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Schizo Tech / Literature

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  • Eric Flint's 1632:
    • This isn't really surprising, considering that the 1630s of the setting had books covering over three and a half centuries of technological advancement dumped into it, courtesy of the arrival of Grantville from April 2000. It develops another level of schizo tech since the limited industrial capacity of the 1600s makes replicating modern technology unfeasible for the time being, meaning they have to settle for recreating 19th century technology as a stopgap.
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    • One of the downtime characters (and not one noted for his scholarship) actually lampshades this, by noting that while Grantville is trying to recreate 20th century technology, its enemies are catching up far faster, and given that they have greater resources will likely overrun Grantville with slightly less-advanced technology in the meantime. Grantville however can deploy its older (but still futuristic to the 17th century) technology with its institutional know-how (including things like mass production, quality control, and treating its workers like human beings) faster than the downtimers can upgrade.
    • Individual incidents of more flagrant Schizo Tech still show up from time to time:
      • In one battle in 1635: The Eastern Front, Gustavus Adolphus' Swedes are engaging in what most historical 17th century observers would find a perfectly ordinary battle with the Poles... until Gustavus is wounded, and his bodyguard pulls out a semiautomatic pistol that fires much faster than anything Polish cavalry are used to.
      • While there's no chance of expanding it outside the town in the near future, Grantville still has a functioning Internet. This proves to be of great interest to the innumerable spies sent to learn about modern technology.
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  • By the third book of The Acts of Caine, Caine Black Knife, Overworld has shotguns and automatic weapons but is still mainly a medieval-to-Renaissance aesthetic.
  • The widely varying tech levels in the Alexis Carew series means that severely sick or injured people on Dalthus IV often die waiting for an animal-powered vehicle, or one of only a couple antigravity haulers, to take them to the only source of high-end sci-fi medicine on the planet. This includes Alexis' grandmother, who died in childbirth. See also loading and firing Frickin' Laser Beams by hand (they're at least breech-loaders). Justified in the latter case by the fact that any other style of weapon would be Awesome, but Impractical in darkspace: incorporating the necessary amount of gallenium to shield missile electronics or connect the ship's power supply directly to a laser isn't cost-effective. The third book shows off a French non-FTL cruiser that does have such weapons.
  • America's Stepbrother, America's Enemy V2.0 is a speculative story where the United States is transported to the world of 1984 by a temporal anomaly. The Threeist states engage in this a lot, as their military doctrine is based around everything being as flashy and cumbersome as possible (the Threeist states don't fight wars to win - war is just meant to waste resources, generate propaganda and maintain the balance of power; the United States does fight to win). In an early skirmish, an F-22 Raptor pilot is left stunned by a flight of Threeist 16-engined bombers that dwarf any known modern or historical aircraft (like the Russian Tupolev Tu-95 or the America B-52), though this doesn't stop the squadron from decimating them. At one point the Oceanians attempt to launch nuclear strikes against the continental United States, using zeppelins which act as missile platforms for V-1 missiles with nuclear payloads. And then there's the stasis pods.
    • This is an idea carried over from the original novel. In the book, Oceania is said to build unsinkable Floating Fortresses that possess the entire power of a navy and have enough firepower to make da Orks jealous. They also have machines that are apparently smart enough to write novels (albeit very bad ones). This is a nation where farmers still use horse-drawn ploughs. Justified of course, as hard farm work keeps the proles busy, and the Party certainly wouldn't allow actual people to write.
  • One very representative example is a short story in an issue of Analog, in which the most advanced two species in the universe can use black hole as a source of energy and have more Wave Motion Guns than you can imagine, but are surprised and, for one of the two species (both flew around in gigantic spaceships), destroyed by a lucky shot from a device consisting of a long tube, a titanium coated projectile, and an explosive, i.e., a gun. Apparently, only humans are brutish enough to come up with the idea.
  • In Neal Stephenson's Anathem this is a deliberate trait of the Avout, who live extremely simple, monastic lives without even a printing press, but make their robes using femtotechnology, grow trees genetically engineered to have leaves that can be used like paper, and carry around nigh-invulnerable femtotech "Spheres" that can be resized, recoloured and to a limited extent reshaped to serve as anything from stool to a lantern.
