1. FireWater

    FireWater Contributing Member

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    Why is everyone so quick to make fantasy either urban steampunk or medieval? There's so much more.

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by FireWater, Jul 8, 2017.

    Why is it that when people mention fantasy, there's an automatic assumption that it takes place in a Medieval era with towers, kings/queens, horseback armies, wizards, dragons, etc?

    I understand that there's the appeal to use inspiration from a past era to get rid of modern plot-inconveniences like technology, internet, law enforcement equipped to handle anything, easy travel etc. But why does it always, in some people's minds, only have to be THAT era? Unless you specifically state "urban fantasy" or "modern YA fantasy" or something, people just default straight to a setting like LOTR or Game of Thrones.

    Why isn't there more done with WWII-history, or Civil War history or a hippie 1969 vibe, but with wizards and dragons in those worlds? Or in Medival times, but focused on the peasants in huts instead of the castle-dwellers, with no wizards and dragons but a totally new type of fantasy creature altogether?

    Fantasy is literally the broadest genre, because its only requirement is a deviation from the limits of what exists. It's stupid and narrow-minded to think that it has to be either steampunk modern urban fantasy, or medieval dungeon and dragon fantasy, with no other options.

    (I realize Pan's Labyrinth is one great example of a fresh approach, but that's just one)

    EDIT TO ADD:
    I am not knocking medieval fantasy or urban fantasy in themselves, and enjoy stories in both those genres. I'm just knocking the broadness of why all fantasy stories overall seem to be grouped into those huge clusters all the time.
     
  2. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because many people grew up with those settings, it's natural to them, and they enjoy it.

    Also, infinite options are stifling, not freeing. How do you choose what to do when you can do literally anything? Having these kinds of stock settings helps people actually get writing
     
  3. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Contributing Member

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    Because... it suits fantasy as a genre? Urban fantasy exists because it's fun to explore how our own culture would grapple with magic, superhuman abilities or fantastical creatures. I think writers have a hard time putting themselves in the mindset of early-modern people, who just were in the process of figuring the world out - so their stories are set either in the age of supreme romance or the age of supreme cynicism.

    If you're really desperate, try The Edge Chronicles, Seventy-Two Letters, The Tales of Alvin Maker, or Updraft.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
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  4. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned

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    That's a cop-out.
    If a writer is so lacking in imagination that they resort to the books of their childhood, they ought not be writing fantasy.
     
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  5. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned

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    I so agree with every last word of this!
    Except that I think it's completely acceptable to knock writers, the timid and unimaginative, that tread the already well trodden ground of medieval/urban fantasy. If I hear one more writer talk about "elemental magic", or the amazing new "magic system" they've concocted, I'll scream bloody murder. It's not intimate, not engaging, not even a little bit.

    Pan's Labyrinth is a perfect example of fantasy with balls.
     
  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Why? I enjoy murder mysteries. Are you saying that if I'm so lacking in imagination that I write murder mysteries, the thing that I enjoy, I ought not to be writing?

    (Admittedly, I'm not writing a murder mystery, but I think that the point still remains.)
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Oh where to start with this one. :P Contributor

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    Interesting idea. Hitler riding a Werehorse into battle would be pretty damn funny.
    Or replace all the tanks with dinosaurs? :p
    WWII Fantasy could be entertaining, as long as magic
    doesn't pervert the crap out of it.
    50's style Fantasy setting would gain a niche audience,
    as there are a large portion of people who are obsessed
    around the style and culture of the time period (even if
    most of them have never actually lived in the 1950s).

    You might be on to something here.
     
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  8. rktho

    rktho Five WIPs are more efficient than one

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    Has anyone seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Fantasy in 1920s New York. Your comment about WWII fantasy put that in my mind, even though WWII wasn't during the 1920s.

    Also, there's a fantasy franchise set in space that's the most popular franchise ever-- Dune. No, just kidding, it's Star Wars. But Dune is also fantasy in space. You would think Star Wars is science fiction, but with the mystical Force, use of medieval antiquities (princesses, laser swords, knights, monks (Jedi), samurai (also Jedi), ronin (Sith), witches (look up the Nightsisters), and empires) and their disregard for physics (fiery explosions in space, ships falling down when they are destroyed, faster-than-light travel with few logistics considered, etc) place them in the fantasy category, and that was intentional on George Lucas' part. He also based the prequels on Roman History; the Roman senate was manipulated to turn the Roman Republic the Roman Empire the same way Palpatine formed the Galactic Empire.

