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Medieval Stasis / Literature

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Medieval Stasis in literature.

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  • In David Eddings' The Belgariad and Malloreon book series the stasis of the world is explained to be a side effect of the accident that divided creation into two opposites. The future cannot happen until the effects of the accident are undone and the two possibilities are combined back into one.
    • This doesn't stop technology from advancing throughout the 7,000-odd years that Belgarath the Sorcerer covers. It just moves very slowly. Most of the really drastic inventions and discoveries (especially weapons of war) were made by the sorcerers themselves, usually after centuries or millennia of study, but outside of their fraternity, technological progress seems to have been suppressed by the contrivance of the gods.
    • Part of the problem is the various countries tend to limit contact with each other to varying degrees, with the inhabitants of Nyissa being the most xenophobic. Once the different countries have to work together against the Big Bad, information starts being exchanged and several inventions are made just to deal with the circumstances.
    • In The Elenium, soldiers summoned from the ancient past use Bronze Age armor and weapons.
    • Played more believably in The Redemption of Althalus. The eponymous protagonist is around 2500 years old, and civilisation has advanced from early bronze age to a Greco-Roman level during his lifetime. The main antagonist is significantly older (about 10,000 years), and it's noted that things were much more primitive when he was born and it's heavily implied that he was among the first behaviourally modern humans (although unlike in the Elenium it's not established whether humans were created as is or evolved).
  • K. J. Parker's worlds often feature Medieval Stasis. In The Fencer Trilogy, a metaphysical force known as the Principle has the world in its grip, forcing history into circular patterns. The Scavenger Trilogy has traces of identical civilizations from thousands of years ago. This world is the plaything of a god of death, periodically crushing progress. The Engineer features a pivotal scene where a man trying to introduce cannon into the world is blown up by his creation: it isn't explicit but the sense is no good comes to those trying to break the stasis.
  • Tamora Pierce:
    • Averted in the Circleverse series, albeit mostly in quiet ways. An equivalent of gunpowder has just been developed, greenhouses (and necessarily the means to make largish transparent panes with relative ease) are a new thing, a mage just created a machine that transforms wind magic into lightning magic, and ten or twenty years before the first quartet, a team of mages developed incredibly detailed scientific methods to study and cure diseases, involving taking fluid samples from infected patients and distilling those to the "essence" of the sickness.
    • Also averted in her Tortall Universe, said aversion being especially visible now that she has written a series set outside the timeline of the rest of the Tortall books. The most visible changes are social ones: for example, in Beka Cooper's time there is greater gender equality, although more misogynistic views are starting to take over. By the later-set Alanna books, a woman's place in considered to be the home. The events of her books continue to affect society, through the later-still Daine and Kel books. And so on. Technologically, too, we see some developments (particularly in the area of magical technology).
  • Gene Wolfe:
    • The Book of the New Sun tetrology of novels take place a looong way in the future (the techno-fantasy "post-historical" era where Stone-Age Man, the Modern Era, and the Galaxy-Spanning Imperial Era are all lumped together as the "Age of Myth"). The world is roughly at medieval levels (even though fragments of other tech levels are scattered about) and has been for perhaps a million years. It is implied in the books that this was done deliberately — time travel had become a common technology at one point, so accurate record-keeping was abolished and cultural stasis enforced to prevent time-travelers from targeting historically-important points.

      The average person is at medieval levels because the Urth has used up all its resources (Word of God says this is the future where "mankind stays home and waits for the money to run out"). The government is too poor to educate the population so they have lost most of their scientific culture, although they scrupulously talk about the world rotating away from the sun (rather than "the sun setting" as we would say.) As for the Anachronism Stew elements, that is partly a Scavenger World effect, partly due to genetically-engineered species surviving in the wild (their war "horses" are fast enough to charge lasers) and partly the fact that the ruling class can trade with other planets and get things like anti-gravity and life-extension.
    • The Book of the Long Sun has this going on too. After a sizable population left Urth on a generation star ship thousands upon thousands of years back, their society has reverted to city states that worship computer programs that emulate once-living aristocrats.

  • Across A Billion Years: Taken to unimaginable extremes. The first sapient race, known to have existed a billion years in the past, remained technologically stagnant across that entire billion year span, although it's possible due to how advanced they were (a fully functional sentient robot left in an asteroid storage base was still functional a billion years later along with all of its equipment) that they'd reached the limits of technological advancement. They also suffered some very rigid ideas regarding perfection and when they considered something perfect they stopped trying to improve it (although logically anything you can improve is not by definition perfect).
  • The continent of Elatra in An Outcast in Another World has been stuck in a medieval swords-and-sorcery setting for tens of thousands of years.
  • In The Arm of the Stone, "Hand Power" is harshly suppressed and even minor innovations are punished severely.
  • Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark: In Envoy from the Heavens, Ivar Trevelyan works for a human agency dedicated towards studying and advancing pre-space humanoid races. Ivar is sent to a planet that has been stuck in the Middle Ages for millennia with no drive for progress or discovery, mostly due to the political situation on the settled continent being remarkably stable. He infiltrates the society as a Wandering Minstrel and soon finds out that, for various reasons, this society frowns upon attempts to change the status quo with radical new ideas. For example, when Ivar suggests an idea for a saddle for horses to a soldier to ride them instead of using chariots, the soldier looks horrified at the idea of putting a bridle bit into the mouth of such majestic creatures. Attempts to build steam engines often result in them exploding, which the natives use to conclude that they are bad. Even a cheap way to make paper (as opposed to the expensive parchment) is seen as a negative because "knowledge is a double-edged sword". There is a whole undiscovered continent in the other hemisphere, but the natives believe that their world is flat, surrounded by a ring of their head god. Attempting to reach this ring by ship may anger the god with consequences for everyone. Because of this, no one has ever attempted to sail this far. In the end, though, it turns out that another alien race is deliberately causing Medieval Stasis on this world, although they insist that their Alien Non-Interference Clause prevents them from doing so. Instead, they merely observe and keep humans from interfering. However, Ivar does meet a local man who has always dreamed of flying and has secretly built a hot air balloon capable of carrying a good number of people. He realizes that this man, and a tribe he met earlier, can be his Columbus, instructing him to fly over the sea beyond the horizon until he sees land.
  • Thoroughly averted in Sarah Ash's Artamon's Tears trilogy. The borders of the nations of Rossiya have changed often over the past millennium. Old artwork and stories in-character portray people using swords and bows where they currently use muskets. Some areas are more technologically advanced than others (the Renaissancesque Tielen, Francia, and Muscobar are quite different from the medieval Azkhendir, barbaric Khitari, and the unnamed tropical islands of palm-branch clothing and tikis). Even during the less-than-a-decade in which the actual plot takes place, Rossiya experiences significant changes in technology.

  • Bazil Broketail: If a random date appearing in the first novel is to be believed, then Ryetelth (or at least the Argonath) is currently in its twenty-second century (of whatever calendar), yet barring some advancements in certain areas like medicine, the technology used there is still on early medieval level. Interestingly, in book four we learn that this trope is actually enforced. It turns out Lessis and other witches are fully aware what scientific discoveries may lie ahead of them, but actively discourage technological advancement since they are afraid of the dangers it poses. According to Lessis, there are already seven dead worlds in the universe where the locals took that path and eventually destroyed themselves (presumably in nuclear war).
  • In Vladimir Vasilyev's Big Kiev series, it can be initially assumed that the setting is an Alternate Universe. It is, in fact, the year 368,764, but technology remains about at the same level as it is now, and may even have regressed a little. The biggest difference is that machines can function on their own and appear to have animal-level intelligence (possibly, ubiquitous AI). Humans and other sapients — fantasy creatures like elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, and halflingstame the wild machines instead of building them (which is an inconceivable concept), teaching them to respond to the living. Technicians use formulas to operate machines, which are, basically, instructions. Even scientists are not tasked with inventing new things but with understanding how to operate the existing machines. According to one character who has access to notes dating back at least 10,000 years, nothing has changed in that time frame. The plot of The Big Kiev Technician is kicked off when the main character finds out that someone is actually building new machines, an idea that can change the world. The end of the novel heavily implies that the living will now be forced to learn how to build and invent new things, as presence of "built" machines causes "living" machines to die.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Borderlands Shared Universe, the world of Centrum has been stuck at the early 19th century for over 200 years, even though at one point it was the most advanced known world. During Centrum's equivalent of early 20th century, a mysterious "plastic plague" has wiped out all polymers and oil deposits on the entire planet and continues to do so with any polymers brought in from other worlds. After the global societal collapse, the world has partly recovered in large part thanks to the Railroaders, who went back to using coal and now prowl the vast tracks across the continent. The Railroaders are a nation into themselves, not subject to any individual territory. Meanwhile, Earth has passed Centrum by (in part thanks to ET Gave Us Wifi at early stages, as people from Earth used Centrum's tech as a benchmark prior to the collapse), but attempts to bring advanced technology to Centrum invariably result in the polymer parts degrading and melting into goo in a matter of hours. There are rumors of think tanks trying to come up with versions of some tech that doesn't require polymers to function.