  • China Miéville's Bas-Lag stories are set in a world that is roughly late-Victorian in technological terms with steam power being the driving force of industry and neon lights and phonographs being recent inventions, but also has robots and a long-defunct weather control machine. It's implied that the world was more advanced centuries ago, and in fact many "new" inventions are merely rediscovered.
  • Due to future interference, the Belisarius Series gains this more and more as it progresses. Chariot-mounted rocket launchers. Armoured heavy cavalry (with lances and bows) in the same army as rifle-carrying infantry in communication by radio with headquarters. Pretty much what you'd expect when 1,500 years of advanced knowledge gets dumped abruptly on a civilization that still hasn't figured out the stirrup on its own.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets, the Venus colony is described as such. New London has a mix of technologies due to the cost of shipping high tech manufactured goods from Earth. The hot water in The Two Worlds Greasy Spoon is heated by a wood burning boiler despite virtually costless electricity from the nuclear power plant due to the expensive equipment needed to handle the power. The streets are muddy and unpaved but lighted by atomic power, travel is by foot or gondolas within the city but there are rocket-powered sky shuttles between settlements. At the start of the novel Heinlein uses the trope for a Bait-and-Switch; the protagonist is riding a pony in an apparent Western (actually a dude ranch), then a telephone rings out in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately the idea of a mobile phone isn't as futuristic now as it was then.
  • Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy has cigarettes, cameras and bathrooms with running water, but no weapons more advanced than crossbows. This is because every member of the society can shield, making them everything proof, not to mention the ability to kill people with a thought.
  • In the Book of the New Sun, schizo tech can be summed up by paraphrasing one of its appendices — the future Urth is a world where continents are just as far away to the average person as other star systems. And the peasantry carry crossbows that shoot thermite explosives.
  • Happens in the Chaos Timeline (at least from our POV). Some of the sciences and technological advances are discovered or perfected more earlier than in our history, e.g. Novorossiya invents the telegraph and electrical devices nearly a century before it happened in our history; cryptography, basic computer science and astronomy are at least twenty to thirty years ahead of our's in the early 20th century, computers of 1990 level are already found in the 1950s etc.
    • By the time of the finale, City of Miracles, the level of technology approaches something like the The '30s of our reality, with regular forays into The '50s and beyond, what with large-scale electrification, automobiles and buses that are utterly commonplace, glass-and-steel skyscrapers with elevators in them, a heavy-duty cable car system, hand-held automatic firearms and much more. One distinct difference to the real world (apart from the whole Divinities thing, that is), however, is the utter lack of non-miraculous, purely technological aviation, of which there is not a single example even by the time of third book — although, by the standards of Saypuri technology in general at that point, they at the very least ought to have figured out the basic principles comfortably.
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium is defined by a century-long period of Medieval Stasis following the creation of Faster-Than-Light Travel, due to every politician in the named entity being either an Obstructive Bureaucrat, a Strawman Political or a Well-Intentioned Extremist; the only way all these megalomaniacs could agree not to start World War III was to agree not to develop weapons technology any further, which of course meant not developing anything, and even trashing all the libraries so nobody could build better weapons by MacGyvering. They then proceeded to deport millions of people every year to every marginally habitable world they could find, often with little more than the clothes on their backs. The result is a smorgasbord of Schizo Tech. Casual Interstellar Travel, but no lasers. Hand-held anti-satellite weaponry stored next to bolt-action rifles. Spaceports with horse troughs. Pournelle's 'Verse never actually recovered from the whole mess; a thousand years later, every Space Marine thinks PDAs are state-of-the-art.
  • In Donald Kingsbury's quirky SF classic, Courtship Rite, the settlers of the extremely hostile Lost Colony world Geta have held on to biological and genetic technologies far beyond anything available when the book was written, but many technologies that weren't critical for survival have been lost. They can make Designer Babies, but as the book starts, they've only recently rediscovered radio and are amazed by the concept of the electric light bulb. (Less well-justified is the fact that they still know how to do radiocarbon dating.)
  • Cormac McCarthy's The Crossing is set in New Mexico (with several trips to Old Mexico) during the 1930s and 40s. As such, it's basically a Western of the kind that could be set anytime during the preceding hundred years or so, with cowboys riding horses and having shootouts with rustlers, violence on both sides of the border, etc. It's only on the occasions when the protagonists go back to town that we're reminded that the world is quite modern, with telephones and movies, and the advanced level of technology is only really brought home at the end of the novel, when the surviving protagonist drifts close enough to Alamagordo, New Mexico, to witness the first testing of the atomic bomb.