    I wouldn't mind more fantasy like that.
     
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  9. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like to write fantasy but I sometimes worry that I'm not what people are expecting. As a huge fan of John Collier's Fancies and Goodnights - that's more my style of fantasy. 'Real world' clashing with absurdities and the real world made absurd. I've written about a girl trapped in a garden with worms that make vases. And abused robots. And men that turn into fish creatures, and new prisons set up in underground chasms and caves, and suspicious meteors that spread seeds that grow beasts in a farmers field, and girls turned into plastic toys, and a family in the future that digs up a sex doll in their garden. It's very hard finding a category when I self publish.
     
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  10. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I for one am glad GRRM didn't think like you...

    But that actually reminded me of something Stephen King said about The Dark Tower: that he wanted to write his own "Lord of the Rings", but he just couldn't make medieval fantasy work. The moment he tapped into western and American fantasy staples like The Wizard of Oz, the story started flowing. I thought that was quite interesting.

    I like reading and writing medieval fantasy and steampunk, and I'm glad people keep doing that so hopefully I'll never run out of material to read. :D There are so many variations and twists you can give to these familiar settings. And it's not just with books: also TV shows, movies, games (Soulsborne particularly, cos you get both medieval fantasy AND steampunk/flintlock fantasy, wheee!).

    Having said that, I don't write strictly ASOIAF-ish stuff myself. I like drawing fantasy elements from my own culture just to mix it up a bit, and I'd recommend new writers to explore ways to expand on these familiar worlds and settings.
     
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  11. I.A. By the Barn

    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    !!!!!READ IT!!!!!!!!! aahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! its my favourite series!!!!!!!

    I love writing steampunkish stuff, i love reading both steampunk and medieval, but writing medieval? noope. too annoying tbh, the way they're expected to talk.
    At the moment i'm writing 18th century based fantasy (think Pirates of the Caribbean) because it is such an easy time period to slip fantasy into. You're a lonesome sailor, of course mermaids are gonna be enticing. Its a world where half the world is fairly new, and some parts still undiscovered and ships are pretty damn fast. Its such a fun thing, and I really do wonder why less things are set then....
     
  12. xanadu

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Speaking only for myself here...

    I mostly write slice of life, real-world, modern-day stories. Not really sure why, but it's always been my thing. Recently, though, I've gotten kind of bored and I've begun to explore adding fantasy elements to my stories. Kind of mixing Neil Gaiman-esque stuff with some of the supernatural slice-of-life manga and light novels I've been reading lately (Devil is a Part-Timer!, Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, etc). So "urban fantasy" fits really well with that niche.

    I don't have much of an interest in writing anything not based in modern, real-world settings, whether they have fantasy elements or not.

    But that's just me.
     
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  13. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Contributing Member

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    Goshdarnit, I knew there was something I'd forgotten.

    Well, it's good to see someone on here has adequate levels of enthusiasm. :rolleyes:
     
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  14. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I found a Reconstruction-era fantasy Western that I want to read so bad, but my library doesn't have it :(
    Then I won't tell you how the elemental magic system in my Urban Fantasy WIP's world works :twisted:
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I remain mildly stunned by the fact that my Highly Flavored Novel is fantasy. I suspect it's part of the Highly Flavored requirement--I'm not actually interested in magic-and-stuff, but if I'm creating the world I can do what gives me maximum flavor in the moment. And I like having the opportunity to grab some odd little cultural/sociological oddity that I've read about and tuck it in.

    Of course, now I'm feeling obligated to do research about what kinds of windows are in ships, because I don't want to feel totally stupid, and a ship's window is the center of the current scene.
     
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  16. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unworthy in the eyes of the LORD Contributor

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    I'm not too much into fantasy, but I think that's because I've read far too much wannabe Tolkien in my life. If I even see the word "elf," I'm likely to throw the book out the window, which is expensive since I mostly read on my tablet these days. However, for some excellent alternatives to traditional fantasy, check out Manly Wade Wellman's "John the Balladeer" series, set in the Ozarks (Ozarks? something like that), slightly post-WWII. They're full of hedge-witches and the creatures that troubled the Native Americans long before the white man arrived.

    Next bet, and this straddles the nexus of urban fantasy, sci-fi, and espionage thriller are The Laundry Files books by Charles Stross. Demons are real, but they're from the universe next door, and they can be accessed with advanced mathematics. The Nazis knew that, and some of their greater atrocities were an attempt to summon extradimensional help...
     