  • In Captive Universe by Harry Harrison an Atzec culture survives unchanged over centuries, hidden in a remote valley. They turn out to be unwitting travelers inside a huge spaceship.
  • This is a common complaint/question about The Chronicles of Narnia. Without even worrying about, say, the decades between The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair — a thousand years pass between The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, and seven generations between The Silver Chair and The Last Battle. Technological achievement consists of one channel dug at Cair Paravel and one bridge built at Beruna. C.S. Lewis was very fond of Good Old Ways: development is actively opposed by the protagonists and anyone who tries it gets put down in a hurry. Caspian actually says as much in Dawn Treader — the issue is slavery, but they're talking in general terms. Even the author/narrator, when he's writing about our world, is always dropping in things like how sweets used to be cheaper and kids don't know to swear on the Bible anymore, and Eustace's liberal, modern upbringing is described basically as code to show that he's going to be an unsympathetic jerk. There are also a couple of technological anachronisms in Narnia, like Mrs. Beaver's sewing machine, to combine the medieval and twentieth-century nostalgia. Sewing machines good, Plumptree's Vitaminized Nerve Food bad.
    • On a metatextual level, it makes sense, given that C. S. Lewis and his literary friends (such as J. R. R. Tolkien) among The Inklings were greatly concerned about the effects of industrialization and the loss of the English countryside. This was apparently a theme in the Lord of the Rings, so the fact that it's the secondary theme of Narnia isn't that surprising. Still, it is kind of jarring when you realize that Narnia starts out medieval straight off the bat and remains utterly unchanged until the world ends a few thousand years later.
    • The origin of King Frank and Queen Helen makes this even more problematic. In The Magician's Nephew, they were plucked from Victorian London — specifically when "Mr. Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street" — and became the first in a centuries-long line of royal humanity, and yet they created a medieval society, not a Victorian one. (Although the Victorians were really into Arthurian legend and medievalism in general, so it's not too implausible.) This is probably the result of neither of them being scientists or engineers, and Narnia's first real technology being made by dwarves apparently by instinct alone. (They forge crowns shortly after they're created as fully formed adults by Aslan.) A reliance on creating technology from an unchanging template could explain Narnia's stasis, but not so much places like Calormen, which has little in common culturally with Narnia, along with a desire for conquest that would provide a much stronger impetus for technological development.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain series is another fantasy setting in a medieval vein like the Lord of the Rings and Narnia. It's strongly implied at the end of the last book that the Big Bad steals any technological advancements from humanity and squirrels it away to keep them in this Medieval Stasis. He's defeated, and The Magic Goes Away, clearing the way for humanity to develop naturally, presumably towards modern technology.
  • Averted in the Clandestine Daze series. The fairy-like Aels are as advanced as humanity. They have their own spy networks, technology, and modernized countries.
  • In Codex Alera technology is static and has actually regressed from the original Roman settlers' because of the universal access to Elemental Powers. Magitek is so universal that despite the low tech levels, the quality of life is roughly equivalent to the mid-20th century, and the use of magic has been evolving. There is also an institutionalized traditionalism within Aleran society, thanks to the fact that they've spent a millennia simply fighting to survive against the Death World that is Carna, which resulted in an emphasis on following set, traditional methods. This is, ultimately, a serious problem that the Alerans have, as they have no reference point to deal with enemies using advanced engineering like the Canim, let alone a completely out of context problem like the Vord.
    • And then Bernard reinvents the catapult. Which turns into a WMD when loaded with lots of small fire orbs children can make with little effort. A WMD in a world with Races of Mass Destruction. This is when the Alerans realize their Medieval Stasis is breaking.
    • According to Word of God, this will eventually be averted. The author has stated that if he ever writes a book set in the same world again, it'll take place roughly 200 years in the future, and technology will be a kind of magical steampunk. Furypunk, he calls it.
  • The world of Erna in the Coldfire Trilogy has been stuck at the same tech level for a thousand years thanks to the fae. It turns out Your Mind Makes It Real doesn't mix very well with technology: for example, worrying about a gun jamming/misfiring will make it happen, and humans can't help but worry. Furthermore, all of the advanced technology possessed by the original colonists who landed on Erna was lost when one officer sacrificed all of it, including the colony ship itself, to make the fae into Functional Magic that humans could safely use.
  • A recurring element in Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere:
    • Sanderson's intent is to avert the trope across the Mistborn series. Each 'era' will have a different level of scientific and technological progress, with the intent of seeing how magic (which stays broadly consistent) functions within and impacts upon the setting. Mistborn: The Original Trilogy is broadly pre-Industrial Revolution, while the 'Wax and Wayne'' stories are Wild West/Gilded Age. Future works are planned to be set in a 'modern' era, before progressing to a Space Opera. However, Medieval Stasis is enforced to various degress within the background of each era:
      • In the Mistborn trilogy, the Final Empire has writhed and bled in the iron grip of the Lord Ruler for a thousand years... and he has no interest in letting the world change. The Skaa are worked hard, uneducated, and have no real opportunity for technological innovations, while the nobility are so closely monitored by the Lord Ruler's Obligators that any new invention would need to be approved by them. One of the only advancements made in a thousand years was the recent invention of canned goods, which the Lord Ruler personally considered useful. Somebody apparently invented gunpowder within the few decades of the story, but the Lord Ruler suppressed the knowledge since it would have been potentially dangerous to him and his armies. The Lord Ruler's plan was to wait until the power of the Well of Ascension returned after a thousand years, and thus his primary interest was in creating a system that would let him remain in power that long; stasis was precisely his goal.
      • The follow-up series, Wax and Wayne, plays with this trope. It is set about three hundred years later, and technology has progressed to an early 1900's level. There are guns, electric lights, universities, and trains. However in the second novel Harmony notes that, due to his making the land so fertile and comfortable for humans, society actually hasn't progressed as much as it should. He specifically notes that they should have developed radio a century ago, be well on their way to aviation, and, more worryingly, neglected to develop advanced irrigation and farming techniques due to the Elendel Basin being so fertile. The latter point is starting to become a problem for everyone outside the Basin.
    • In The Stormlight Archive, fabrial development on the planet Roshar is constant and its potential is just starting to be explored, even though civilization in general was at a similar level of development thousands of years ago. The reason why things are so medieval is explained by the Desolations, which are generally so terribly destructive that by the time they're over civilization will have completely collapsed, to the point that when the Heralds show up to fight off the next one, they don't know if this particular round of civilizations will be able to forge bronze yet. In fact, the unusually long gap between Desolations at the start of the series means that they've advanced more than usual. The third book, Oathbringer, reveals that each Desolation was the result of a form of Loophole Abuse surrounding the Heralds, who swore to fight the god of hate, Odium, on his homeworld for eternity, and as long as they held true to their oaths then he would be sealed away. Odium instead captured them and tortured them until at least one of them broke and forsook the oath, allowing Odium to invade Roshar. The Heralds would be allowed to travel to Roshar and fight Odium's armies, and once Odium was defeated or the Heralds died, they would return to continue the cycle. However, as time passed, it became easier to break each Herald, until finally multiple Desolations were happening per year. The only way they could determine how to stop the process was to allow the only Herald who never broke to be taken back while the others abandoned their oaths completely, and that Herald resisted alone for four and a half thousand years before he finally broke under Odium's torture, giving Roshar enough time to develop a highly-advanced civilization.
    • Elantris justified the Medieval Stasis with the Elantrians' ability to provide nearly everything with the lack of need for actual technology.
  • In Janny Wurts's Curse of the Mistwraith series, five immortal wizards have forcibly maintained medieval stasis for more than 10,000 years, by removing the memories of anyone who discovers technologies they disapprove of.

