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Why Fantasy Avoids Gunpowder

Discussion in 'Writers on the Web' started by Aldarion, Jul 11, 2021.

  1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Inkling

    Why Fantasy Avoids Gunpowder

    An overview of why fantasy - or, rather, high fantasy and the like - avoids gunpowder even when it may be at technological level of 15th - 16th century.
  2. Fox

    Fox Dreamer

    Good write-up. It's generally why I don't study anything after WWII in terms of warfare. As insensitive as it is to say, I don't find it interesting. In most cases for me, large-scale battles tend to not make any sense when there are nuclear bombs, futuristic rail guns, you can get sniped by a "rod from God" literally sent from outer-space with centimeter-level precision, sniped from some crackshot from one of the ten thousand windows in the 30 surrounding skyscrapers, blown up by a random stray grenade or missile, hit by a random stray bullet—the list goes on.

    I'm not sure if depersonalization (I thought you were going to start talking about the awful anxiety symptom I have sometimes experienced lol) is the word to use; maybe impersonalization? Every combat encounter in hand-to-hand fighting is a personal, calculating ordeal between two human beings who are staring into the eyes of the other person. Of course, that's a bit dramatic, they're probably looking at other important things, studying the armor and weapon of their opponent, their stance, looking for an opening to strike or preparing for an incoming blow, etc. Still, shooting a person whom you cannot even *see* from 100 feet away, or blasting them off the face of the planet with a drone strike from the opposite side of said planet, is entirely different than besting an opponent in physical combat and feeling your sword cut through their neck, their flesh, their bone.

    Anyway. It was nice to see that I'm not the only one who has thought at length about these matters. A lot of modern action fails to entertain me because it feels so improbable. (With Star Wars I can understand it, because of the nature of Clones and Droids, so there are certainly exceptions.) I think sci-fi has its means of getting around these hurdles of a gunpowder+ battlefield (i.e. Halo) with the use of defensive capabilities that can compete with the weaponry, such as energy shields, Mjolnir "super" armor, etc. But generally it seems like action that is set today tends to be small-scale, like a Navy Seal team or some other special operations force, which often puts the character-soldiers in situations in which gunpowder loses most if not all its supposed advantages.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2021
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  3. Aldarion

    Aldarion Inkling

    Yeah. Even in sword fantasy, action usually tends to be done by "rangers" and similar "special forces", because - being irregular units - they are more likely to act in small numbers, and personal skill is also more important. That, I think, is why special forces are so prominent in stories - it is easier and more plausible for a hero to make a difference.
    Fox likes this.
  4. NRuhwald

    NRuhwald Scribe

    A very interesting read. In my novel, my characters do use guns and gunpowder and so forth. But I've also deviated from the norm in that science is very much present in the world, and sometimes can replicate natural abilities that the magical creatures have. Some of the characters wonder if the magic is magic at all. I was aware my approach was a bit different, but I didn't realize others had considered this issue. I never heard of science fantasy at all!
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  5. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    In my main world, Solaria used 'gunpowder' in the concluding battles of the Traag War - just a couple years prior to the main stories. These were not guns, rather barrels filled with black powder and shrapnel launched by catapults. This was one of several technological innovations that came about just before or during the Traag War - bicycles, allowing for vastly increased troop mobility, balloons for observation, crude hang gliders for 'special forces,' and primitive submarines. A few years after the Traag War, the military started using fat crossbow bolts filled with explosive powder and a contact trigger.

    However, a major element of these stories is a society undergoing a massive technological and social transformation.
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