August 25, 2019, 07:22:33 PM

Author Topic: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting  (Read 906 times)

Offline cupiscent

Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« on: May 10, 2019, 08:48:49 AM »
Alternative title: Help me with my homework! :D Well, not really, but I'm going to be on a panel at the local convention (Continuum; if you're in Melbourne on the Queen's Birthday weekend, pop by and say hi!) on this topic, so I thought I would lean on the fantasy-knowledge and thoughts of the lovely community here to make sure I was well-prepared. I actually suggested this panel topic, so I feel some slight pressure to look like I know what I'm talking about...  ::)

I suggested it with some of my favourite fantasy of recent years in mind - Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence, Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities, Lara Elena Donnelly's Amberlough et al. Stories that are set in a world that is absolutely and fundamentally not ours, but also definitely more modern in sensibility or technology. (It occurs to me as I type this that Dan Polansky's Low Town would also fit in here.) I am very keen to hear if there are other books - or other media, recent or otherwise - that spring to mind as examples of this sort of thing.

I have really been enjoying finding these sorts of books; it feels like a fresh trend, an exciting exploration of societies and lives that feel more relatable to my own, but still with that fantasy-fiction wonder. I like the way the fantasy turn on modernity allows the separation from "reality" and therefore a closer examination of how things are or could be. (I like Pratchett's Discworld for similar reasons.)

How about all y'all? Do you like this sort of thing? Hate it passionately? Tell me all about it!

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2019, 01:06:06 PM »
I can't really think of books I've read that fit in this description...

So, it's not urban fantasy, but the world needs to feel current?
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Offline NedMarcus

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2019, 01:12:52 PM »
I love this type of thing, and it's what I write, but I sometimes think I may have made a mistake because I can't  find many other people doing the same, and I'm worried the readership might be too small.

I'll check out the books you mentioned. And I hope you're right about it being a new trend.

Offline Peat

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2019, 02:57:21 PM »
All the books I know of in that category you've mentioned (does China Mieville have anything in that range? Would Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time count?) and I'm not even sure what to call it as a genre. Racking my brain... Hanrahan's The Gutter Prayer might be this (going solely from reviews). Kuang's The Poppy War may arguably count (although arguably calling it a secondary world should force a reconsideration of what that actually means).

My feelings on it are the same as yours; it's an exciting fresh trend that takes the wonder of fantasy and sticks it somewhere new. I'm all for it.
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Offline Bender

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2019, 09:04:49 PM »
Divine Cities is mentioned in OP, but I don't recall the world being any significantly different world from ours or scientifically advanced either. Discounting the Fantasy/Miracle element ofc.

I mentally pictured the world to be like a Eastern European country like Romania about a century before.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2019, 02:42:48 AM »
Yay, thank you so much guys. (More more more! :D)

So, it's not urban fantasy, but the world needs to feel current?

Yes, that's the sort of thing I have in mind. Though I suspect the panel will devote some time to discussing where the line is between this sort of thing and urban fantasy--especially historical urban fantasy, like Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown and similar.

I love this type of thing, and it's what I write, but I sometimes think I may have made a mistake because I can't  find many other people doing the same, and I'm worried the readership might be too small.

I'll check out the books you mentioned. And I hope you're right about it being a new trend.

I'm seeing quite a bit coming out of the US market (both Gladstone and Donnelly seem to be US-only for now) but I'm not so sure about the UK market. At the moment it seems to be feeling a lot more "traditional" (and/or leaning toward grimdark) but who knows how markets and trends move? :) Always write what excites you most!

Does China Mieville have anything in that range? Would Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time count?) and I'm not even sure what to call it as a genre. Racking my brain... Hanrahan's The Gutter Prayer might be this (going solely from reviews). Kuang's The Poppy War may arguably count (although arguably calling it a secondary world should force a reconsideration of what that actually means).

