I have a similar feeling about the very modern idiomatic speech in Britannia. It was briefly a jolt for me, and I can easily see that many people might be bothered by it to the point of not being able to enjoy the story, but I had adjusted about half an episode in.
     
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  15. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    Is your WIP set in another world?
     
  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, it’s not Earth, but it would be hard to tell that while standing on any particular street corner. I could argue that it’s alternative-history Earth, but I’m also changing the geography.

    Edited to add: I’m trying to confine myself to 18th century Europe minus contact with America, in terms of technology and food. So far the minus-America part adds up to: No potatoes.
     
  17. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    I want to ask more questions, but I don't want to hijack the thread. Maybe another time.
     
  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    If you wanted to specifically ask me questions, my progress thread is a possible place.
     
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  19. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I agree that a case can be made, based around the 'everything that has happened before will happen again' thing. However, that resolution impaired my enjoyment of the show, because, quite frankly, I didn't believe it.
     
  20. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    You're making a lot of assumptions about what people like and don't like that do not seem to be in evidence. I recommend establishing the style of your setting early on do that readers won't have any surprises halfway through, but you should be good, so long as the reader knows what they are getting.
     
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  21. TwistedHelix

    TwistedHelix Member

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    No worries about thread hijacking - if tangents are made and people learn, that's great.

    Let me try to rephrase what I mean here.

    I am mostly at odds with terminologies and what readers seem to accept and not accept.

    Epic fantasy/high fantasy is never allowed to have technology beyond medieval days - why?
    All technology-based fantasy (or 99% of it) is steampunk or cyberpunk gimmick-laden - and usually uses different terminologies for effect, like "skyship" instead of Airplane, usually using derivative language rather than specific. I know people are arguing that if it isn't Earth - why use Earth naming, but my argument is they call their animals horses, castles are castles, villages are villages. It seems readers accept naming/nomenclature for everything BEFORE about 1600 ish. After that, when industry started kicking into gear - reader's don't accept Earth making/nomenclature - WHY?

    My assessments lead me to believe the reason why reader's do not accept Earth naming nearing industrial revolution onwards is because few forms of literature exist where fantasy/magic is mixed with that level of technology, and only recently has it been employed via steampunk and cyberpunk, which are very caricature-ish (in my view).

    Of course, the way around it is to make your own naming, the issue with this is few reader's have the capacity to adopt essentially a whole new list of nouns for a book they are not particularly invested in. Usually, these books are saved for established authors where the reader's know from their previous works, that the investment is worth it etc.

    I just get frustrated at how reader's accept Earth nouns for dozens/hundreds of medieval level objects and systems, but as soon as you make a non earth world 21st century level technology, you either need your own naming, or have to use derivative words like "automobile" instead of "car" etc. I get BRANDS - Sure. I don't expect the world of Edenfell to have a Bentley etc, but why not a "Car". Why can't we call skyscrapers, skyscrapers, but are allowed to call Castles, Castles.

    I know many have said "you can", but from my research, and the few novels it has been tried in - it never goes down well with many readers.

    It feels awkward having a character explain a car - as it feels like an "as you know" format. The character has been around cars all their life - as have the readers, but if I am not allowed to use the word "car" and must use my own or derivative, the reader won't know what it is until I inform them, and the "as you know" is inevitable.

    I appreciate that in a true abstract sense everything is on the table. What I am getting at is, all readers have a particular framework in which their preferred genre operates under, and that framework grows each decade as authors push the usual boundaries. I.e. fantasy used to just be Tolkein fan fics for the most part, until they diversified and made many more plot points. Many attempts failed - and it took very talented author's many years to "breach" that framework where reader's allowed certain things as "acceptable" within the genre. A strong rigid framework is an author never has to use much effort to build a medieval world - as most fantasies are set in those kinds of societies, and all naming and cultures akin to it are immediately accepted. Building a world different from this is exponentially harder, even if some aspects are still like Earths - because it jars the reader's framework of what they expect from fantasy.

    If it is Urban Fantasy on Earth readers accept cars.
    If it is Urban Fantasy not set on Earth, cars jar the reader, despite the fact that if other intelligent life does exist, the chances of them using a wheel based vehicle is highly likely.

    I find this frustrating.

    The length of this post is now rambling so...I shall end.
     
  22. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    I'll get to the rest of the post in a minute, but I'd like to point out this hasn't ever been true. There have always been influences in the genre other than Tolkien; Robert E Howard being probably the biggest.

    Turning to the primary topic, you say you've done research and the few novels that included more modern tech called by its earthly name failed. Can you name those titles?

    I ask because you say earlier on that "Epic fantasy/high fantasy is never allowed to have technology beyond medieval days", and this just isn't true. Off the top of my head, both Dishonored and the Wax & Wayne spinoff of Mistborn feature tech roughly analogous to the 19th century level. The second trilogy of the main Mistborn series will have a 21st century tech level.

    So I'm wondering if, perhaps, your sample size is simply too small. A lot of people make the similar complaint that fantasy is just medieval European settings, even though a little digging reveals that as untrue.

    Honestly, I don't think you should waste your time trying to appeal to a reader who is jarred by the existence of cars or skyscrapers in an internally consistent secondary world. Make it clear up front that this world isn't ours but has 21st century tech and magic, write it as well as you can, and let the chips fall where they may.
     
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  23. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    To further build on this, there's a large interim period that people just entirely forget the influence of in regards for fantasy. While people consistently tie DnD to Lord of The Rings, they totally ignore how much it was pulling from contemporary sources such as Jack Vance and Michael Moorcock.
    There's a weird blank space in a lot of people's minds for the fantasy genre between Tolkien and now, and I think a large part is that, despite these texts being massively influential, they were influential inside their circle and never received any sort of widespread media attention. Even just post Tolkien and Howard, there were already subgenres appearing around them, with one dubbed "Sword and Soul" that was written by black authors and aimed at readers of the same ethnicity. And all of this is ignoring the things that arguably could be defined as fantasy that were written beforehand. As for tech, Mistborn is a good series, I've only read the first one, but the technology seemed to be 17th century or so, with suits being a thing and large scale use of canals.
    Fantasy, while arguably a very new genre, has had massive developments in regards to different areas that then went on to influence other work.
     
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  24. Baeraad

    Baeraad Senior Member

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    I'll chime in to agree that I think the problem must be in your beta readers. It's true that fantasy settings with a modern-day level of technology are rare, but I have in fact seen one or two, and anyway a large part of fantasy is always that you have to start out figuring out what the rules are. If there are both cars and wizards casting spells, then that should be something a reader can just accept. The more hidebound may not, but I really can't imagine them not being in a minority.

    The only other possibility I can think of is that there is something in your presentation that jars. Do you think you might come across as vague in how you describe the world? That can be a problem for any non-real-world setting, but it's fixable - just make sure to establish the existence of cars and the existence of wizards at an early stage, preferably while giving some idea of how the two relate to each other (which in your case seems to mean establishing that there are two different groups of people who each live by their own rules, and one of them builds cars and the one of them casts spells).
     

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