Uncharted Territory: Things I Rarely See in Fantasy

Because I write and think about fantasy fiction quite a bit (as the title of this blog might suggest), I occasionally notice interesting spots of “uncharted territory” in the stories I read and watch – i.e. concepts, ideas or character types I rarely come across. I don’t mean obvious things that no one would expect in the genre anyway, but small, specific things that I try to find examples of and am intrigued when I come up with close to nothing. So I thought these might provide good inspiration for a series of posts.

Of course, it may turn out that there are good books, TV shows and films out there that have explored these things… in which case I’ll hopefully get some gaps in my knowledge filled by well-read commenters.

But if these do end up being paths rarely travelled, they might form a nice list of ‘new ground’ writers could be inspired by, or at least provoke some interesting discussions.

There won’t be any sort of schedule for these, I’ll just post one when I have something worth adding to the collection, and put the links here on this main page, the idea being to build up a list over time.

Uncharted Territory Posts:

Hopefully this list will get a bit longer in the coming months 🙂

And if anyone has a suggestion for some potential uncharted territory I should investigate, or has their own post on a little-explored theme, feel free to comment below!

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19 thoughts on “Uncharted Territory: Things I Rarely See in Fantasy

  1. This is a great idea for an article series 🙂 and I just thought I’d add some links to posts I’ve done about things I noticed were lacking in fiction (and wanted more of). I’m not sure if they’re entirely along the lines of what you were thinking, but maybe they can help spark more ideas and awareness for new ground to cover in fantasy.

    https://kayleekirpes.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/science-and-magic/
    https://kayleekirpes.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/pets-in-fiction/
    https://kayleekirpes.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/fantastical-settings/

    I’ve also been wondering if other people have noticed the lack of these things and wanted more of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks!! And thanks for sharing your posts, I read them and they really got me thinking! I believe I’ve encountered quite a few pets in fantasy – several cats and dogs and birds come to mind (my favourites being Mogget from The Old Kingdom, Manchee from Chaos Walking, and Hedwig from Harry Potter) and the Daemons in His Dark Materials are pretty pet-like too. But I could certainly handle seeing more of them because I always love pets in books!

      And I think you’re right about the science and the magic. There are series that combine them (The Lightbringer series has a genius that constantly invents devices that use magic) but it’s not common, and when science and magic do appear, they are often opposing forces as you said (e.g. in The Old Kingdom trilogy, magic makes technology stop working). It would be cool to see them working together more often!

      As for fantasy settings, yes I do think we could get more creative with them! I think there are more non-European inspired settings appearing (I just sadly haven’t read that many books with them yet) but I do often feel I’d like to see more geographically fantastical landscapes explored too. As you said, why not choose somewhere like a forest of giant mushrooms? 🙂 There are a few books I’ve read that have more unusual settings, but not as many as you’d think in a genre where world-building is so important. Anyway, thank you for sharing, I’ll be keeping my eyes out for these things now!

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  2. I rarely see children and their parents doing things together in fantasy. So often the parents are dead, missing, out of town, unhelpful or antagonistic, or even not mentioned at all. There are many, many books I haven’t read, but if you’ve also found this rare, I would enjoy a post about it. Also, I’d love to learn about examples showing how it can be done well.

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    • Seconded! Relatedly, I’d love to see something about positive family relationships in fantasy. Why is everyone always trying to kill each other? Why do family members constantly turn against each other? It would be nice to see something Incredibles-style where the whole family works together for once!

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      • Good point, I have also found this one to be rare! I suppose the abundance of orphans and people with awful or neglectful parents happens because it creates conflict and tension and makes characters struggle alone to succeed. But it would be interesting to see more present parents and positive family relationships. I’ll ruminate on this one and see if I can come up with examples of it being done well (The Incredibles is a good one!), and write a post on it. Thanks for the suggestion!!

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  3. I think we’re finding some progress in this area as of late, but I’d love to read non-Euro-centric fantasy settings. Dragons and quests are cool, but what about some sweet fantasy set in the Himalayan mountains? Or featuring 1100’s Peru? Let’s expand the diversity of origin!

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  4. This is something I’ve never thought of before! In my own work I can think of one magical mentor and my theory there is because that setting is so removed from regular fantasy in my head. I’m sitting here now trying to think of some media where a woman was a magical mentor without being a sex object or evil and I cannot for the life of me think of one except for in Xena, the woman from China(whose name I forget) who saves her life and pushes her to begin thinking of other people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes, I used to love Xena but I haven’t seen it in many years so I don’t remember very much about it. I looked it up and I think the woman you’re referring to is called ‘Lao Ma’ – and from what I read she certainly looks like a good example of a female mentor character.

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      • Lao Ma! Yes! She’s a fascinating character who never got enough screen time. She’s a lot more nuanced but plays an Obi Wan role in a far more elegant way. It’s a shame she’s the only one that I can think of that isn’t a love interest or something like that.

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