  17. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributing Member Contributor

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    I loathed Fantastic Beasts purely because of the setting. If anything, I'd argue it was less imaginative than your standard medieval fantasy (which the regular Harry Potter wasn't all that far off). The film didn't really do much with the setting, except mention the depression and attempt fitting accents.
    You could take every plot point and transpose it into 1066, or 2066, and nothing would change. You'd have to jiggle dialogue around and change the visuals, but when the story focuses mostly of stuff which is totally disconnected from reality and the wizards just magic away everyone's memory at the end, there's no punch or character to the setting.

    The ultimate point is this: setting is only as good as the rest of the writing, and a shit book set anywhere will still be shit.
     
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  18. TheDankTank

    TheDankTank Member

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    Dude, having dragons and stuff in a WW1 era world would be so fecking cool.


    I'll be back in a year or so.
     
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  19. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unworthy in the eyes of the LORD Contributor

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  20. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Check out Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. ;)
     
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  21. rktho

    rktho Five WIPs are more efficient than one

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    What if you wrote PREHISTORIC FANTASY? Cavemen with shaman mages and their cave paintings can come to life or something magical, and the cavemen hunt dragons for their hides, make weapons from their horns and claws, and lure them into traps using dead mammoths as bait. Imagine non-human cavemen-- cave dwarves who almost never come out of their caves, cave elves that are the best hunters and run faster than deer, cave orcs who only raid from other tribes and slaughter them while riding saber-tooth tigers or dire wolves-- basically, take your run of the mill fantasy world and write what it would be like if there were no castles, no feudal system, no politics (beyond intertribal relations and rites within individual tribes,) no horse travel since they haven't been domesticated yet, no money or jewels (although dwarves and dragons would find them in their natural state and maybe the dwarves could worship gold and jewels,) no supreme Dark Lord like in every other Tolkienian fantasy, especially since empires and kingdoms don't exist yet-- take away everything medieval and make the story only work with tribal cavemen, so you couldn't rewrite it in another setting. Maybe you could provide origins for those fantasy races-- do elves and dwarves hate each other for evolutionary reasons developed in this primitive age? Do dragons' tendency to attack villages stem from evicting humans and dwarves from potential lairs, so now they try to smoke them out of their towns even though they don't live in caves anymore? Did a certain race play a part in bringing a prehistoric species to extinction? Did one race evolve from something else-- like elves and dwarves evolving from humans, perhaps? Write the origin story of the typical fantasy world-- not an origin story plot, but have the state of the world tell the story of how it came to be what we envision as a fantasy world today.
     
  22. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributing Member

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    There are no fantasy races in it, but Chronicles of Ancient Darkness is set in a pre-agricultural age, I'm afraid I left my copies with my folks because I have limited space in the flat but that might be of interest.
     
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  23. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Active Member

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    This is giving me stuff to think about. I'm writing Fantasy and trying to set all my books in the same world, but at different points. My current one is possibly Medieval? Possibly a bit earlier? What would that be exactly, when the civilization is moving towards the 'kings and castles' stuff but isn't quite there yet? But I always have intended to explore other 'time periods' in my other novels.
     
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  24. Dracon

    Dracon Contributing Member

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    I still need to read The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky. That's Bronze Age Fantasy, so I believe. I am writing something more mid-to-late antiquity. There is no magic or fantasy creatures; simply a fictional world and characters. I am also disappointed by the lack of ancient fantasy books to refer to. Then again, it's quite exciting for me to write, because it's the sort of story that I would want to read.
     
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  25. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned

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    I guess that would be determined by what kind of mystery you're writing... are there any talking animals in the mystery, or vampires?;)

    Oh, and I'd also like to make another point... please, everyone, can we at least agree that modern fantasy stories shouldn't include talking animals?
    That said, I do have a talking animal in my story. Her name is Josephine; a magpie.

    She enters my story thusly--

    Rosemarie shut the doors behind her, and entered the brightly lit apartment; an enormous oak table strewn with the instruments of the tailor’s trade took up the center of the room; on the far corner of which sat an elaborate birdcage, home to the second floor’s most thieving, and untidy resident; an acquisitive black and white magpie that welcomed each visitor with the aplomb of a Bombay pickpocket.


    Maybe it's just me, but I think everyday creatures can be magical in their own right.
     

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