Middle Ages, Dark Ages and pre-modern "straight" fantasy

Philip.Belben at pgen.com Philip.Belben at pgen.com
Fri Aug 11 11:50:21 EDT 2000

> In a message dated 8/11/00 5:30:10 AM, Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk writes:
> << I'd like to see some straight fantasy with a world technologically and
> culturally at least as modern as ours.  >>
> But then it would be called "Urban Fantasy". Actually it is "classic", "epic"
> fantasy which seems to be legally required to be set in some vaguely medeavil
> era. i.e., Tolklones.

Tolklones?  Like it!  Although the earliest was way pre-Tolkien.  Start with
William Morris and work backwards from there...

But the big question is, WHY?  Why should epic fantasy have a pre-industrial

And...  Urban fantasy?  Why should it be called Urban unless it specifically
relates to cities?  For that matter, why should Urban fantasy be modern in

There is good urban fantasy around, with worlds ranging from just like ours
(Fritz Leiber, Our Lady of Darkness, although I don't really see this as an
alternative world) to totally different (I have a book in mind, but can't
remember either the author or the title.  Sorry)

A good example of modern fantasy that is not urban is Simak, The Goblin
Reservation.  This has considerable overlap with SF (where it's more likely to
be filed) but I consider it a good example of future fantasy.

> Er, "pre-modern" hardly implies a mere 80 or so years back. That term sounds
> more like another way of  saying pre-industrial, actually.

Argh!  Why not???  (Sorry, nothing personal, I am just questioning assumptions
that I consider unwarranted.  Hence the repetitive Why? Why? Why? in my post)

By your logic, this makes Magicians of Caprona an urban fantasy, simply on the
basis of its modern setting.  I won't dispute this - it is set in a city, after
all - but it's not what most people mean when they say urban fantasy!

More to the point, it is not "epic" fantasy.  But I wasn't thinking of the epic
genre - as dealt with in the Tough Guide - when I was reading Melissa's post.
Indeed, I would put the defining properties of "epic" fantasy as "most tours are
organised as a quest" and "you have to visit every d---ed place on the map,
whether marked or not"

> only one. (I gather that Dalemark is set in an incomplete analog of this
> world's 17th century Netherlands, and Ingary seems very similar, although

I had wondered about Dalemark and Netherlands - Holand (Holland in True State of
Affairs) is a strong clue.  But geographically it actually bears strong
resemblance to GB - The Flate (Somerset Levels), the Marshes (Fens) and the
Dales (Derbyshire = South Dales, Yorkshire = North Dales) are all in the right
places, for a start.  Interestingly, both GB and NL have groups of islands off
the coast _far_ to far north to be the Holy Islands!  (Although the names of the
islands are very Scottish)

> perhaps 18th century and farther south is closer.) And someone already

Ingary.  Time first - I would have put it earlier than Dalemark, don't know why.
Well, perhaps not earlier than True State of Affairs, but earlier than the
Restoration.  But I think it combines a lot of features of far more modern
states - the relative freedom of women to serve apprenticeships and run
businesses for a start!  Not to mention the similarity of Sophie's clothes in
the two worlds.

Place.  This may be the key, since I think the evidence points to a world
totally different from ours.  My brother and I discussed this at some length a
couple of years ago; we didn't reach any firm conclusions, but we agreed it had
to be different.  Notable features:

The Waste - which appears to connect with the hot desert region north of
Rashpuht - has no analogue in Europe.

Bluebells - which dominate the woodland scene in Ingary - in our world, only do
so in GB.  The two plants that go by that name (in Scotland, a plant known in
England as the Harebell; in England, a sort of Hyacinth) have no real
competitors for their woodland floor niche at the times of year they grow.  The
usual explanation is that most of these plants were driven off the island in the
ice age, and none of the competitors made it back across the Channel.

I would postulate that the Waste, together with a mountain range (probably that
which makes neighbouring High Norland high) have kept Ingary isolated in much
the same way.

Climate - Ingary seems to have a British climate, but it is quite close to the
Waste.  I postulated a cold current, like that off the coast of California, that
makes it that much cooler than places even a short way inland.  ISTR a desert
conveniently placed not far from California, too...

> Very interesting about the effects of technology outstriping science. We tend
> to think of the two as synonymous, and they aren't at all.

Isn't it?  I fear this may happen again in the 21st century, too...


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