Technology in High Fantasy

I wrote an essay in my final year of high school about the role of technology in the genre high fantasy. In it, I explored how different authors dealt with the issue of a stagnant tech system in a world with a vast history. Some authors combined tech with magic, others did in fact come up with ways to use advanced tech within their stories, others explained lack of tech outright or decided to stick with the traditional medieval tech system found in the genre.

Writer Matthew Wuertz suggests that each sub-genre of fantasy, though important for defining the overall genre as a whole, can sometimes take away from the amount of stories for any one sub-genre. I bring this up, because Wuertz may be one of the people who find my short story experiment a bit controversial. Within his blog post on the topic, he defines high fantasy as traditional “storybook” literature. Though he recognizes the intriguing quality of other fantasy sub-genres, he encourages writers to stick with the traditional high fantasy sub-genre and to build a “steady flow of excellent writing”. Though, as a fan of the genre, I will agree with Wuertz that there is never too much high fantasy, I think I disagree with his greater point.

I think that everything needs a certain amount of experimentation to stay relevant in our modern attention-drifting world. Brandon Sanderson, the author of a few books I used in my original essay, is for the most part in agreement. Sanderson thinks the genre should become a bit more experimental, at least for the case of helping individual writers stand out, if not for the betterment of high fantasy as a whole.

Mistborn fan art by watermother2004
Mistborn fan art by watermother2004 on deviantArt.

The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson is part of the way he’s accomplishing this. In my original essay, his work spanned over several of my exploratory categories. Mistborn was used as an example of an author explaining lack of technology within the story. Sanderson has a sequel series in the works, with his bridge book being Alloy of Law. This book is an interesting add to the genre. You would think that all books in a series we be the same genre for the sake of continuity, but Alloy of Law (though containing the same magic system as the Mistborn trilogy) is more akin to an American Western.

Sanderson is essentially stretching an exploration of how far he can stretch his genre over an entire series of novels–I hope to do a semblance of this over a series of pages. I think the length of a sing short story, as well as the limited amount of time I have to write it in, will pose serious constraints to what I am actually able to achieve while still trying to have a certain level of nuance in my writing. To be honest, I’m worried it may devolve into a bit of a caricature piece, which though potentially amusing is not where I want to go with this.

Both of the blogs I’ve sited have similar audiences (fans of the writers), but they arise from completely different exigencies. Wuertz wants people to stick to original conceptions of what high fantasy is so as to preserve it as a solid sub-genre. Sanderson is more discussing his own experience as an author and what he hopes to achieve from it by creating his own sort of sub-genre branching off from high fantasy. Both bring up valid points, and I really hope there is a way I can experiment via my short story and still have it considered as part of high fantasy. I don’t want to do anything so extreme as create my own genre just yet, but I do want to help high fantasy stay relevant as a sub-genreĀ in an increasingly tech obsessed culture.


Emily Post

Mostly books and buildings, with a hefty dose of veggie foods.

2 thoughts to “Technology in High Fantasy”

  1. I haven’t read a lot in the genre your project involves and I didn’t know about the sub-genres within high fantasy so I’m excited to learn more about it. I understand not wanting to create your own genre just yet, it sounds like a heavy load to take on, but that sounds like it could be an interesting direction to take for your remediation project. But I am not as familiar as you are on the subject, so I could be way off.

  2. Hi Emily! We talked about this in class, but I think you have a really great idea. Writing a short story is a big task, but it sounds like you already have a lot planned for it. You mentioned that your project idea is potentially already shifting to a series of short characterizations, which I think would also prove the point of stretching the high fantasy genre.

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