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower series is a great version of this. It takes place in a mystical Wild West filled with malfunctioning robots. Though it's never explicitly said what happened, the books obviously exist on a planet After the End.
    Eddie: Just what the hell happened here? Nuclear war?
    Blaine: [laughter] Something far worse than that, believe me.
  • Destroyermen:
    • Much of the advanced technology is Imported Human Phlebotinum by way of Negative Space Wedgies that cause ships to cross from our world to the series' Alternate Timeline at various points in history. You've got World War II-era technology with the titular destroyers and the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi, the Grik use copies of 18th century ships armed with catapults, and roughly Bronze Age tech with the Lemurians, who the Americans teach to fight in modified Greek phalanxes supported by bronze cannons. And that's just the first two books.
    • Notably, the giant Lemurian Home-ships (carrier-sized wooden ships with massive junk-like sails) were created without human influence, but the destroyermen help upgrade their ballistae to bronze cannons, at which point five of the Homes become the "battle line" (despite their extremely-low speed and maneuverability) by unleashing broadsides at the Grik. Later novels have additional upgrades to the Homes, such as steam engines and fuel tanks, and one of them is even redesigned as a wooden aircraft carrier. Also, the Lemurians start copying Grik ships (which were originally copied from a British East Indiaman), including refinements from both from the destroyermen and their own shipwrights.
    • A small example with the USS Walker herself. Being a World War I-era destroyer used during World War II, this already qualifies as an example. However, when Captain Reddy decides to capture a Grik ship, he has the Lemurians build a "corvus", a boarding ramp of Roman design originally used by triremes.
  • The Difference Engine sees computers developed in the Victorian era with considerable effort devoted to making them both plausible and integrated, though even here the rollerskates do seem pure schizo tech (or Rule of Cool). In fact, rollerskates were invented some time before 1743 and were mildly popular in Victorian times — inline ones, at that.
  • In the second Dinotopia book, protagonist Arthur Denison invents a flying machine. In the 19th century. And then there's Poseidos.
  • The Discworld is going through an accelerated technological revolution, moving in the course of the series from extremely low-tech fantasy to a fully functional continent-spanning semaphore network acting as a proto-Internet — and, as of the very last adult novel, steam railways — all one lifetime.note  But there are still a lot of low-tech swords and such around at the end.
    • Some apparent occurrences of the trope are actually temporary magical problems, such as the appearances of a movie industry (which was actually about silver portals for eldritch abominations) and of shopping malls (really a giant creature-hive that hatches from snow globes and feeds on human society), but other discrepancies are for real.
    • For example, personal technologies aside, one novel introduces a Shakespearean-style theater as a bold new invention, while another has a Victorian-style opera house in the same city that has been there for many years.
    • The issue is lampshaded and deconstructed in Thief of Time. It turns out that time itself is not quite as it should be on the Disc, having been broken once or twice. The history monks are forced to repair the damaged timeline with extra bits from previous eras, and the result is that history itself is now a mishmash of anachronisms and continuity problems.
  • L. Sprague de Camp's novella Divide and Rule. It features trains pulled by elephants, knights with armor made of chrome steel and plexiglass, cavalry battles with radio correspondents, and castles that use canned food to outlast sieges, among many other things. This is because Earth has been conquered by aliens who give humans a fair degree of autonomy, but don't allow them certain technologies, such as explosives and motor vehicles.
  • The Divine Cities: The series as a whole is somewhere between Steampunk and Diesel Punk (albeit set in a Constructed World, unlike most examples), with some really weird combinations:
    • By the time City of Stairs takes place, automobiles exist already, as do telephones and radio, and ironclad battleships (dreadnoughts) — any of that usually being wholly absent from the many examples of the Standard Fantasy Setting. However, at the same time, there are no firearms, only "bolt-shots" which seem to be something like crossbows. In our reality, (non-rifled) firearms were invented several centuries before either the telephone or the radio, much less the automobile.
    • By the time of the second book, City of Blades, however, Saypur has made a few technological leaps, and firearms are now commonplace, up to and including miniguns and something akin to anti-tank rifles. Industrialization has progressed as well, with large construction projects everywhere.
