The intellectual sloth of fantasy worlds

Fantasy is probably the form of literature I enjoy reading the most. Having established to my own satisfaction that all fiction is fantasy to a greater or lesser degree, I take exception to being called a ‘genre’ writer, as if some kinds of fiction are more worthy than others.

I would agree though, that sometimes our fantasy worlds could do with a little more ‘realism’. I’m sure everybody has done it, snorted in disbelief, or thrown the book out the window in exasperation, when something really dumb strikes you about the world you are expected to believe in one hundred percent.

My pet gripe must be the inertia of many fantasy worlds. How many fictional world histories refer back to some cataclysmic marking event that happened a thousand, if not several thousand years previously?

Big Battle against Evil: the Dark Lord is defeated
Big Battle against Evil: the Dark Lord is defeated

Fair enough. We have Jesus, don’t we? Where I get rather irritated is that in the time lapse (say the time between the Battle of Hastings and the present day) that absolutely nothing has evolved! No-thing! The wheel had already been invented at the time of the Big Battle against Evil, so had the forging of steel, building of massive castles, and, last but not least, books, education, and easily available means of setting down events.

Since that time, millennia previously, there has been no progress whatsoever. So, what the feck were they doing all that time? Why has this ‘civilisation’ not sunk back into the primal slime? Why, given the generally bloodthirsty nature of these worlds, in the course of these millennia has nobody invented anything more efficient for killing purposes than the trusty sword and the heroic longbow? They have feudal systems and religion but no science. They have shops and two-storey cottages, taverns, inns, schools, books, paper, towns, cities, social organisation, roads, foreign trade, armies, diplomats. So why has nobody got round to discovering electricity, or inventing steam engines, or guns, or the washing machine?

Or am I being disingenuous? Is this all part of the fantasy package that we secretly yearn for: a fictitious golden age with unspoilt scenery, lack of industrial pollution, and no cars? Our imagination though stops short of life without shops and a minimum of creature comfort. I mean, who really wants to knit their own chain mail?

Two thousand years later...
Two thousand years later…
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