I’ve heard people refer to so many fantasies as medieval, even when they take place in completely different worlds where history did not happen in the same way. This isn’t a call out, we don’t do that here, but it is interesting. It’s what media has done, media has boiled down medieval to a couple of core characteristics, horses, stone buildings and a specific kind of clothing, probably the presence of a monarchy. 

You got those, you got a medieval setting! In a media sense, not truly. There are some really good books that are historically accurate (or attempt to be) taking place in medieval settings! 

So what’s the modern medieval setting? 

Well, nowadays we have a lot of technology, we have phones and computers and the internet. And we’ve all seen the joke a million times of, “if this book had internet the plot would be five minutes long cause they’d just google it”… it was funny because it was true at the time. And it still is (true, not funny), which is why nowadays we find a setting that is a strange mixture between the past and the present. 

It’s the setting I use in my book, language is modern, clothes are modern, people have colour photography and cool trains and coffee machines, but then they don’t have cars but horses, there’s no phones or internet or computers. 

Fun fact, in my first draft it was a full on modern fantasy, there were phones and cars, but it kind of felt off and everything was just too connected, so by the second draft I’d moved away from that setting. 

For me it’s easy to explain, this is a completely different world and because magic will solve lots of problems, technology evolves differently focusing on different problems to our world. Whether it’s said or not this is more or less the explanation every modern medieval settings gives. 

And I love these! 

I love seeing what different authors carry on into their universe. For me photography and print are super important and develop nicely in my world, it plays a big role in the universe, there were rebellions based around the invention of print! 

But another authors might have a medieval like setting where air planes exist because they’re essential to getting around the kingdom (I would just ride a dragon but my book is about dragons), another one might have televisions and a different author may have telephones! 

Another example I can think of for this is Maria V. Snyder’s Study series, later on in the series there is the magical equivalent to telephones, they have loads of medication (even birth control!). And it makes sense in that universe (not only because she wrote it that way) but because they are relevant to the plot. Obviously I won’t spoil anything, go read them, they’re great! 

I think it says a lot about an author and their story, what they decide to keep in their setting, and I encourage you to pay more attention to this next time you read a “modern medieval setting”!