  • Dark Lord of Derkholm Subverted and invoked — the world just pretends to be constantly medieval so as to live up to expectations.
  • In The Darksword Trilogy, the use of magic has caused society to stagnate. The idea of The Magocracy essentially suffocating itself by suppressing all non-magical innovation is an important motif throughout the series. They did develop mathematics considerably due to its use, though to a lesser extent than in the outside world (ours). In the third book we finally have enough backstory to realize that the populace is mostly descended from refugees from Dark Age witch hunts, who equated education with priests inciting violence against them, and subtext implies their "Death Mages" (engineers) stayed behind to help start the Renaissance and start changing attitudes toward magic to prepare for a future reunion. Anybody wanting to organize and control the relocated people for their survival practically had "Technology Is Evil" dropped into their laps as a tool... and so the project to keep magic in the human gene pool started going horribly right.
  • Destroyermen: Zigzagged in the series' backstory. Prior to USS Walker's arrival in the books' Alternate History in 1942, the last time the Lemurians advanced much technologically was by moving their entire race onto giant seagoing "Homes" centuries ago in order to escape their enemies, the reptilian Grik, by crossing the Indian Ocean to the islands of southeast Asia. The stasis returned partly because there was no driving force for innovation (why mess with what works), and partly because of a trade secret-hoarding guild system that developed in some Lemurian cultures. It takes the Grik finding them, coupled with an influx of World War II-era technology from human ships, to knock them out of the rut once and for all.
    • The Grik in turn are technological locusts. While they're very good at reverse-engineering and replicating, innovation is largely beyond them; the last time they advanced was by disassembling and replicating a British East Indiaman that crossed into the Alternate History sometime in the 1700s. This enabled them to expand their territory from Africa across the Indian Ocean and find the Lemurians again. The Lemurians do, however, note that the Grik ships keep getting bigger and bigger. Possibly, the Grik were still trying to successfully replicate an East Indiaman (minus the guns, which are beyond their understanding).
    • Averted with the two known human cultures apart from the destroyermen. The Empire of New Britain and Holy Dominion started with Wooden Ships and Iron Men and have improved to roughly the 1860s (ships powered by sail and coal-fired steam engines).
  • The Discworld is generally an exception to this trope — you can see technology and culture changing from year to year — but it was a plot point in Pyramids, where the kingdom of Djelibeybi is caught in this state, thanks to a time loop generated by an oversupply of pyramid power. Having said that, the TV adaptation of Hogfather included a flashback to Alberto Malich's childhood, two thousand years ago... using the same vaguely Georgian costumes and streets as in the main story. (Although to be fair, it's not actually stated that Albert's 2,000 years old in the TV version.)
    • It has also been mentioned (especially in the Science of Discworld series) that a world where many tropes (such as the Rule of Funny) are fundamental laws does not lend itself to technological advances — things are simply too unpredictable.
    • Ankh-Morpork and the Empire were locked down for centuries in-story, while Klatch advanced. The changes were caused by Twoflower introducing new ideas, which business-minded tinkerers were able to replicate. This set minds thinking in new directions, and competition forced the tech level up.
    • In general over the last half of the series there's been something of a metaplot of Ankh-Morpork (and since Ankh-Morpork is the Fantasy Counterpart Culture to England, the rest of the civilized world) breaking out of the Medieval Stasis.
    • The dwarfs, too, broke out of Medieval Stasis somewhat recently, due to the invention of safer means to deal with gas pockets some 50 years ago. This kicked off social upheavals that led more dwarfs up onto the surface, where their skills and competition probably helped spur humans' own inventiveness. This has gone on to the point that Ankh-Morpork is now the largest Dwarf city on the Disc outside of Überwald, even though they are still a minority there.
    • Krull is indicated to have made many magical and technical advances in the name of seeking knowledge... and they aren't inclined to share.
    • The general temperament of some of the Disc leaders also leads to stagnation. Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos made a metal golem army for the Tomb of Pitchiu; it cost him his eyes. He made new ones of gold and relearned his craft, making the fantastic Palace of the Seven Deserts for the Emir; it cost him his right hand. He made a new one of silver and built the first of the great Light Dams for the tribal councils of the Great Nef; they hamstrung him. All to keep him from sharing secrets or doing anything as great for anyone else. Finally, Dactylos came to Krull, creating a great fish-ship for them and asking only not to be mutilated in return. The Arch-astronomer agreed — but had him killed. Not a history to encourage other innovators.
    • Vetinari himself has invoked this trope in the case of Leonard of Quirm, keeping the genius inventor isolated in his workshop and suppressing those inventions (such as the gonne) which could potentially destabilize his city too much. On the other hand, the rise of the clacks and implied infrastructural changes still to come (the "Undertaking") suggest he's no longer suppressing innovation: he's steering it so both stagnation and chaos are avoided.
    • King Verence II does his level best to pull Lancre out of this. His subjects, being hard-nosed, conservative country-folk, generally view his attempts at reform with suspicion when they don't outright ignore them, but they understand and respect that the king is doing his best to make things better for everyone, even when it doesn't quite work out.
  • In Steven Brust's Dragaera novels, this is a Justified Trope within the Dragaeran Empire. While magic leaps forward after the Interregnum due to divine intervention, the Great Cycle of the Empire keeps society spinning through an endless stasis. Dragaeran Kingdoms and the Eastern Kingdoms, however, have also stagnated for hundreds of millennia without any apparent justification.
    • Discussed in Vallista that the Jenoine have done something to Dragaerans and humans to prevent them from being innovative, as part of a sociological experiment. Essentially: set up a society with some number of 'tribes' (that eventually became the 17 houses), give them sorcery, set up the Easterners with witchcraft as a control group, and somehow set up Medieval Stasis just to see what happen. Where 'The cycle' itself came from hasn't been clarified yet, but is strongly implied to be a result of the creation of the Imperial Orb.
  • Partially averted in the Dragonlance books; technology has not changed all that much but there have been profound cultural and political shifts over the millenia: the collapse of the Ergothian Empire, the splintering of the Elves into three different kingdoms, the rise of Solamnia and Istar and the destruction of the latter, the rise of new religions and the abandonment of the true gods (and then their return).
    • Possibly justified in that most technological advancements are developed by Gnomes, which in and of itself is a reason for other races to want to steer clear. When other people see a toaster that uses multicolored explosions and flying serrated blades in its standard operational process, most will decide they don't need their bread warmed up that badly.
  • Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels feature Medieval Stasis for two-and-a-half thousand years, although justified in the stories for four reasons.
    • First, colonists from Earth were deliberately looking for a planet to settle on that would allow them to live an idyllic, non-industrial lifestyle. "PERN" is revealed to be an acronym for "Parallel Earth, Resources Negligible", so there are no natural resources to advance technologically if they so desired.
    • Secondly, every 200 years the alien organism "Thread" falls from the sky for 50 years at a time, consuming all organic matter in its path. This forces the human settlers to genetically engineer the titular Dragons from a small native species resembling mythical dragons, using up the last of their resources to create a renewable biological air force to destroy Thread before it hits the ground, destroying all crops. Humans also abandon the verdant and geologically active Southern Continent of the planet to the Northern Continent, which is far more rocky and mountainous, allowing for resettlement in caves and extinct volcanic craters to protect people from Thread, which cannot bore through rock. This ultimately led to the system of Weyrs (military bases for Dragonriders), Holds (civilian towns controlled by feudal lords), and Crafthalls (highly stratified universities for technical skills ranging from farming to medicine to the arts).
    • Third, as revealed in the short story "Rescue Run", a battle cruiser from the Federated Sentient Planets discovers a distress beacon set off by an early settler on the then-abandoned Southern Continent. They send down a rescue party to save original settler Stev Kimmer and the Fusaiyuki family who never got the notice to move to the Northern Continent. Kimmer manages to trick the leader of the rescue mission that he and the Fusaiyukis are the only ones left on Pern after the fall of Thread which had just ended a few years prior. This, combined with the rescue team's inability to detect any signs of life on the Northern Continent (due to the complete lack of higher technology after the 50 years of Threadfall), leads the team to mark Pern off-limits to future excursions, particularly to avoid spreading Thread to the rest of the galaxy. By the time of the events of the book Red Star Rising/Dragonseye, the original settlers are finally starting to run out of paper.
    • Finally, a series of epidemic plagues affect Pernese society on multiple occasions, including an influenza pandemic a thousand years before the chronologically later books in the series. This shatters what remained of humanity's future gender equality, sending women back to being baby factories to repopulate the planet. It's not until the "modern" books that women start to regain some form of equality, such as Menolly being allowed to become a Harper.
    • This stasis is finally broken in the "modern" events of Pern (over 2500 years after the original settlement) when the heroes discover the original landing site, the still-working solar panels which power it, and the Benevolent A.I. AIVAS who helps these descendants of the original settlers destroy Thread once and for all by changing the orbit of the rogue planet the Pernese had dubbed the Red Star, preventing it from passing through the Oort cloud that is the origin of the Thread organisms. This led to a massive Technology Uplift when the revived AIVAS reintroduces what is essentially thousands of years of technological and scientific advancement that the Pernese had lost after the original settlements were abandoned, improving the states of medicine, the arts, and engineering that had been retained, as well as reintroducing printing, plastics, computers, and the knowledge that the original settlers brought genetically engineered, psychic, sapient dolphins with them to Pern.
  • David Gemmell's final Drenai novel, The Swords of Night and Day, jacks an established character forward a thousand years in time in a Fish out of Temporal Water plot. Despite some political upheaval, technology has more or less remained the exact same, with some advances in monster-making techniques being the only difference.
  • The Dune universe is kept intentionally technologically stagnant, for different reasons depending on the time period. In the distant past, humanity rebelled against the thinking machines that had all but taken over; the outcome of this jihad was an absolute prohibition on machines mimicking human thought processes. In the original Dune trilogy, the proscriptions of the Butlerian Jihad are still in force, combined with a situation of hydraulic despotism as all interstellar travel, communication, and commerce depends absolutely on the spice. Then, in Leto II's reign as God-Emperor, he takes this to the ultimate extreme, forcing society (by means of overwhelming retribution backed up by prescient vision) to abandon most technology and live in a primitive, idyllic manner. This is all designed to cause a massive upheaval after his death, and indeed it does; a forced withdrawal from the spice motivates the construction of devices capable of interstellar navigation, "no-ships" that are immune to prescient detection, and a general release of three thousand years of pent-up innovation. By the time of the last two books, a Lensman Arms Race has resulted in weapons capable of sterilizing planets and literal fleets of no-ships.
    • The prequel novels reveal that some progress was indeed made on the two technological planets: Ix and Richese. In fact, it was a Richesean scientist who first invents the no-field generator and builds the first no-ship, as an extension of Holtzman's theories. It is, however, not immune to prescient vision but is otherwise completely undetectable. This technology is lost, though, when the Emperor orders the lab destroyed in an unrelated matter. The Ixians have also improved the heighliner design against the opposition from House Corrino.
      • Said opposition has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with money. House Corrino receives a set fee for each fold-jump. The new heighliners are able to carry 20% more cargo. This means that fewer jumps would be required to move the same amount of cargo or number of people. Thus, House Corrino would receive less profit.
  • Happens in the Grim Up North of Tamara Silar Jones's forensic fantasy series Dubric Byerly Mysteries. Originally the world setting had advanced to 19th century levels of technology. But in the north, emerged the various Mages. Each a member of a cult that worships the god of evil, they conquer the north and quickly reduce the population to illiterate slaves and potential human sacrifices, thereby tumbling the north back into something resembling our Dark Ages. Things are so bad in the north, that one city is famous because it's economy is moribund to the point that the only economic options for young men there is do back-breaking labour or become rentboys for other men. The Army of Light emerged from the still-advanced south, to liberate the north but decades after victory, the north has barely advanced.

