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Steve Bainbridge

The point Dave and I were making was that law is not a major plot element in traditional sword and sorcery fantasy. It is true that law does crop up as a plot element in contemporary fantasy from time to time.


Strangely enough, I ran across Ilya Somin's piece at Volokh, which ultimately brought me here, just after I had posted an entry on Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint, in which, as I point out in my update, the last third of the book involves a trial and the law is a major current in the story.

However, to limit the question to "traditional sword and sorcery fantasy" is, I think, setting up a false boundary. Yes, as part of the context, the law is present more often than not. As a focus of the action, no, of course not -- it's "sword and sorcery," after all. That's the focus by definition. (Although even there, in addition to the examples in the post, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels, which are science fiction disguised as sword and sorcery -- or perhaps the other way around -- do show a great concern with the effects of the law, if not a lot of courtroom drama.)

Remember that "fantasy" as a genre encompasses much more than sword and sorcery, and in much of it, the law is a key element. When you add in science fiction, you also bring in the works of C. J. Cherryh, which are usually political thrillers much concerned with the law and its effects; David Drake and other writers of military sf, in which legalities are often of major importance and provide key plot twists; and who can forget the Pohl-Kornbluth classic, Gladiator at Law?

To turn the question back on itself, can one create a fantasy story without reference to the law, and by what criteria?


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