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5520RE: [mythsoc] Why the middle ages are so popular in fiction

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  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
    Mar 8, 2002
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      Original Message:
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      From: Pauline J. Alama PJAlama@...

      << I have often wondered myself why the middle ages are such fertile country for fantasy. I think one answer may be that the medieval writers themselves wrote backward-looking, fantastical adventures -- medieval romances are generally set in some misty far-off time, the time of Arthur or the Roman age or something -- even when, on close inspection, this misty far-off time looks a lot like a more highly colored version of the writer's own time (e.g., tournaments were popular in the 12th century, and so 12th-century writers like Chretien put them in Arthurian romances, where they have become a fixture). >>

      I know enough about the Middle Ages to know I would *not* want to live there, but have a medievalist fantasy setting myself in something I'm doing. However, what I would *really* like to do is to come up with a formulation that allows for tech developments that went off in nother directions---so that my characters (from one culture to the next) might have some technologies that our medieval folk would not have---but that would mean that my characters would not know about medieval inventions that occurred here.

      It requires a lot of thinking about which technologies support other technologies---and I think most writers don't want to do that much thinking. So they stick with what they know---and you have to give the medieval period this much. On its surface, it seems all shimmery and colorful, and romantic. We'd all like to live there for a while.

      However, when you know a lot about it, you find it's just an age like any other---with all its blind spots, its joys, its beauties, and its flawed people. (Which is why I like George R. R. Martin: he captures all of that!)

      We high-tech folk tend to go the way of Rousseau, romanticizing the "noble savage," and that's all over the place w/ respect to Native American history, which has gathered its own form of romanticism. Romance says: "Everything was so much purer and better without industrialization." We tend to forget (or take for granted) the *benefits* of industrialization: that food can stay cold and be shipped all over, that we don't die of pneumonia as often, that our women don't die from childbirth, our lives are longer, and the great majority of us aren't breaking our backs harvesting wheat for some lord of the manor. We actually have sidewalks, and our streets don't flow with the contents of night-pots. (Talk about pollution!) Despite my love of fantasy, I am a thorough-going pro-modernist, especially when it comes to technology! Now if we were only as smart in moral realms. I feel an off topic rant coming on, and I'll spare you that! My on topic ones are bad enough. ---djb


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