  • Empire from the Ashes:
    • The Achuultani have stasis enforced on them by the AI that controls their species: in order to maintain a constant threat which justifies it having control, the AI prevents the species from advancing technologically so that the aliens they encounter will inflict significant casualties before being defeated. The AI only introduces new tech if required to ensure the Achuultani will win, but prevents any extrapolations from that technology.
    • In the third book, Heirs of Empire, the planet Pardal has been stuck in a degree of stasis for 45,000 years due to a technophobic religion which was set up in response to the bioweapon plague that destroyed the rest of the Fourth Empire. In this time, the planet has advanced from the stone-age tech they initially backslid into to flintlocks. Weber would later revisit the concept in his Safehold series.
  • Somewhat subtle in Orson Scott Card's Ender books. Ender's Game is set 20 Minutes into the Future, and the next book, which takes place 3,000 years later, is also 20 Minutes into the Future, more or less. Not only have technology, politics and linguistics seen few apparent changes, but also social, cultural, and religious attitudes, which can seem rather incongruous, given the amount of change in all those fields during a comparable span of Earth history. It's somewhat implied to be a result of relativistic time resulting from frequent space travel.

  • Played with in John Brunner's novella Father of Lies. Amateur paranormal researchers in the 1960s find an anomalous spot in Britain that doesn't seem to have changed since the Middle Ages. In reality, a Reality Warper mutant child forced this on an 1840s community, basing their new society on garbled Arthurian legend, the cultural stasis has only existed since then due to him enforcing it.
  • In Rod Duncan's Fall of the Gaslit Empire trilogy, the UK experienced the Ned Ludd-inspired British Revolutionary War which split the UK into the Anglo-Scottish Republic and the Kingdom of England and Southern Wales. The Revolution also created the International Patent Office, an all-powerful bureau designed to suppress technological innovation, as well as the global union colloqially known as the Gaslit Empire. The British Revolutionary War happened in 1816-1819 and 200 years after, the Gaslit Empire is still using front-loading flintlocks and crossbows as well as having to harvest mountain ice for refrigeration. The airship and steam-car are the most advanced method of international travel, with horse-drawn carriage stil common.

  • Justified in Poortvliet and Huygen's Gnomes books, in which gnomes have maintained a steady level of technology (metalsmithing, balloons, water and wind power) for many thousands of years, being only recently surpassed by humans. Being a Friend to All Living Things, no gnome would even consider using any form of technology that creates pollution or otherwise endangers the wilderness.
  • Gor is technologically stagnant because people who push the envelope too far tend to suddenly burst into flame. However, they somehow managed to invent light bulbs and cure aging. This is also philosophically convenient for Norman as it lets him justify why men on Gor are... uh, better.
    • Gor is controlled by the non-human "Priest Kings". They allow advances in some areas (medicine, lighting, etc), but not in others (weapons, vehicles, etc), because they fear that if men advance in these areas they might challenge the Priest Kings' power. They enforce this by using a weapon that causes a person experimenting in forbidden knowledge to burst into flame.
    • The patchwork technology was most obvious in the first few books, which were intentional imitations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars stories, and feature conveniences like thermostatic sleeping bags which were quickly forgotten when he took the series his own way.

  • Harry Potter: The Wizarding World generally avoids this, as magical techniques are shown to be constantly developing new aspects, although many cultural elements (architecture and fashion, for example) are held over from previous periods, mainly the high Middle Ages, the Victorian era, and the 1930s-1940s. The latter part is possibly justified by wizards living much longer than normal humans and being fairly isolated from outside trends.
    • It's also noted that magic and technology don't mix very well, and Muggle electronics are completely useless at places like Hogwarts, where magic is constantly active.
    • This is averted in the movies, when the Hogwarts uniform was changed to be reminiscent of boarding school uniforms and the Yule Ball "dress robes" were basically regular tuxedos and dresses.
    • The cultural stagnation appears to be a deliberate choice, since magical equivalents to technological conveniences are shown to exist but be little used. For instance, they still use normal quills even though we've seen a few times that magic quills that take dictation are widely available (Reeta Skeeter even had hers distort the account of the interview in real time).
    • It's still played straight in some ways, though; in centuries nobody has been able to make an invisibility cloak as effective or a wand as powerful as the Deathly Hallows, even though we're told both fields have advanced considerably in general. Although in-universe the idea they were made by (unusually clever) wizard craftsmen at all is something of a minority opinion.
  • The Heralds of Valdemar series is a case of medieval stasis enabled by the use of Functional Magic to supply many of the conveniences that would otherwise be provided by technology. However, three thousand years with no scientific advancement is a bit much, and a very subtle (i.e., blink and you'll miss it) justification is provided in that the Powers That Be have been carefully orchestrating history in order to set the stage to avert the return of a World Sundering magical Cataclysm. As this imperative wanes, it can be seen in the Mage Storms trilogy that Valdemar, by far the most progressive nation from a cultural standpoint, has begun to support a cadre of artificers who are rapidly moving toward late Renaissance and even steam technology. However, nobody's figured out gunpowder or anything resembling (non-magical) explosives.

    Just Before the End, Functional Magic and Magitek were far more advanced than the main timeline of most of the stories, and society included such things as "advanced" medical colleges that denied the reality of Healing Hands and other Gifts. After the Cataclysm, societies rebuilt themselves to the medieval status we see. Over the course of several hundred years, Valdemar is founded by migrants from The Empire, grows, absorbs smaller kingdoms, and enters into a long-standing Cold War with Karse. In the Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, Valdemar loses the last of its Magitek, such as the ability to pave roads, and regresses again, only to finally begin merging the aforementioned technological advances with the return of Functional Magic, about 400 years later.
  • Hyperion Cantos: An important plot point is the fact that the Hegemony of Man is culturally and technologically stagnant, albeit with AI-given toys, while the Ouster "barbarians" have continued to progress.

