Created By: evil_cucumber on April 22, 2013

No Paper Past

A primative culture without paper.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
While No-Paper Future is about a setting that is so technologically advanced it no longer uses paper, no paper past is about a setting that is so technologically primitive that paper hasn't even been invented yet.

Examples

Real Life
  • Paper was invented independently in Ancient Egypt and China, and was slow to catch on among other cultures. Before the widespread adoption of paper, people wrote on clay tablets, wooden blocks, sheets of wax, or animal skins.
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • April 22, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Newspaper Comics

    A The Farside cartoon depicted three cavemen playing what looks like "rock, paper, scissors", only all three had "rock" and one of them says "dang, tied again". (The implication being that this was the only option because neither scissors nor paper had been invented yet.)

    [The only Google Image I could find of it is linked to a "blocked page" so it can't be linked here--I know Gary Larson is (inexplicably, IMHO) against posting images of his decades-old cartoons on the web, unfortunately, so I don't know if it has to do with that or my workplace's filters.]
  • April 22, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Western Animation
    • The Bamboo Technology of The Flintstones is typically stone, sticks, hides, and more stone, but they seem to go without anything paper-like. Photos and newspapers are inscribed on stone tablets.
  • April 22, 2013
    Nocturna
    Paper is a relatively recent invention, and has only existed for less than two thousand years. Ancient Egypt did not have paper; they had papyrus.

    Additionally, "primitive" has a pretty specific meaning which does not apply to all cultures which did not use paper-like materials (e.g. the Babylonians and the Chinese prior to the invention of paper).

    I'm also not sure that this is tropeable--works set in an older society (or pseudo-older society) don't have paper/paper-like materials because they didn't exist then, making it not a trope as it doesn't serve a purpose in the story but exists only because it exists in the real world. The only way it would be tropeable would be cases where the lack of paper is being specifically used to highlight that the culture is very ancient.
  • April 22, 2013
    evil_cucumber
    If No Paper Future is tropable, then why wouldn't this be?
  • April 23, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^^Nocturna: "The only way it would be tropeable would be cases where the lack of paper is being specifically used to highlight that the culture is very ancient."

    ...Or, I would add, a work that has prehistoric characters using things (like newspapers, for The Flintstones) or doing things (like playing "rock, paper, scissors", per The Farside cartoon I mentioned) which would not have come about in Real Life without paper, but are done without paper or knowledge of paper nonetheless--often for laughs.

    Anything else would be incidental, and probably Prehistoric People Sitting On Rocks.
  • April 23, 2013
    Nocturna
    ^ True. I didn't think of that aspect.

    ^^ Common presentations of imagined futures (which is what No Paper Future is) is different than trying to make a page about a historical fact (ancient societies didn't have paper).
  • April 23, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • The ENTIRE Star Wars universe is this. George Lucas confirmed that never once at any point in time was paper ever invented by anyone.
  • April 23, 2013
    helterskelter
    ^ The Star Wars universe it not primitive. Regardless, that's not right.

    In any case, I don't see this being a trope unless it's the way that We Are All Kosh highlights it.
  • April 23, 2013
    WackyMeetsPractical
    I agree this is not tropable. Time periods doing without inventions before they are invented is not particularly noteworthy. Might as well have a trope called Things Dont Exist Until Theyre Invented. No Paper Future is noteworthy because paper presumably is invented, but society chooses not to use it. Having something and not using it is more noteworthy than not having something and not using it.

    Now not having something and referencing not having it, that is noteworthy. But I suggest we broaden it to include more than just paper. I've seen many examples, though I can't remember any at the moment, of people living in past periods, and then noting how convenient a certain something would be, naming it by name, and mentioning how it's too bad it hasn't been invented it. Maybe we could call it, Has Not Been Invented Yet.
  • April 23, 2013
    willthiswork
    Hmm, the act of substituting paper and pencil with stone tablets and chisel as a sight gag/ indicator of how old the society is/ way to get around the whole paper not being invented yet thing might be a trope to itself.
  • April 24, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^^ Here's a "Hasn't Been Invented Yet" ykttw from about a year ago. It's maked as "launched" but I can't find what name it was launched under; provided that it wasn't cut for some reason.
  • April 24, 2013
    Nocturna
    ^ Looks like that was probably discarded. ("Launched" applied to both actual launches and to discards.)
  • April 24, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    The idea of a primitive society using something that wouldn't actually exist without certain inventions need not be limited to paper: witness also the log cars on The Flintstones--basically big logs with seats cut in them and powered by the driver's legs poking through the bottom (I don't remember if they even had wheels). That they would exist at all is absurd (why not just walk without lugging that big log with you?), but it's a sight gag highlighting the fact that real internal-combustion cars haven't been invented yet.

    Not sure of a good name to call this trope, if it is to go beyond just paper products.

    (EDIT: Actually I looked at The Flintstones page and saw that the cars weren't just logs, but round stones for wheels and a wooden body like a car--not sure why I remembered them differently other than not having seen the show for decades. But the same principle still applies, as you're lugging around a lot more weight with your feet, and although the wheels may lessen that added weight, just walking would be less work still.)

  • April 24, 2013
    Topazan
    ^You may be thinking of Barney's car, which was basically a log with wheels. Fred's car is the one of the page.
  • April 24, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^^ And I also found upon looking at The Flintstones page that we may have a trope that significantly overlaps this: Bamboo Technology (which covers all the other Flintstones devices that parallel with 1960s American tech).

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=qcvmyz3jys8h88i55ey12baz