  • Mick Farren's DNA Cowboys Trilogy and the closing book The Last Stand Of The DNA Cowboys have extreme Schizo Tech as reality itself has been broken into stasis pockets divided and surrounded by otherwise all-consuming thirdform space-time called the Nothings or "the non". Inside these stasis fields, all manner of people have been slowly forming bizarre, isolated societies or strapping portable stasis generators onto their persons or vehicles and traversing the non to find other places to be, high technology and matter templating leading to even greater customization and abuse of technology and biology. By the time it's all falling apart, biology and society is as schizoid as the tech—if not more so.
  • Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory is a spoof catalogue of Victorian-era rayguns, robots, and other Cool, but Inefficient Steampunk devices. Includes a short illustrated story on a hunting expedition rampant wildlife slaughter on Venus.
  • In Western SF, Frank Herbert's Dune is perhaps the preeminent example of this, though the reasons for it are well-rooted in the series Back Story.
    • There are strict religio-political limitations on technology as a reaction to conflicts with sentient computers and cyborgs created by humans, culminating in a major war known in-universe as the Butlerian Jihad. Adherence to the prohibitions vary. Some societies, most notably that of Ix, develop technology that skirts the edge of the prohibitions, if not outright stepping over it, further adding to the schizotech nature of the setting. This only increases in later books, with humans returning from the Diaspora bringing back even more advanced technology, while the remaining cultures have regressed even farther.
    • Unrelated to the prohibitions, technological advancement has changed the nature of warfare, because the Holtzmann shields used across the Imperium are tunable to prevent anything except slow-moving objects from penetrating the shield (rendering projectile weaponry useless, as practically any projectile moving fast enough to cause damage will bounce off the shield), and because the shields cause a fusion reaction when hit by lasguns (laser weapons) that causes both the shield generator and the gun that fired at it to explode violently. As a result, the great powers of the day are largely back to fighting their battles with swords—except on Arrakis, where the sandworms really hate shields, meaning that projectiles and laser weapons are effective tools there.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "The Encyclopedists": The Four Kingdoms are flying around in coal-powered spaceships, trying to take territory from each other, while the galactic empire collapses from a lack of scientific knowledge (they're considering a ban on all nuclear technology due to breakdowns). The only planet/nation that seems to be capable of the science expected of a galactic civilization is Terminus, a colony founded only fifty years ago, which has kept the concepts of science and research alive, plus records of the Lost Technology.
    "You are a small world of scientists surrounded by vast and rapidly expanding reaches of barbarism. You are an island of nuclear power in a growing ocean of more primitive energy"Hari Seldon
  • At the primitive end of the anachronism scale, the fuzzies from the Fuzzy novels are initially mistaken for pre-sentient primates, because they didn't use fire. Their tools, however, were more sophisticated than what a pre-fire culture should've had: they just had lots of thick fur to keep warm, and liked eating their food raw.
  • Shows up in The General Series due to the nature of the setting(s) being planets where the advanced human interstellar empire collapsed in a civil war and a "Plague" that destroyed much of the nanotech-based infrastructure, leaving planets on their own for thousands of years. Some advanced technology and artifacts remained, and planets redeveloped technology on different paths than happened on Earth. Best seen in the newest novel The Heretic, where the computer Zentrum enforces technological and social stasis, resulting in a basically stone-age civilization (with minimal metal use) nonetheless having gunpowder and rifled muskets produced by a religious caste under Zentrum's control.
  • George Mann's The Ghost (2010) takes place in an Alternate History Steampunk/Diesel Punk New York with coal powered cars and airships but also rocket propelled bi-planes, holographic sculptures and videophones and SAMs were apparently used in WWI. Also the hero, a Captain Ersatz of Batman/The Shadow uses night vision goggles, rocket boots and a flechette gun with exploding bullets.
  • Gor has enforced Medieval Stasis for the most part but they also invented immortality formulas. The "justification" for this is that on Earth we spent too much time learning how to make guns.
  • The Half-Made World plays this for drama. The general technology level hovers around the mid-1800s, but the relentlessly expansionist Line is a self-contained industrial revolution that mass produces automobiles, aircraft, tanks, and other early-1900s achievements. As such, it's an unstoppable, undefeatable superpower that could conceivably conquer the world one day, and is already well on its way to absorbing the West.