  • Implied Spaces: Invoked and Enforced in the pocket universe of Midgarth. Originally designed as Middle Ages anthropological experiment, the ethics of creating a world where people do actually die mean the project was abandoned and is repurposed into Fantasy MMO planet. In order to keep things that way, the laws of physics inside the pocket universe is made so that temperature cannot go up above a certain point, which makes things like explosives impossible to work or developed. This is also played with, since it doesn't specifically prohibit advanced technology from working, with wormholes, AI, and nanotech still functional, as long as it doesn't violate the modified physics law, but the inhabitants will find it impossible to develop intermediate technology that would lead to those advanced technologies. This does become a problem when the war in the main universe against Vindex ends up with Gemma losing 30% of her mass from relativistic mass driver shot and severed the wormhole connection to Midgarth, since Midgarth doesn't have technology to recreate a wormhole back to the main universe.
  • Incarceron: Enforced by laws known as Protocol. It's undoubtedly a Crapsaccharine World, as one character in La Résistance says about their Era that it condemns their best minds to work only on sterile reproductions of the past. It's excusable in a world where most knowledge was destroyed earlier, but enforced and anti-intellectual? Not right, man.
  • Inhuman: Such a stasis is also the main theme and plot point in the novel, which is set in the dystopian interstellar Empire of Humans where, according to one of the characters, no technological advances were made for the last several centuries. The, uh, antagonists (both sides involved are villains by most measures), effectively an alien conspiracy masquerading as a government conspiracy, want to remedy this.

  • Known Space:
    • Enforced in Ringworld. The eponymous structure consists of a (relatively) thin layer of soil on top of a ribbon of super-hard, unworkable Phlebotinum. After civilization collapses and high technology is lost, it can never be rebuilt because of the lack of workable metal.
    • The Kzinti histories: the Kzin aren't terribly intelligent to begin with, and gained the great majority of their technology by rising up against their Jotok masters and offing most of them, and in a universe without FTL technology, it takes a long time for things to propagate over several hundred light-years of empire. Imperial standardization as well as simple physics kept the Kzin at a very, very, painfully minuscule level of advancement. The Kzin even have a priestlike caste called the Conservers of the Ancient Past, whose job is to prevent unneeded change. Though after the first couple wars with humanity they become much more motivated to advance, even acquiring hyperdrive shortly after Earth does.

  • Oz, Ev, and the similar Magical Lands in Land of Oz are behind on technology and fashion compared to the rest of Earth. The series takes place somewhere between 1890-1930 but Oz is still an antiquated fairy-tale land.
  • The Last Dragonlord: Largely averted, although technological progress is very slow and culture is even more sluggish. The first Dragonlords, were-dragons born as humans, came into being when humans were tribal nomads. By the time the books are set in, it's a medieval equivalent. The youngest Dragonlord, a mere six hundred and keeping the same appearance he grew up with, is recognized by humans as a Yerrin noble of the Snow Cat clan by a look at how his hair is braided — six centuries and that didn't change at all. He's surprised and pleased by the invention of wind chimes, and states to an older Dragonlord that it's weird seeing glass windows everywhere; when he grew up it was a rare thing. His elder agrees, saying he never saw glass except for beads until long after he first Changed. In the next book, two Dragonlords in a port city are dismayed to find that it's completely changed in the centuries since they'd been there, and they have no idea where anything is.
  • The League of Peoples Verse: Discussed in Ascending, where races that were "uplifted" by the League of Peoples hundreds or even thousands of years before humanity have no significant technological advantage over them. Having been handed everything they could ever need by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, their own industries and cultures stagnated. What's worse, the League technology was all of the Black Box variety: they didn't understand the first thing about the technology they were using, and thus couldn't make any further scientific progress. The result: a long downward slide into Creative Sterility. This is a fate that threatens humanity as well.
  • In The Left Hand of Darkness Gethenians have known radio and electric automobiles for two thousand years, and they still use them. It's discussed in-universe whether it's the need to survive in harsh environment that uses up all the innovativeness. On the other hand, it is mentioned that the Gethenians have progressed slowly over the centuries (a bad harvest no longer condemns an entire province to famine), in addition they have never had a war, events that in real life accelerate scientific progress and technical.
  • In Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, interplanetary colonists, who use advanced technology to create personas as members of the Hindu pantheon, purposely keep the planet's indigenous population in low-tech stasis so that they will not be able to rise up and overthrow their "gods". The printing press, for instance, was repeatedly independently discovered, and despite their best efforts the "gods" had to resort to using nuclear weapons against regions where forbidden technologies had become entrenched. The moment the gods lifted up their collective thumb (during a "war in heaven") people immediately began to improve their lives with innovations like indoor plumbing. And the priesthood didn't even try to stop the one-armed bandits, but coopted them as 'pray-o-mats'.
  • In The Lost Regiment, the 35th Maine gets transported by a Tunnel of Light after the Battle of Gettysburg and finds itself on an alien world along with other humans, who have gotten there the same way in different time periods. The first people they meet are the Medieval Russians, who appears to have crossed over around the 10th century. In the 900 years since then, their society hasn't advanced in any area. They later find out that the same is true for the other human societies who have been transplanted to this world, including even older cultures like Carthage and Rome. They quickly find out why this is the case. This world is ruled by hordes of 10-foot-tall hairy Human Aliens who constantly circumnavigate their world on horseback and collect tribute from their human subjects in the form of people to eat. They maintain the status quo among the humans and crush any attempts to break it, including inventing new things. Averted in later books.

  • Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is an extreme example: the world has a history stretching back three hundred thousand (300,000) years and more, yet technology is still medieval (except for the existence of dynamite-like munitions). Lampshaded and justified by Samar Dev in The Bonehunters: She notes (laments, really) that the power of the Warrens means they will never really have a need to strive for technological solutions to their problems. If they can't magic it, they'll just buy or trade for what they need from another race.
    An additional reason is that most human empires in the Malazan world are very short-lived and humanity is thrown back culturally and technologically regularly over the millennia, due to violent upheavals. The one empire that did survive since the fall of the First Empire, Lether, has magical reasons for being put in a — literal — stasis.
    And of course ancient civilizations were more technologically advanced: The K'Chain Che'Malle had anti-gravity devices, lasers and nanobots while the Jaghut heavily dabbled with genetic manipulation.
  • The Marvellous Land of Snergs is set in the early twentieth century, but the realm of Kiul I beyond the border river remains stuck in the High Middle Ages.
  • In The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card, humanity has been stuck at the same technological level for 40 million years. They're colonists, genetically modified to be susceptible to mind control by an advanced AI which was programmed to prevent technological advance past a certain level, since its creators have seen that as the cause of wars and misery back on Earth. On the bright side, they do have the chariot now! This amazing feat of engineering was baffling and unheard of until lately. Technology that isn't applicable to war is actually fairly common, though, such as levitation pads for cripples, some advanced data storage and one or two things like that.

  • The Old Kingdom's Background Magic Field destroys anything that isn't hand-crafted. Although there is some Magitek, primarily crafted by the long-dead Wallmakers (and later Prince Sameth, the first new one in a millennium), this enforces a medievalesque society. Ancelstierre, south of the Wall, lacks magic and has thus advanced to the equivalent of the early 20th century.
  • Once A Hero: Averted pretty thoroughly. For the first half of the book, the protagonist heroes around with his elf companion in your basic medieval fantasy setting, fighting with his broadsword. At one point he forces a feuding pair of clans to make peace. Then he ends up magically Human Popsicled and wakes up four hundred years later to find that his elf companion had a daughter and got old, the clans, under altered names, are feuding again, all these things have different names and roads are different, and people fight using rapiers and newfangled weapons called "flashdrakes", which are basically primitive guns.

  • A Practical Guide To Evil: This is enforced by the gnomes, who have such an overwhelming technological advantage over all other civilizations that they completely eradicate any society that begins investigating technologies they consider forbidden.
  • The Prince Roger series has Marduk, a Death World that for the most part hovers around "early Medieval" tech. Partially justified in that the climate does make inventing — or maintaining — the more advanced tech the Imperial Marines are used to much more difficult (torrential rain two or three times a day makes it harder to keep the insides of electrical components from getting compromised, and it makes inventing a good gunpowder rather tricky — although the Mardukans have managed it. This climate has also inspired them to invent incredibly sophisticated pump systems to keep their communities from flooding). The protagonists are also reluctant to change things too much — first, because they don't want to leave any distinct traces that they're there (they are trying to be as stealthy as a several-hundred-man march can be, after all) and second because they're wary of falling into the trap of cultural superiority.
  • In Jack McDevitt's Priscilla Hutchins series, the Noks — the first living alien race discovered by humanity — appears to be permanently stuck at a medieval level of development. They've been that way for an estimated 14,000 years, and show no signs of developing further. They're also extremely hostile and xenophobic, so it's probably just as well.

