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A Fantasy world turning modern



at first, the short question: Do you believe that Fantasy stories need to be set in a preindustrial world?
I'm asking this of course, because my current story is set in a world where the technology-level is similar to our own world. Some things don't exist for various reasons and magical stuff is added, but at first glance, there probably wouldn't be many visible differences.

Now the long version: I have three story ideas, set at various points of my world's history.
The first is a rather classical Fantasy story in a low-tech setting with a hero chosen by the Lerca (rulers of rivers, lakes and forests) has to defeat a Dark Lord-like character who wants to conquer the world. (Even though he's more in common with Alexander the Great or other real world conquerors than to say, Sauron.)
He's defeated however and his story becomes part of the mythology of the country suffering the most under him. In retro-perspective he is made much more monstrous than he actually was.
The hero starts a governing system with people who have inborn magic on top in his country. He also bans the use of elemental magic because this was what the Enemy used.
This works well for a few generations but some of those families heirs start to exploit their people later, and the system turns rather unjust and inflexible as centuries pass.

The second story is set during industrial revolution age, closes to late 19th/ealy 20th Century. The industrial revolution of my world is also a magical revolution which ends with the people with inborn gifts losing much of the respect given to them, while the elemental magical people gain power because scientific discoveries help them find new ways to use their powers. And lead them to question the moral guidelines imposed on them before.
The two most developed powers end up a in a long and terrible war, trying out all their new weapons on each other, be they technological, magical or a combination of both and take my poor Fantasy world to the brink of disaster.
The two countries at war are allied with or have colonised many of the other nations of my world, so they get also involved in this war and the consequences can still be felt at the time of the story in the most modern setting. One of the colonised countries is the home of the hero from the first story, where the nobles have accepted the foreign rule, as long as they're allowed to keep their privileges and send their men to die in the war.
This leads to a revolution that topples the nobles, after the colonising country has been defeated.

In the third story, set during modern times, the main characters is once again from this country which is now democratic in theory but still hasn't managed to get over strictly judging people by class and gender.
And it still doesn't allow elemental magic, which forces my main character to leave and seek help in the country that won the last war and is seen as the most powerful nation of Silaris now.
There she stumbles into the troubles between the elemental magicians who still haven't found a common new approach to dealing with their magic. There's a lot of fighting between them, with words and violence and my main character gets into much trouble but also helps them to rethink certain things due to her outsider perspective.
This story unlike the others doesn't have a large scale war in it but deals with the consequences of the wars that came before and the profound changes that have left many people without orientation.
This time, the aim is not winning a war, but keeping the troubles inside this country and between the others from turning into one.
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To answer your question, no, I don't think so. Fantasy just needs to have something... fantastic about it. Dragons in a steampunk world is still fantasy, no matter how you look at it. My own story... well, it doesn't follow the Earth model too closely, but it is quasi-steampunk, quasi-WWII era, but also they have video games and futuristic nanotechnology. And dragons, elves, dwarves, vampires, faeries, werewolves, etc.

I don't see any issue with your stories, and indeed, I think it could be interesting to chronicle the political and industrial development of a fantasy world. How it reflects upon ours, and how it differs. Whether or not they even come up with the same ideas, same technologies, same philosophies. Plus, I mean, dragons and computers are double the win.
Personally I prefer fantasy stories to be set in a pre-industrial or medieval setting. That's just what I prefer to read, so it's what I write. I turn to sci-fi to get my nerd fix on computers and spaceships. I think combining the two is possible for the right author. It has been done. Justina Robson wrote a multi-book series that combined elves, magic, cyborgs, and various other things all together in one story. I read the first book, but wasn't interested enough to pick up the second, third, or fourth.

Truth be told, I didn't find her characters that interesting, and for me that is key. I don't care how traditional or contemporary the setting is; if you can't make me care about your characters, I'll lose interest. I suspect a lot of people are the same way. So my advice is really nothing new. If you're going to work from the angles you mentioned above, make sure your cast is solid and real. Let the characters drive the story, not the settings.

Philip Overby

Article Team
I'm similar to Donny. I have to care about the characters no matter what the plot or setting is. I tend to lean more towards non-traditional fantasy, whether it be strange characters, bizarre settings, and unconventional plots. Perdido Street Station particularly fits that mold. But I like traditional fantasy as well. Just depends on the characters.

Usually a cool setting or plot will draw me into a story. Hence, get me to buy it. But if the characters are lifeless and listless then I get bored with even the coolest settings or plots.

On paper, George R.R. Martin's series (which is my favorite of all time) sounds extremely generic and boring. Kingdoms fighting for control. A dark presence is looming. Knights and dragons. Yadda yadda.

But the characters are fantastic. The ones that matter anyway. So for me it took a rather generic looking setting and basic plot and made it all the much better because the characters populating it were awesome.

Anyway, Amanita, I like the idea of seeing your world evolve over the course of different stories. You can tinker with different types of plots and settings and the characters can react to that. And grow. And be awesome.
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Short answer: no.

I'll have a look at a longer answer when I get the chance, but there's no reason fantasy can't take place in a futuristic setting (though you might get into arguments about whether such a thing is fantasy or SF… how long did it take you to realize Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders series was technically SF, if judged solely from the measure of "futurism"?). I certainly see no reason to limit it to pre-industrial ones.


New Member
Well, personally, some of my favourite books are sci-fi/fantasy hybrids.
So no, I don't think that fantasy has to go with a pre-industrial era setting, necessarily.
I don't believe that it's necessary for it to be pre technology. I just prefer to write that way. as stated I will read ANYTHING that catches my eye... I'm just more comfortable writing the area I know which is pre technology >^.^<


I agree with the general consensus. It can still be fantasy and have some modern-day technological elements. As long as it's interesting I don't care.

If I read the jacket flap and it grabs me I'll give it a shot.

Often times when I finish a book or series I wonder what happens in the future. Does the society continue on and maybe advance technologically? Some books are so magic-centric that I can't imagine the societies would ever invest in technology, though...
I always find myself wondering what happens after the story's done in anything I read x.x That's usually how you know you picked a good one.. you wish there was more to it LOL