Middle ages, Dark Ages and Premodern straight fantasy

Ven ven at vvcrane.junglelink.co.uk
Tue Aug 22 20:50:01 EDT 2000

Hi Everyone,
       sorry about the repeated message (again) if I ever catch me or 
my computer doing it I'll know how to stop it happening.............

I started this mail ages ago, then my computer decided it wouldn't 
talk to its new monitor after all and I rather lost momentum.
I'm having trouble articulating what I wanted to say about epic or 
high fantasy but this is how the mail started.

Philip said

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

Its a good question and I'd like to propose a different kind of 
answer. The first part I've cribbed from the encyclopedia of fantasy, 
ed John Clute and John Grant (I should mention again that DWJ 
was a contribuitor and at times it reads like the intellectual cousin 
of the Tough Guide). The encyclopedia contains entries about the 
themes and motifs of fantasy  as well as authors and works.

"A fantasy text is a self-coherent narrative which when set in our 
reality, tells a story which is impossible in the world as we perceive 
it; when set in an otherworld or secondary world, that otherworld 
will be impossible, but stories set there will be possible in that 
otherworld's terms." 

This is not intended as a closed definition, as Clute says fantasy is 
a fuzzy set,  something you know  when you see it. In the entry 
called Fantasyland he deals with that place in which genre fantasy 
is set. He says it displays features from a more or less fixed set of 
landscape ingredients (see Tough Guide) and goes on to say that 
the plot in High Fantasy interacts with the landscape in a particular 
way. He means by this the way in which the land suffers from 
fading or thinning, or weather chaos or unhealthy growth.    

This is as far as I'd got. Now I'm going to go straight for my 
intended conclusion. The setting of High Fantasy is in a world but 
not on a planet. I came to this via a world I'm designing for role 
playing. I wanted to set something in that place where the 
technology is so advanced that it is indistinguishabe from what we 
call magic and use plot elements from epic fantasy. Its an isolated 
colony world where the technology has run wild and created a large 
area of dangerously out of control nano- and bio- tech called the 
Blight. Basically its a place of dangerous transformation, where 
nothing can be trusted to be as it seems. So I have the landscapse 
as integral to plot stuff. However as soon as I decided I was using a 
planet as my setting everything changed and it became undeniably 
science fiction.

Fantasies may be set on planets, obviously, its something to do 
with what the people in the world know of that world. Once there's 
the idea of spinning through space around a sun the world is finite 
and knowable. Its a different paradigm (meta model), not at odds 
with fantasy,  just with high fantasy. This is probably very relevant 
to the subject that started all this off --   
the role of universities in fantasy.

These are ideas in desperate need of feedback, very much IMHO.

While I'm here, totally off topic, I'm very delighted with the www at 
the moment. Via the web site and chatroom for an obscure folk 
rock band me and my school friends used to follow, we're all 
getting back in touch after our post school diaspora.

                            Yours in a shrinking world

You are trapped in that bright moment where you learned your doom.
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