  • In David Drake's Hammer's Slammers verse, most second- and third- wave colony worlds were denied local industry by their homeworlds in order to create captive markets and delay the inevitable revolutions. The result being that by the 30th century it's not uncommon to see armies with nothing better than diesel engines and slugthrowers fighting alongside (or against) off-world mercenaries riding around in fusion-powered hover tanks with plasma guns.
  • Harry Potter. The Magical World, due to its conservative nature and isolation, you have a society of people who have professional sports team and modern newspapers, in a world without electricity and pencils. And, perhaps most confusingly, the radio is always referred to as the "wireless" by people who very explicitly do not have any electronic appliances in their homes.
  • His Dark Materials has this. Lyra's Earth has Victorian/steampunk tech plus an advanced knowledge of physics, electricity, and nuclear weapons.
  • In the Homecoming Saga, a benevolent mind-controlling computer keeps anyone on the planet Harmony from thinking of anything that might lend itself to large-scale warfare, with the end result that they have advanced computers and genetic manipulation techniques, but the horse pulled wagon is a new invention in the story (adaptation of said new tech is what made the protagonist's father the richest man in the city).
  • The Hunger Games has fire capes and instant food, but no plasma rifles, and bows, spears and swords are still used. Airships and helicopters are used, but not planes. The Capitol deliberately suppresses technology in the Districts, especially weapons tech.
    • Even The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a Prequel set 60+ years prior, already has some form of holographic technology and advanced military hardware, but little in the way of, say, personal communications and media technology beyond television screens. The novel even lampshades how "personal devices" (what today encompasses things like phones, tablets, laptops and smartwatches among others) are largely absent, even in the Capitol, which is why it's a pretty big deal when mentors get "communicuffs" to send food packages to the tributes; they're described as something like smart watches or bands that ping whenever new sponsors or packages are registered, just like modern-day phones.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series features nations with fleets of flying warships and mile-range rifles that shoot explosive rounds, but in which the most valued combat skill is swordsmanship. It's explained both by the After the End nature of the setting (meaning most tech is reproduced from the ruins of the earlier Barsoomian civilization) and by the Proud Warrior Race nature of most of the planet's inhabitants.
  • The Land of Oz is a Magical Land with wind up robots, cyborgs, and radios. The books actually inspired many Sci-Fi writers, like Isaac Asimov.
  • Probably because it was written in the 1920s and 30s, the Lensman series has a lot of schizo tech. Spaceships are no problem, but when characters talk about computers, they're talking about banks of men (or occasionally, multi-armed aliens) with slide rules. At one point the main character uses a stealth space speedster powered, to avoid detection of the light from fusion drives, by a diesel engine. There's a lot more – the original Space Opera looks quite dated, since Science Marches On.
  • In The Left Hand of Darkness, the inhabitants of the planet Gethen have radios, electric vehicles, sonic rifles that can paralyze without killing, and extremely light stoves whose batteries do not need recharging for months. But they do not have any type of flying apparatus and no war technology except primitive arquebuses (which they call "looting weapons"). This is justified because there are no flying animals on their planet - even the very concept of "flight" is unknown to them - and they have not had any war either.
  • In The Long Earth series, instantaneous travel into parallel versions of Earth has become commonplace, but nothing made of iron or steel can be carried between Earths. Thus, as humanity spreads out into unsettled para-Earths, colonists bring along sophisticated 21st-century survey equipment and materials constructed without any iron components, yet the first industrial facility they establish in their settlements is typically a blacksmith's forge. Mass transit between worlds is via canvas-and-aluminum dirigibles, and the first space station constructed at "the Gap", a para-Earth where the planet was destroyed long ago, is built out of bricks.
  • While the world of The Lord of the Rings is largely at an early medieval level of technology and culture, the hobbits of the Shire possess a number of modern (for Tolkien's time) technologies, including mantle clocks, a postal system, and matches, but no electricity or guns. This is partly because they are intended as surrogates for the audience to identify with more closely, and partly because The Hobbit was written before Tolkien decided to work his novels in with the more cohesive setting he was developing in The Silmarillion, resulting in some artifacts.
