Fantasy,  Setting

I Don’t Think We’re In Middle-Earth Anymore: Exploring New Worlds in Fantasy

Hello Lizard! I am currently in the process of writing a modern-royal-fantasy-type story, inspired by the history of Spain, Portugal, France, and England along with some of the ancient African kingdoms. How can I make it modern but still have that fantasy flare to it?

There’s nothing wrong with writing a fantasy novel set in a pseudo-medieval Europe and I’ve got nothing against Middle-Earth, but we are starting to see some exciting new worlds emerging in new fiction today that I can’t wait to talk about.

The lines between genres today is blurrier than ever and it’s really exciting. A fantasy novel might be tinged with horror, or science fiction, or any mix of genre elements. We’re starting to see fantasy worlds that set not just in a faux-historical context, but set in the future. Now, you find Game of Thrones-level fantasy court dramas set in space! Really, the possibilities for a new modern twist are endless.

Let’s look at The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid. This YA novel is caught somewhere right between science fiction and fantasy – though I’d say it leans more towards fantasy. It’s a high-tech fantasy world set a long, long way into the future. It involves royal families and court dramas, gorgeous balls and parties, princesses in disguise – all those great trimmings of a fantasy novel, next to elements that are distinctly science fiction. The main character is a manufactured creation named Nemesis, raised to serve as a royal bodyguard. This novel is cool. Highly recommended.

The sequel Empress was recently released as well, though I haven’t yet had the chance to get check it out. This isn’t the only fantasy book out set in the future though, it’s up there with The Lunar Chronicles and The Red Queen Series to name a few.

So while blending genres might be one way to give your fantasy world a modern flare, it’s not the only solution – not by a long shot. Another thing I’ve seen a bit more of lately is setting fantasy novels in either real historical settings that are not medieval or alternative historical settings inspired by a place other than medieval Europe.

A few examples I remember now include The Bone Witch series by Run Chupeco which centers around some Geisha-esque girl fighters or Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly which is set in an alternative early 1930’s Europe. There are so many more than this though and I am not going to make a list.

Lastly, a modern flare doesn’t necessarily need to be brought about by setting. You can be writing a story set in your own version of Middle-earth and have it still read as a refreshingly new piece of fiction if you are writing about issues and topics that matter to you today. It’s about writing that book on the fantasy shelf that you feel in your bones has not been written yet and is so needed that you yourself have had to write it.

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