  • Redwall's world doesn't seem to have evolved at all in twenty books covering several hundred years. Maybe it's because they're all too busy dealing with the rapidly-breeding vermin threat to have time to invent much.
    • The map has evolved, the Abbey seems to have expanded over time as new additions are built, and the animals have become more anthropomorphized (in series order, not chronological order). But the in-world technology hasn't budged.
    • Short lifespans may also be a factor, as most Dibbuns only have about half a year to grow up and become productive members of woodlander society. Not much time for basic education under those circumstances, let alone trying out new ideas.
  • In Turtledove's "The Road Not Taken", the secret to antigravity (and a related effect, faster-than-light travel) is really easy for a species to stumble across and use, even with Stone Age technology. The only problem is that antigravity has no relationship to other fundamental forces, so it doesn't help you to understand any other science or require understanding of other forces, like electricity, and with practical antigravity there's no driving need to develop more advanced technologies. As a result, once a species discovers antigravity its other technological development stalls out at whatever it was at when the secret was discovered and stays there until they stumble across another species that advanced slightly further before discovering it themselves. The most advanced empire in the galaxy was at the level or primitive muskets, mass linear battlefield tactics and basic gunpowder bombs when they find it, and they crush their opposition as they conquer planet after planet. And then they invade Earth, which has gone into the middle of the 21st Century having not discovered the secret yet. The invasion... doesn't go well. The invaders are horrified to realize they've just handed the keys to the galaxy to a species who are unimaginably more advanced.

  • Safehold, by David Weber:
    • Enforced. The last human colony has been in Medieval Stasis for eight hundred years, thanks to a religion designed to prevent the re-emergence of technology (not to mention an orbital kinetic weapons platform programmed to smack any location with evidence of advanced tech like electrical power), so that the colony isn't found and destroyed by aliens. However, cracks have begun to emerge — water power and gunpowder have been invented. Note that eight hundred years is a period of time not far out of line with how long the real medieval period lasted, and the goal of the protagonist is explicitly to break the Medieval Stasis and restore the advanced technology.
    • Interestingly, the enemies who drove mankind to this point — the Gbaba — appear to be stuck in an even more extreme (if far more advanced) version of this. During the original war, captured Gbaba ships as much as NINE THOUSAND years old were functionally identical to brand-new ones. Exactly how they managed to reach their current level of technology and then stop dead is still unknown... but the entire Safehold plan hinges on it REMAINING so — mankind can afford to spend centuries hiding in a pastoral society, then reclaim their technological heritage and try to develop beyond their original level (which gave them near-parity with Gbaba tech) until they reach a point where they can overcome the Gbaba's vast advantage in strength of numbers... all while the Gbaba remain static.
  • Both justified and averted in L.E. Modesitt's The Saga of Recluce series. Although some technological progress is made, the eponymous island's government suppresses the knowledge in a mistaken belief in Status Quo Is God, and keeps things under control within its sphere of influence. However, the Big Bad empire on the other side of the world has been busy inventing…
    • That universe's laws of chaos/order physics also mess with thermodynamics, making some technology, such as steam engines, require wizards to hold it stable.
    • The series is very good at illustrating how a cultural dependence on magic will tend to cause stagnation, or at least greatly limit technological progress. A fact which is actually lampshaded in at least one book. It also takes the logical course of having the nations most dependent on magic be ruled by their most powerful mages; and shows the effects this would have on politics.
    • Also, the laws of that universe are radically different, so stuff like electricity might not even work. There were at least 2 civilizations that came from other universes; Westwind and Cyador (although they possibly come from the same one). Of course, in the story line, civilizations and technological level rise and fall. Cyador, in the earliest of the chronological order, had something that sounds like nuclear reactors, although, to be honest, they were failing. Cyador was industrialized, before it was wiped out by disaster, although they were declining by then anyway. Fairhaven, the next city to hold a major chaos civilization, got wiped out by what could be best described as a nuclear blast (extreme application of magic powers). Guns are around, but since a wizard can blow them up from afar they are not used. Of course, the biggest justification is that if you have a steam engine outside of water, it has to be constantly tended to by a wizard or else it blows up. Ships can have them though. The Order civilizations like Westwind and Recluce prefer no advancement because advancement is chaotic, and thus frowned upon. Of the civilizations that balance the powers of Order and Chaos, one is a bunch of tree hugging druids who believe in communing with nature, and Hamor hasn't really been featured enough of yet to tell. Hamor does seem to be advancing though. Oh, and if you come from a civilization that is not run by mages? You get trampled by the ones that do.
      • Assuming Cyador is a descendant of the ancient Rationalist Demons (as seems probable) they were using laser-based tech, and the towers were likely fusion, not fission. This world is /not/ a good example of the trope, however, as technology advances from crude iron swords to highly advanced cartridge rifles and steel battleships in a reasonable timeframe despite the magic issues, and you can see the progress in each and every book (except for the ones written about the same characters).
  • In The saga of the Borderlands, by the argentine writer Liliana Bodoc, the inhabitants of the Ancient Lands are described as "skilled with their hands and with their minds," and it's implied that they progressed from the stone age to a civilization of medieval type. However, after a war that has lasted 500 years, started by Misaianes, the Son of Death, no breakthrough appears to have occurred except for the invention of gunpowder and cannons and other primitive firearms. This makes sense since Misaianes, who almost completely controls the Ancient Lands, is not interested in any new advance unless they can be used for war.
  • Seekers of the Sky: The absence of easily-accessible iron has dramatically affected scientific progress. While the events are contemporary to us (taking place roughly 2000 years after what we would call the Birth of Christ), most armies of the world still fight with Bronze Age weapons. Only nobility is able to afford iron and steel weapons and even firearms. In fact, they have invented Gatling guns, but those are few and far in between and incredibly expensive due to the deficit of iron. The entire world's economy runs on the iron standard with gold being seen as little more than a shiny metal for trinkets (when someone points out the possibility of switching to a gold standard, he's laughed at for suggesting the use of an impractical currency). Wooden Ships and Iron Men is still in effect. Flying is only done using wood-and-canvas gliders that use single-use rocket boosters to lift off and require the flyers to memorize wind charts. There have been plenty of wars and border redrawing, however. The State (an empire that encompasses most of Europe and has colonies in Africa and the Americas and appears to be a descendant of the Roman Empire) has frequent clashes with the Russian Knahate (a mix of Russia and Mongolia) with the Chinese Empire and the Ottoman Empire remaining neutral. The State's American colonies also frequently clash with the Aztecs. Electricity is a recently-made discovery, and electrical starters are replacing the less reliable chemical ones for use in gliders. However, at the end of the duology, the stasis is broken by the new Messiah returning all the iron that has been stolen from the world 2000 years ago, likely restarting progress.
  • The Shadowhunter Chronicles: The Shadowhunter home country of Idris. Electricity and runes don't mesh well, so there are no computers, phones, televisions, or anything electronic, with illumination being provided by witchlights, while long-distance communication can be done solely through fire messages. There are no motor vehicles, either; everyone either walks on foot (short-distance) or rides horses (long-distance).
  • "Slow Tuesday Night", by R.A. Lafferty, inverts this. Brain enhancements that speed up all decision-making processes have become universal. This accelerates the pace of human activity so drastically that it takes fifteen minutes to make and lose a fortune, two minutes to read the hot new (for the hour) Doorstopper, and half an hour (on average) to marry, honeymoon, lose interest and divorce.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The setting is at first presented as a very straightforward case of this, but doubt is cast regarding the accuracy of in-world historical records. Although Westerosi history seems to suggest millennia of unchanging politics, culture and technology, it appears more likely that this is a combination of legendary history and Westerosi historians projecting their own culture onto historical figures by, for instance, casting historical persons as medieval knights and lords, when these figures preceded the formal establishment of feudalism and knighthood by centuries or millennia. Knighthood, for instance, is a distinctly Andal tradition rooted in their religious faith, and most of the stories are set well before they arrived on the continent. This is lampshaded in a Sam chapter early in A Feast for Crows, where he complains that the historical records are full of kings who reigned for hundreds of years and "knights riding around a thousand years before there were knights". The fact that the Order of the Maesters is nowhere near as non-partisan as they'd like to have you believe and that they don't really seem keen on the idea of innovation in general could explain it — a Medieval Stasis is what they want, and as the prime intellectuals in Westeros, they're able to enforce at least the perception thereof. Additionally, Sam spends most of his time in the library at the Wall, which is stated to be a treasure trove of historical information (as it lists all Lord Commanders and important things that have happened in the Night's Watch) but is so remote that very few Maesters, or southerners generally, even bother to visit.
    • It should also be noted that the stasis of Westeros may be more assumed than actual. In A Dance with Dragons there is a discussion on how castle design has changed over the centuries, and the timeline in the first book divides the history and prehistory of Westeros into effective Bronze and Iron Ages, noting on events such as the introduction of horseback riding and bronze and then iron weapons. The long winters - effectively mini ice ages that can strike unexpectedly - also actively act as either breaks or regressions in progress. In total, the history of Westeros seems to have unfolded over roughly twice the span of that of actual Europe, showing steady progress but slowly by our standards (and this is not even considering the dates given in the early books are thrown into severe doubt by the latter three books, which hint that the dates might be wrong by a factor of between two and three).
  • The Star Trek novel Here There Be Dragons features a medieval culture which has been transported off Earth and apparently remained the same for 900 years. The stagnation is explained by the low population and isolation of the cities (because of the eponymous dragons), and it's demonstrated that the culture hasn't completely stagnated, as apparently they've managed to invent a better suspension system for their horse-drawn carts. At this rate they'll invent steam power around the time their sun burns out. A similar concept is used in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, only with an Old West town with a period drift of about 300 years or so. They were kidnapped for slave labor but rebelled, destroying the alien ship which brought them. Similar to the above example, these people were stuck on a desert planet with the towns separated by a fair distance. Their stagnation is partially justified through paranoia; they're unwilling to let the descendants of the original aliens know that they were once a spacefaring race that enslaved the humans, even though said aliens are forced to live in the remains of the very ship the humans destroyed. One of the characters even lampshades the lack of progress.
  • Star Wars, wherein, according to the old Expanded Universe, the Galactic Republic has been socially and technologically stagnant for at least five thousand years (out of twenty-five thousand years of its history).
    • It's quite plausible that the Star Wars galaxy has "maxed out" its technological development. This galaxy had a starfaring civilization for thirty thousand years. Sooner or later they were bound to run out of new laws of physics to uncover. Likewise, the social stagnation of the Galactic Republic was imposed by the Jedi Order: the Sith were responsible for most efforts to overthrow the Republic, which brought the Jedi in on the Republic's side. So the Republic itself was never under much pressure to reshape itself, because the Jedi would support it against any truly menacing outside threat.
    • The earliest comics do show that space wasn't nearly as well-explored five thousand years before the movies, and there's a throwaway line somewhere in Tales of the Jedi (circa 4,000 years before the movies) about hyperspace craft having to use jump beacons to navigate instead of their own ships' computers.
    • Also, blasters appear to have been given a major upgrade from KotOR, genetic engineering occasionally shows up despite taboos, superhuman AI are and have been standard for ships (Millennium Falcon's droid brains), and megascale/planetary engineering is in fact common since KotOR II and before.
    • Luke's artificial hand he got in Empire Strikes Back appeared to be way more sophisticated than the less attractive metal one given to Anakin at the end of Attack Of the Clones, but this just as easily could have been Jedi proscriptions against vanity or Anakin's desire to make the limb simpler and easier to service himself at the expense of aesthetics instead of actual technological development. Neither artificial hand seemed to differ in functionality from a human hand at all; Anakin's "clunky" prosthetic hand makes the most cutting-edge prosthetics of today look like stone tools and could do anything a human hand could.
    • Lightsabers used to have external power supplies attached to the wielder's belt.
    • Technology does seem to be moving forward: the A-wing, AT-ST, and AT-AT, for instance, were canonically invented between the films. Not to mention that the plot of the very first film was entirely driven by a new invention.
      • Depending on which EU sources you read, it is implied that the "advances" that allowed the creation of the Death Star were political, not technological. A massive engineering project like that requires a strong centralized government with access to resources far beyond what the Old Republic (a loose confederation of more-or-less autonomous member worlds, lacking even a standing army until the prequels) could command without the willing participation of a large number of member worlds. Not to mention that there was no need for such a weapon in peacetime. They had the tech to build it all along, just not the resources or will.
      • On the other side of that coin are other EU sources, which have inventions like the Sun Crusher. It is a ship with the power to blow up a sun, which makes it much more powerful than the Death Star, while also being the size of a one-man fighter.
    • Star Wars follows a curious trend of 'punctuated equilibrium', with long stretches of technological and cultural stagnation shaken up by some event (usually a war) that jumps things forward a bit before settling back down. Most of the Expanded Universe deals with the era starting with the movies, which has been in a near-constant state of crisis or agitation for most of a century and has seen several galactic upheavals, with advancements in technology to match.
    • The most prominent examples are Endor and Dathomir, which compared to the rest of the galaxy fits this trope.
    • In some areas the Star Wars galaxy seems to have actually regressed in terms of technology over the millennia. For example, even the weakest of mass production battle droids of the KOTOR era are far more intelligent, can operate independently, possess greater tactical A.I., durable, and deadly than all but the best of the mass produced battle droids built in the prequel era despite the 4,000 year gap between them, the former even possessing energy shields on a good deal of units giving them the capacity to go up against Jedi on somewhat equal footing. In fact, even mining droids armed with just mining lasers in the KOTOR era can be somewhat effective threats to even trained soldiers just with some reprogramming to make them able to kill. It's possible the regress is due to the fact these droids were used to fight Jedi, and thus their production was later banned or discouraged until the technology stagnated. Some EU stories also have droid revolts that could have also made this illegal/taboo for centuries.
  • In Succession (published as The Risen Empire in the UK) by Scott Westerfeld the Risen Empire has been technologically stagnant for about 1,000 years as a result of the ageless Risen controlling the entire government. The Empire's enemies, who lack immortality, do keep advancing.
  • Somewhat toyed with in the Sword of Truth series. In Naked Empire, the protagonists discover the Empire of Bandakar, made up of the descendants of pristinely ungifted D'Haran exiles, which was sealed behind an Underworld barrier for over three thousand years. One Bandakaran, Owen, leads them past an Imperial Order occupation force to their capital city. When he proudly presents their great financial and cultural center, all Richard and Kahlan see is a city block full of tiny shops with studio apartments built above them. Richard even asks, "This is all your great culture has achieved in 3,000 years?", while a flummoxed Owen clearly thinks that the block of two-story shacks is up there with Crystal Spires and Togas. As for the rest of the world, the trope is more played straight, as the ancient world had thousands of mages serving the people's needs and as they gradually died out, the idea of using technology to fill the niche they left behind hasn't quite caught on yet.
    • Averted in a later spinoff, which states a thousand or so years later, the world is a rather advanced Magitek civilization.

  • Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms seems to be in a stasis of sorts — but it's heavily implied that this is due to The Tradition, which really likes things to stay the same. Sometimes, this can be a problem, since The Tradition also likes to fit things into tidy little stories... and it doesn't especially care if the story has a happy ending or not.
  • Justified in the novel Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds, where the world is divided into technology-limiting "Zones", one of which runs on Steampunk in which advanced technology often doesn't work. Science is unknown, and no advancements have taken place for almost 5000 years, except for technologies adapted to specific zones. Ricasso, an important character who wishes to understand the world (he notes that they can replicate TVs, flintlock pistols, revolvers, energy-discharge weapons, and steam locomotives but they really have no idea how they work) pokes fun at this.
  • Justified, then averted in Ian Irvine's The Three Worlds Cycle series: in the first series just about every culture is enormously traditionalist, and magicians are highly secretive. By the second, a mere few hundred years later, one magician decided to start a proper school and the military is now equipped with Dungeon Punk Humongous Mecha, thanks to a cataclysmic war with a race of extradimensional ubermensch. Irvine (a scientist) has described the books as Darwinist fantasy, and appropriately the main theme of the series is punctuated equilibrium.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth (The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, etc). Generally speaking, over thousands of years, the basic technology appears to be the same — for the most part. However, everything was grander and more magical in the First Age, and the Elves are fading away as of the Third Age. They are in their "autumn, never to be followed by another spring". The ages of the world tend to end with eucatastrophe, meaning any technological advances were lost to Middle-Earth between ages. Either the technology itself was lost to all knowledge or the Elves took it away with them as they left Middle-Earth. Still, while technology, armor and weapons in particular, is generally described in the same terms over the ages, there are indications of advances, though they are usually unique to certain cultures and simply don't become widespread as in the modern world.
    • The peoples of the First Age had the best tech of all. The Elves built a ship of mithril and elven glass that could travel through the sky and the Void (outer space). When Morgoth invaded Gondolin, according to one version, his troops rolled across the mountains with "great engines with fire in their bellies" that could flatten defense towers and carried hundreds of orcs inside. Sounds very much like he had access to large APC vehicles. However, this is glossed over in later versions. The Elves also invented magical lanterns with an everlasting blue flame which never get mentioned again later. The Dwarves invented chain mail, which later spread to most cultures in Middle-Earth.
    • At the end of the Second Age, when Númenóreans under Sauron's guidance get engines, ships made out of metal and possibly missiles ("Our darts are like thunder and pass over leagues unerring."). See The Lost Road, HoME V. They also develop bows made out of steel.
    • At the end of the Third Age, Númenórean settlement in Middle-Earth produced structures beyond the ken of most people, so that even their descendants the Gondorians couldn't match them. The wizard Saruman encouraged industrialization, though this isn't necessarily portrayed as a good thing as it was for his war effort. He and fellow wizard Gandalf both used gunpowder for military and benign purposes (bombs and fireworks). The Dwarves also invented "metal hose" that was even better than chain mail, though they kept the knowledge for themselves.
    • Word of God has it that Medieval Stasis ended entirely from the Fourth Age on due to the Elves' magic no longer stopping the world from "changing", and that Middle-Earth is the world we live in many thousands of years ago. V-J Day at the end of World War II in this chronology marks the transition between the Sixth and Seventh Ages. However, all the magical and otherworldly aspects of Middle-Earth slowly faded away until only Men and material things were left (although the hobbits and goblins are said to have lived on in hiding, the goblins even designing some of mankind's nastier weapons). The Elves of the First Age didn't have modern technology because they didn't need it; they had all sorts of magic and magical materials that allowed them to make things like the aforementioned flying ship.
    • Completely averted when it comes to languages, though. Early on the Elves are separated into (roughly) Wood Elves and High Elves who meet again after about 3,000 years of living on different continents, their once common language having evolved into two different tongues. Same goes later on when Nùmenorean ships reach Middle-Earth again after a 500 years separations and the ambassadors have a hard time understanding what the others are saying but manage in the end since their languages have not strayed that far apart. Finally in the third age, the remnants of Númenor (Gondor and whatever is left of Arnor like the Shire) both speak Westron, which is to Adûnaic (the tongue of Númenor) what modern Romance languages are to Latin, but there are already differences appearing: loanwords (like "orc" comming from the elvish "orch" instead of "goblin") and the fact that in the Shire the formal form of the second person has been dropped.
  • Varies in the Tortall Universe. The technological level of the Beka Cooper books is comprable to what's seen in Song of the Lioness, which takes place two centuries later. Plate armor for knights, the spellcraft available to mages, and clothing seem to be unchanged. However, societal attiudes regress during that time with a loss of rights for women thanks to the "Gentle Mother" cult. Medieval stasis also starts breaking down in Protector of the Small thanks to progressive monarchs and the rise of a large and powerful middle class with the power to rebel if displeased, which makes it harder for the nobility to hold onto their ironclad superiority in society.

