Various questions come up when someone wants to write high fantasy and many of them are completely understandable. They may deal with magic, various races, and creating a world that isn’t Earth. Yet, there are other questions that you can see why they are asked, but they come off as shocking. It makes one wonder about the entire genre and how it might not have evolved as much as many believe. I’m going to touch on one of those questions here:
Does a fantasy story have to take place in a medieval Europe/Dark Ages setting?
The obvious answer is ‘No’.
As long as the genre doesn’t require a specific setting type like Westerns and WWII dramas, you can do whatever you want. Even those ‘restrictive’ areas have some wiggle room, so nothing is set in stone. The rules are incredibly flexible with fantasy, which really only requires that there be a magical, mystical element that can’t be chalked up to science. This means you can do the traditional medieval setting or take inspiration from any time period. You can also ignore that and try to make something entirely from scratch. It is much more important to make the world work than to follow what you believe is a genre trend.
It isn’t hard to see why people think it should be medieval worlds or expect them to run the way our history did. Tolkien and Lewis set that standard, which tends to go along without many changes when you look at the big ones. ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Dungeons & Dragons’, and even series that take place on a future Earth that has magic seem to go for the European aesthetic. Castles with kings and knights traveling in search of adventure or a dragon to rescue from a fire-breathing princess. You’re going to find more series that follow this tradition than blatantly go against it. So, new authors get the feeling that this is a requirement instead of a suggestion that most people take. Although, can you really blame them?
I’ve seen many readers go after a fantasy book because it isn’t historically accurate. A suit of platemail isn’t correct or rules of etiquette don’t meant with medieval standards. You can have a reader complain that the heroes are bathing regularly or that there are indoor bathrooms. Had those tossed my way a few times. As soon as you have the set pieces of medieval Europe, you’re bound to have people assuming that it will be Earth history accurate. This doesn’t make much sense to me when it’s a place like Windemere, which isn’t Earth. Yes, they have settings similar to the traditional, but they also have more modern things like the emergence of indoor plumbing. This means you can’t suddenly say that something isn’t supposed to be that way because it could very well be right since it isn’t Earth.
Well, that’s my opinion and statement on this. I’m going to be playing more with the idea when I finally get to the fantasy tip book. What do you think about the belief that fantasy stories need to be in medieval Europe?