  • Smaller-scale examples in The Lost Regiment. When the 35th Maine and the 44th New York arrive to Valdennia via a Negative Space Wedgie, they pit American Civil War-era weapons against Medieval swords, lances, bows, and catapults. Later, when they try to industrialize the Medieval Russians in order to fight the Tugar Horde, they have to step back and use Napoleonic weapons (i.e. smoothbore muskets and cannons instead of rifles), as rifling requires better tools than available. Later, the Merki use a mix of humans armed with muskets and their own horse archer warriors (and airships). Things get worse when the Bantag Horde sets its sights on the Republic. Led by a member of the same species from one of their more advanced offworld colonies whose level is roughly equivalent to the late 20th century, they manage to one-up the Republic in a number of areas, such as the construction of winged airships and land cruisers. The Republic quickly matches and counters with armor-piecing discarding sabot rounds nearly a century ahead of their time. One notable example is Proconsul Marcus Licinius Graca, who shows up to lead the Roum rifle corps while still wearing his traditional Centurion-like garb (e.g. breastplate and skirt) and strapped with a short sword on one side and a revolver on the other, with a Sharps carbine on his back.
  • In Lucifer's Star by C.T. Phipps, the Great Crash resulted in technology being scattered unevenly across human space for a century. As such, some worlds are practically Medieval while other worlds are Crystal Spires and Togas-level utopias. It becomes stark with the fact the protagonist is a Knight Errant as well as The Captain (plus The Alcoholic) on a cargo ship.
  • In Malê Rising on, the Kingdom of the Arabs uses its oil wealth to preserve traditional culture and heavily subsidize the traditional nomadic lifestyles, leading to Berber clans driving around in luxurious all-terrain vehicles that open into grand, portable pavilions.
  • Charles Stross' The Merchant Princes Series is a very good example. Some people are able to travel between parallel worlds with varying levels of technology. This leads to things like cavalry using heavy machine guns. Or a knight making trade agreements with megacorporations.
  • Mirabile is set on a third-generation (and very poorly populated) Terran colony that came from generation ships. The colonists tend to live like 19th-century homesteaders, but have access to high technology, albeit in very limited quantity.
  • In Mistborn, The Empire closely resembles the early 1800s in terms of fashion, architecture, and technology (complete with canned food and a widespread canal system), but weapons technology is decidedly medieval because the Lord Ruler has been in power for the last thousand years and brutally cracked down on anything that he thinks might threaten his power. You can point and shoot a gun with minimal effort, but pointing and shooting a bow requires extensive training that poorly-supplied rebels can't provide.
  • Mortal Engines has quite a few examples of this: heavier-than-air flight doesn't exist (at least at the start of the series), swords are still as popular as guns, and computers are barely a twinkle in anybody's eye, but about half the world lives in cities mounted on treads with powerful engines and mechanical jaws capable of seizing smaller cities and taking them apart for scrap. To be fair, keeping the cities running is portrayed as a massive effort and the primary concern of local governments. There's also a lot of scavenging going on for old tech.
  • In George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, the scientific method has been abolished and technological development has effectively ceased to exist, with the only exception being in the fields of war and police espionage. Fields are cultivated by horse-drawn ploughs, but trashy novels are written by complicated machines: having proles working the farms themselves by primitive means keeps them poor and busy, while letting people write novels themselves would lead to the development of thoughts which would threaten the Party's power.
  • In Nocte Yin, the world of Erisire has horses for transportation and swords for weaponry, yet the main characters all have laptops and cell phones.
  • David Weber's Out of the Dark. It's unusual for a race with nuclear power to still be using fossil fuels, and no other race has reached our tech level without One World Order, so no one has ever applied modern technology to combat within a gravity well. Unfortunately, the Shongairi don't fully appreciate this when they bring troops meant to invade pre-industrial civilizations to a battle with modern military hardware.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians is set in the modern world. Cellphones and surfing the Internet attract monsters, but the demigods fight with chariots, swords, spears, shields and bows and arrows... and a Mossberg 500, as seen in The Lost Hero.
  • In The Pillars of Reality, much of the world seems to have medieval-like technology, but the Guild of Mechanics possesses steam trains, rifles, and even radios. They keep the relevant knowledge strictly secret, and it derives from Lost Technology rather than uneven advancement.