Thanks so much for these suggestions! I wondered about Mieville myself (actually, I wondered about M John Harrison's Viriconium, which I feel Mieville owes a lot of influence to) but I don't have a big familiarity with his work myself, so I'll put him on the list with a question mark for further discussion. And I haven't managed The Poppy War yet, though it's on my list, and sounds like maybe I should make an effort to read it before the con.

Divine Cities is mentioned in OP, but I don't recall the world being any significantly different world from ours or scientifically advanced either. Discounting the Fantasy/Miracle element ofc.

I mentally pictured the world to be like a Eastern European country like Romania about a century before.

I definitely agree with the Eastern-Euro feel of Divine Cities. But it's certainly not our world, and they also have guns and bombs and cars, and a very post-imperialism feel, which puts it more "modern" than the bulk of usual fantasy. The feel to me was sort of... turn of the twentieth-century Eurasian-ish? It's not that straightforward, of course, because that's the joy of doing it secondary-world--you can blend the stuff you want without having to keep to real-world timelines or geography.

Offline Rostum

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2019, 02:54:25 AM »
Sam Sykes city stained red springs to mind.

How about Red Sister and Ice world with a space mirror keeping the equator free of ice.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2019, 02:57:18 AM by Rostum »

Offline Elfy

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Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2019, 04:10:43 AM »
Fonda Lee’s Jade City is another one that comes to mind. Funny as this thread appears while I’m reading third of the Amberlough trilogy Amnesty and loving it.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2019, 05:09:21 AM »
THANK YOU @Elfy! Jade City is the one I was desperately trying to think of, going "I know there's another one, I'm going to kick myself, it's obvious, ugh..."

And thanks also @Rostum. I haven't read Sam Sykes (have tried, but bounced off) but I'll add him to the list to float. I'm not sure about Red Sister. The sorts of things I'm thinking of are more of a society at a more modern level, whereas that (from memory) was a society of a usual sort of fantasy level, with remnant higher technology that still functions but isn't understood - which is a whole other fascinating panel topic, because that's a trope that gets done with post-apoc or with "elf" or other fallen-civilisation remnants. (Red Sister could arguably be sci-fi the same way that Pern blurs that line.) But that difference is also worth including in my dotpoint prep for the panel! :)

Offline Peat

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2019, 05:16:25 AM »
*blinks* I can't believe I forgot Jade City.

I think Divine Cities is definitely in if we're going for vaguely modern rather than definitely modern... and I think the list for vaguely modern increases a lot if we count things that are loosely Victorian influenced. And tbh, very few of these recommendations are up to date modern.

Re The Poppy War - it's rather amorphous in period. A lot of its fairly medieval, a lot of its rather modern. I'm not sure what it is tbh. I'd ask someone else who's read it whether they think it qualifies rather than sticking it top of the list on my recommendation.

Offline Elfy

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Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2019, 10:10:35 AM »
It’s kind of old now, but there’s elements of this in Tad Williams version of faerie in The War of the Flowers. It also depends on how you view current, but would Emma Newman’s Regency inspired view of faerie in her Split Worlds series work? Then there’s Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Empreror set in a sort of steampunk, pre revolution Russian inspired world.

Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2019, 04:40:52 PM »
Poppy War is sort of the first half of the 20th century all mixed into one. At least to my understanding. Someone with better knowledge of Chinese history might be able to pin it down better.

Ketty Jay series is fairly modern too, though it's hard to compare to any real world. It's almost like Firefly set on one planet.

War Cry by Brian McClellan is set in a 1940s style era. only a novella at the moment, but there might potentially be more in the world at some point.

Offline Rostum

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2019, 10:11:53 PM »
sorry city stained red is not a modern setting as well its again built on older more advanced tech and magic

Offline Bender

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2019, 12:45:50 AM »
Alloy of Law may qualify. Brandon Sandersons Scadriel has Guns, blimps and more modern than usual fantasy. Kinda steampunk'esque setting iirc.
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Offline Bender

Re: Second-world fantasy with a "modern" setting
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2019, 12:53:28 AM »
Powder Mage trilogy
Or even Nightside series of books. (If you stretch it a bit).
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