  • In David Brin's Uplift series, most species of the galaxies get all their technology from the Library and their Patrons. Because the Library provides everything, there is no incentive to develop new technologies. Earthclan sees the Library as a sociological trap and try to use as much of their own "less advanced" tech as possible. In Sundiver, the refrigeration laser on their solar exploratory craft saves them when the Library-provided shields are sabotaged.
    • Averted massively in later books, when it turns out that by refusing to accept calculus because it is not in the library, everyone but the humans are caught by surprise when an entire galaxy moves so far away (due to galactic expansion) that the hyperspacial links with the other four inhabited galaxies are broken. Some of the older races were clearly hiding this intentionally, as they arrange to use the event to catapult a long distance ship on a journey to another cluster of galaxies that were lost in this way previously.

  • The War Gods, being a fantasy series, actually strives to avoid this at all costs. The author has said as much as he's tired of fantasy novels being written as Luddite-sounding. The original Empire of Ottovar was rather Magitek in nature, instead of their being a grand total of one wizard and barely enough mages to be worth anything, there were entire orders of Wizards, with most people of noble blood being noble because they were wizards (the king and queen who founded the Empire being the two greatest wizards of all time). The Magitek was very advanced, but the Empire was limited to only the continent of Kontovar due to the Dragons forbidding Wizards from colonizing Norfressa after the original Wizard War. There was evidence of gradual advancement, as the Warlocks and Witches became the elves, and much research was done (including Time Travel!). The Dwarves are at the cusp of the industrial revolution with Bessemer ovens and shock absorbers but still no steam engines. Until recently they were trying to recreate what they knew was possible but without the help of Wizards (before large scale steel production required the help of a Wizard to do it).
  • Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye series, while largely set in a spacefaring civilization, has one installment where the protagonists find themselves in an alternate Earth with much stronger magic than in the main series... and which is, surprise surprise, stuck in medieval stasis. One of the characters hypothesises that this is because the presence of magic has reduced the incentive towards technological development, but since magic can only be wielded by its practitioners (as opposed to technology, which can be used by anyone once invented), the reliance on magic kept society in a feudal-style Magocracy.
  • In Yulia Latynina's Wei Empire cycle, the basic political, social and economical structure of the empire has been preserved for about 2,500 years... or so the official sources of Weians say, and some of the Earth characters are somewhat skeptical of this, apparently with good cause. In any case, though the same order was preserved for at least the last few centuries, it did not exactly exist without interruptions, so it's more of a persistent cyclical thing. As for technology, it is again clearly shown to have progressed from bronze weapons made 2,000 years ago to advanced steel, early gunpowder and friggin' poison gas thanks to a certain mad scientist; it is also pointed out as some point that the Wei Empire, much like the Roman Empire in real history, had failed to take advantage of numerous potential technological breakthroughs that could've led to an industrial revolution because it had no need of it and because some of its past rulers were ardent technophobes. In any case, the plot of the last novel has to do with the rapid and rather ugly breakdown of this stasis in the aftermath of the contact with "men from the stars" who have recently discovered and infiltrated the empire.
  • The Wheel of Time plays this both ways. The level of technology has remained roughly the same since the Breaking of the World destroyed the Magitek culture of the Age of Legends three thousand years ago, but the nations and their borders definitively haven't. On the other hand, these changes usually don't affect day-to-day life all that much: at one point a character is reading about a foreign country in a fifty-year-old book, and notes that "little of any consequence would have changed in so short a time". On the other other hand, the last books of the series have introduced both steam engines and gunpowder used as a weapon.
    • It's also an example of an Enforced Trope — 3,000 years prior to the story the world was a Magiteknical paradise with all kinds of magical and scientific wonders; the War of Power and the Breaking of the World, and the consequent massive upheavals brought all that crashing down and turned the planet into a Death World. The "Enforced" part comes in the following thousand and two thousand years: one of the major villains, Ishamael, engineered both the Trolloc Wars and the collapse of Artur Hawkwing's massive continental empire. The villains wanted Medieval Stasis to make the world an easier place to conquer.
    • Amusingly enough that is exactly the wrong thing to do to prevent technological development. It is common when just getting into history to idolize empires and unity, and indeed they provide a level of stability that makes it much less likely that peasant farmers will be subjected to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. They can also invest in large infrastructure projects with their massive resources even if they have less technology. However, the lack of competition and increased elite control acosiated with empires means that a balance of power is much more likely to produce innovation. There was actually far more technological innovation during the High Middle Ages than the Pax Romana(another reason medieval stasis is BS). This is one of the main reasons that China stopped developing technology. Most of the famous Chinese inventions came during inter dynasty periods, where there were several competing Chinese kingdoms. They certainly didn't come from the Han Period, and the Ming Period saw active suppression of technology. This comes from the simple reason that they could. The Han Emporer could Curb Stomp most of his neighbors and didn't because of internal political concerns and because it was a poor use of resources. Gustavus Adolphus needed to make tactical innovations to survive the multiple wars against more populous neighboring countries he inherited(including Poland during the heydey of the Winged Hussars, a justified Memetic Badass). On a local level, a Roman Senator who needs more work done can simply buy more slaves for his *Latifundia*. For a Knight, who recently had the village he reigns over raided by his neighbor for an insult and slaughtered most of the population, he would have to get creative. The stream running through his village could be harnessed to save labor grinding grain, inventing the waterwheel. A wheel put on a small man operable cart saves hours on a daily basis, wheelbarrows being amazing time savers as anyone who's worked on a farm knows; they were also not invented until the medieval era. If Ishamel really wanted Medieval Stasis, he needed merely to ensure Hawkwing's heirs were successful in holding his empire together. Then when a massive civil war ensued due to dynastic decay he could sweep in on the stagnant society.
  • Worldwar: The Lizards have been technologically stagnant for nearly 50,000 years, as have been the other alien species they conquered and subjugated in that time. Their leaders are quite surprised to find that, in the mere 800 years between their first reconnaissance flights over Earth in the 12th century and the arrival of their invasion fleet in 1942, the human race has gone from horseback to radar.
    • It's also stated in the books that their slow technological development is at least in part on purpose. When something new is invented or discovered, they don't release it until it's been tested, examined, refined and made 100% safe and reliable. Even then, it's introduced into their society over the course of decades or centuries, so they can study its impact on society. They consider humans insanely reckless for "field testing" their inventions. This is possible because their planet is far more geographically interconnected than others, thus one empire was able to conquer it thousands of years ago, retaining control ever since. They fear technological change which might threaten their power, so it's tightly controlled. It's not dissimilar to how technology was restricted in the Chinese Empire, which is the source of many different inventions, and with the same reasons. That is one theory why China then stagnated technologically behind the West too.
    • In the final book, one hundred years later, the Lizards are only just beginning to consider what the difference in advancement might mean to their future when the first earth FTL ship arrives in orbit of their Homeworld. The Lizards didn't think FTL was possible and hadn't thought about it, or even considered it, in their 50,000 year history.