Marvels of the Modern Mushroom Age


I find the idea of Schizo Tech in fictional worlds to be pretty interesting. Of course, not all societies develop technology at the same rate. There could be a reason why a place has cars and not guns, or vice versa. It also might be telling that some of the media that employ this are Japanese, and Japan adopted Western technology very rapidly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, so sword fighters and air travel co-existing might not seem quite as anachronistic there. When dealing with fantasy, I think there’s an expectation that some things are going to be a bit quaint by modern standards. A lot of it is set in times resembling the Middle Ages or earlier, albeit sometimes with certain anachronistic conveniences to work better with modern sensibilities, like children drinking alcohol-free fruit juice and toilets not simply being holes in the ground. Even when a fantasy land is somewhat more up-to-date, however, there are often certain technologies that won’t appear. Sometimes there’s a certain amount of glorifying the past involved, as there’s definitely some appeal to a place that doesn’t have rush hour traffic, twenty-four-hour news programs, and nuclear weapons. Another significant factor, however, is whether certain types of technology would interfere with storytelling, particularly when travel in unexplored areas is a significant element. I’ve discussed before how the Land of Oz is quite modern and even science-fiction-esque in some respects, but fans generally aren’t too keen on John R. Neill introducing automobiles in The Scalawagons of Oz.

For that matter, Tik-Tok has the Shaggy Man and Ozma using wireless telephones invented by the Wizard of Oz. A lot of later plots would have been cut short if Dorothy had simply been able to call Ozma when she was lost in an unexplored part of the country, or just hop on the express train to the Emerald City. In Dick Martin’s Ozmapolitan, the Wizard gives Dorothy and Tim a Speaking Tube that they can use to communicate with him, but they soon lose it. Contrast this with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, which started out as a mostly-medieval fantasy world but now has a steam-powered railroad and semaphore towers that can be used for fast communication across great distances. As such, most of the more recent books in the series aren’t travelogues, but rather about people from a fantasy world existing in a multicultural worldwide society.

Video games also often work like this, because certain kinds of technology might impede gameplay while others don’t. This is especially the case with role-playing games, like how the Dragon Quest series is set in a low-tech world that somehow has robots.

In fact, one part of DQ7 involves a robot maker helping to fight off an invasion of other robots from the dark world.

Mind you, magic probably plays a role in the creation of these mechanical beings. Even outside RPGs, there are incredibly varying levels of technology in series like Mario and Zelda.

The first few Mario games don’t seem to involve much technology outside of the wooden airships and tanks in Super Mario Bros. 3, but Super Mario Sunshine starts with Mario and Peach riding an airplane to an airport and watching a video for tourists.

We know from the Mario Kart games that there are motor vehicles in the Mushroom Kingdom, but the idea of blocking off the roads when you’re racing on them apparently hasn’t been invented yet.

I grew up with the Super Mario Bros. cartoons, and most of the Super Show ones parodied either a specific story or a genre. As such, Mario’s team and Bowser and his minions would journey from medieval lands to the Old West to fairly modern cities with cars and motorcycles, and both sides always seemed to play along with the theme. A Star Wars parody episode involved Bowser trying to destroy an entire planet of settlers from the Mushroom Kingdom with something called a Birdo Ray.

You’d think he’d bring some super-weapons like that when terrorizing rural towns in other episodes, but he never does. Mind you, sometimes it’s probably a matter of practicality, like cars not being all that useful in a desert or jungle setting with no roads. That probably applies to the games as well, as you couldn’t exactly drive up staircases or over pits. You would think you could use an airplane to fly into the world where Bowser is keeping the Princess instead of journeying through all those worlds on foot, but maybe Mario is afraid it would be shot down by the Koopas’ air power.

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This entry was posted in Authors, Cartoons, Dick Martin, Discworld, Dragon Quest, History, Japan, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Magic Items, Mario, Oz, Oz Authors, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Technology, Television, Terry Pratchett, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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