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KatawaGrey's avatar

Fantasy Mavens: What are some things you rarely read about in fantasy books but could plausibly exist in fantasy worlds?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21483points) January 23rd, 2011

When I read a fantasy book, specifically one set in another world without the modern technology that we have today, I am sometimes struck by what is lacking that could reasonably exist in such a world.

For example, I cannot remember a fantasy book where someone drank coffee. Since coffee is made from beans and can be made without electricity or other modern technology, it seems plausible to me that characters in these kinds of fantasy books could drink coffee.

So, fantasy readers, what else can you think of that could reasonably exist in a fantasy universe?

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17 Answers

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Arbornaut's avatar

Plots/worlds without evil lords and bad dudes? Or would that not work?
I dunno, I dont read much fantasy, i find theres enough is this reality as it is.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
janbb's avatar


syz's avatar

I recall quite a few mentioning coffee, although they usually use a different, thinly disguised name. I’ve always wondered about bras and feminine hygiene products in fantasy worlds.

JilltheTooth's avatar

What about personal transport of some sort? If you don’t have a horse or a horse and cart, you’re afoot. These societies are sophisticated enough that they could have bicycles (or the equivalent).

Hobbes's avatar

Just about anything could exist in a fantasy world, according to my understanding of the term. Are you specifically talking about things which could exist in a world without modern technology? The problem with coffee is getting it from the place it’s made to the people who want to drink it. In a world without electricity, the only people who could drink coffee would be those who happened to live near beans and who knew how to process those beans into a drinkable form.

WasCy's avatar

Tax collectors
Drunks (with a nod to @Arbornaut)
Middle managers
Meter readers
Plumbers (with a nod to @janbb)
Cashiers, baggers and stockboys… in fact, “supermarkets”
Commuters (or traffic jams)
Baseball players

incendiary_dan's avatar

Since most of the fantasy I’ve been reading lately is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, I regularly read fantasy that includes almost all the things in @WasCy‘s list (no baseball players, but soccer instead), as well as coffee and an anthropomorphic personification of Death that occasionally quits his job and has a great interest in humanity.

Also, considering that stone age humans often created trade networks that extended across continents, there’s no reason that coffee couldn’t be transported anywhere. The real issue would be popularity.

I highly recommend Pratchett. He’s one of those great authors that bends the genre and proves that fantasy is a useful tool for satirizing many aspects of contemporary life.

Nullo's avatar

There are all sorts of fantasy out there. Urban fantasy comes to mind, as does low fantasy.. These might have every non-fantastical element that you could come up with.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Nullo: That’s why I specified fantasy in other worlds that does not have any modern conveniences or technology such as electricity or even steam power.

So far, these are some interesting suggestions. i will keep them in mind when writing my novels. :)

Nullo's avatar

The nonexistance of explosives, either as propellants or for the heck of it, is a bit strange.—I found Terry Pratchett’s Guards, Guards! novel (really, all of his books about the City Watch) in that it applied police drama tropes (and even a gun, albeit a vilified one, on one occasion) to a high-fantasy setting. Including gunplay, substituting with crossbows and dragons.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

I like to look at historical periods and see what they had. Not necessarily just their technology, or lack thereof, but their culture in general.

For example (I find this kind of hysterical); at universities in England during the 12th century or so, they worked way differently than they do today. They entered at 17ish spent something like 12 years studying the “7 liberal arts” (music, art, math, literature, etc). However when they also entered the university, they were automatically in the priesthood which made them immune to local laws. And if you think the college kids attitude was different back then, hear this; there are letters they have from 12th century or so of a son writing to his father asking for more money for beer. And another from a father to his son telling him to put down the guitar and study.

Not exactly what you were asking, but I think it’s sorta relevant.

Nullo's avatar

@tragiclikebowie Unless I am mistaken, the first universities were created specifically to train clergy, hence the enrollment in the clergy. There was a hefty gravy train attached.

NanoNano's avatar

I don’t see many representations of kite flying. =) You know, the Chinese supposedly used kites as weapons of war…

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