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posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 07:12pm on 16/01/2012 under , , , ,
So I'm sat here revising Soft Matter Physics when it occurs to me just why I increasingly find the 'pseudo-medieval' world building that you often get in fantasy so weird (as opposed to slightly cliche by now). 

Now, I'm just thinking 'out loud' because as you well know, I am nothing but the plebbiest of historical dilettantes (and I know if anyone will have anything interesting to say, it'll be you guys), but it seems to me that feudalism could have evolved out of the chaos following the decline of the Western Roman Empire. If you consider somewhere like, well, England, a land that it seems was being constantly visited, then attacked, then partially conquered by a series of different ethnic groups, it's no surprise you might end up with a system of rule akin to a more sophisticated version of a protection racket ("We give you swords and a place of protection to settle, you give us some food and monies. And people to wield the swords might help too, now we come to think of it...") that over time, and with the increasing stability of society, evolves into the fully fledged feudal system we all know and love so well from history textbooks with pictures of peasants with mud for teeth.

And obviously ditto for elsewhere in Western Europe. I'm just using England as an example because I happen to live here and know slightly more about Dark Age Britain than Dark Age France, say. Or Dark Age Spain which may as well have been home to dragons and people with faces in their chests for all I know (I'd probably believe it too).

Anyway. So in a fantasy book where the set up is the basic feudal pseudo-medieval (and I say pseudo because most fantasy writers seem to interprete a medieval setting to mean nastiness, raping and that sort of thing rather than, I don't know, women being doctors, writers and crusaders and owning businesses (and occasionally kidnapping a young lord they might fancy, for the higher born lady of course) and peasant children escaping the drudgery of serfdom via education and University etc etc etc.), it doesn't seem to make much sense without that primordial stage of that strange sort of civilised barbarism that follows the collapse of a bureaucracy.

Or maybe I'm just being picky because... I'm a little bit bored.

Alright back to work.
There are 4 comments on this entry. (Reply.)
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dharma_slut at 01:32am on 17/01/2012
Good thinkies!

I have this sci-fi space opera thingie rolling around in my head, and there could be some feudal-medieval elements in it, and yeah-- Women are fleet commanders and presidents and doctors at the same time. I hadn't thought about that in the context of which you mention...
mmoa_writes: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 07:18pm on 18/01/2012
That sounds so cool - I love sci-fi with a mish mash of historical elements. I hope it's going well.

To be honest, I must sound really patronising because I wouldn't have known about the more unexpected aspects of medieval society if I hadn't randomly selected the period after my Ancient Greek phase, but it was really interesting to find how many ideas about the medieval age come from Victorian romanticism more than anything else.

There's a great series by Terry Jones of monty Python fame called Medieval Lives that's a potted summary of counter stereotypes: but

I've also learned many intriguing tidbits from the Medieval Review which is the sister list to the Classical Review.
halialkers: (Ioseb Jugashvili)
posted by [personal profile] halialkers at 04:39pm on 17/01/2012
I've sometimes wondered what would happen in the average Fantasy world if someone like Genghis Khan came along and started monkeying with the place. It would seem to me that the average kinds of magic seen in fantasy worlds could lead to things like in Harry Turtledove's world of Magic producing its own equivalents of an industrial revolution and modern technology in all spheres, including military ones.

In Tolkien's works it actually made some amount of sense given that Sauron was busy collapsing Gondor for decades before the actual war started and given the general theme of degeneration and decay that pervades the actual work. In the rip-offs it tends to make less sense.

Admittedly I think a scenario with fantasy armies clashing with magical equivalents of modern warfare would be *awesome.*
mmoa_writes: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 07:23pm on 18/01/2012
I'm no Tolkienite but I do find it ironic how he seems to get bashed a lot by a certain type of 'gritty' fantasy writer/fan when in ways he doesn't deserve. You're right, from what I recall in terms of worldbuilding, he did pretty good(!). Just because he wrote high fantasy in the style of heroic epics, people seem to dismiss him as childish or less realistic when I found his world more realistic with it's impossible ideals than an Abercrombie novel where no one has any (and everyone swears a lot. And occasionally rapes someone else). How is that any more realistic, or thought provoking? It's rather childish.


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