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TV Tropes Monday: Fantasy Counterpart Culture


 

Tweet of the Day: 10 Writing Truths (Part 1)

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It is difficult to be truly original when creating fiction, and even if one manages to pull it off, one runs the risk of putting off the audience by having one’s creation seem too strange. Much safer, then, to make your setting contain human cultures that are take-offs of real ones.

That’s what this trope is all about. The essence of modern world building. As the trope points out this is very common in speculative fiction, but can be found just about anywhere. Another way to think about it is how modern art (be it architecture, interior design, painting, music, etc.) takes different cultural influences and blends them together to create a new yet familiar whole.  Entire genres are build around this trope. In fact modern Fantasy writers live by this. Of course, how close the writer hews to the culture he is using varies widely.

Some will pick obscure references and use them in interesting ways only the most dedicated scholar would be able to decipher.

Other will use a familiar setting and change it to fit their needs.

Others simply file the numbers, I mean the names off and <insert made up name of choice here> and go from there.

All of these approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. On one hand familiarity can bread both comfort but also contempt. Comfort in that the genre reader knows what to expect and it allows him to suspend his disbelief with ease, contempt because at times it is obvious that the author was too lazy to be more creative or simple failed to do the research.

In my third book (Ruins of Empire), the different Houses deliberately modeled themselves (style of clothing, form of government and so on) on cultures from humanities past (story takes place 2,000+ years in the future) in the belief that doing so lends them a sense of credibility. As a framing device it allowed me to use multiple cultural/historical references with a clear understanding of where they come from. It also makes the characters acutely aware of historical trends, which are important to the story. My current WiP (Mallorie & Ricardo) is uses the Italian Renaissance as it’s FCC, which allows me to mix alchemy, magic, a politically powerful religion and guns in a setting I like to call Renaissance Fantasy. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

So what are your favorite Fantasy Counterparts?

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