  • In The Planiverse, most Ardean technology is described by the humans as "late nineteenth century", but they also have an experimental computer, rocket planes, and even a space station. This is because of the limitations of a two-dimensional universe.
  • Neal Asher's The Polity: The planet Cull in The Brass Man features "knights" riding on giant hogs who use lances to kill local monsters, protecting villagers who construct photovoltaic cells by hand as a trade. This is because they are the descendants of a stranded colony ship, and their leaders are trying to use a telescope and a laser to re-establish contact with the ship as it's still sitting in orbit and can be used as a relay to phone home back to Earth.
  • In China Miéville's Railsea, when the Medes pulls into the metropolis of Manihiki the crew sees many other trains, the majority, like the Medes, running on diesel or steampower but others being pulled by animals or powered by human slave labor. On the streets of Manihiki is every manner of conveyance from rickshaws to solar powered vehicles. A chapter on captains' logs mentions them being kept using digital storage, pen and paper and quipu.
  • Relic Master: Thanks to the Neglectful Precursors leaving all their crap behind, we have a world with flamethrowers, liquid crystal telescopes, A.I.s, and electric elevators, all while horses are the most efficient transport and the main military weapon is the crossbow.
  • "The Road Not Taken", a short story by Harry Turtledove.
    • It turns out that "gravity manipulation" is absurdly simple, so easy that some Iron Age cultures have discovered it, giving them antigravity and faster-than-light travel. Humans, who have missed the discovery, are invaded in 2039 by a species roughly in its Age of Sail (except with the spaceships instead of the sailing). It's humans with 21st-century technology versus aliens with highly maneuverable aircraftnote , starships... and black-powder flintlock muskets. It was a very short-lived invasion.
    • The story's title name-drops the Robert Frost poem; one of the humans says that because they missed the "obvious" discovery, they took a less-travelled road and developed more in other areas. And unlike gravity manipulation, which serves solely to move objects around, humanity's sciences had all manner of uses — electromagnetic physics, for instance, gave us electricity, radar, and communications. No other world the aliens have seen has followed that path... and now the humans have their own technology and the hyperdrive. A couple of captive aliens lampshade this in a hilarious "What Have We Done" moment—exactly in these words, no less.
  • Safehold: By the ninth and tenth books, the technological advancement of the Empire of Charis is approaching this, with warships and airships similar to that of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but no electricity. This is because they have to skip around certain areas of logical technological progress to avoid triggering a Kill Sat array designed to enforce the planet's Medieval Stasis.
  • In The Salvation War, the scale of the conflict is so high at first that museum pieces (old aircraft and even tanks as well as other armoured gear) are brought back to service, meaning that modern planes as F-22s fight alongside 80s F-16s or F-18s, 60s F-4 Phantoms, as well as WWII-vintage ones as B-25s. This is also justified in suddenly needing to fulfill tactical roles that haven't been called for in fifty years, such as large-scale carpet bombing.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology, the armies of the nations fight with bronze swords, spears, and bows. Meanwhile, their officers (all nobles) carry firearms of various type (from simple revolvers to heavy machine guns). They also have an air force composed of wooden aircraft that use rocket boosters for acceleration and bombs for ground assault. No forms of dogfighting are mentioned. This is all because iron is extremely difficult to obtain in this world. Time-wise, the setting is contemporary (i.e. start of the 21st century), but the lack of iron has seriously hindered progress. Also, iron is treated as gold, despite its tendency to rust. Imagine wearing iron jewelry and considering it the height of luxury.
  • This is another feature that Separated at Birth: America and Drakia and the original Draka series by Stirling that it reimagines share. In Separated at Birth, it's justified as being the result of an alternate, later Napoleonic Wars leading to accelerated technological development. As an example, the 1850s sees the the WWI-like proliferation of breechloading rifles, poison gas and primitive machine guns in most European armies, while by the 1870s, heavier than air aircraft have already been developed. Whether it will lead to genetically engineered human-baboon-wolf hybrids and space warfare in the 1960s as in the original series have yet to be revealed.
  • Everpresent in A Series of Unfortunate Events, in which telegraphs coexist with fiber-optic cables. When asked what year the series took place, Lemony Snicket said "year of the Snake".
  • Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Won uses this, most of the colonists are living in a neo-feudal situation while their masters are in control of technology so advanced it looks like magic. The technology they're using was created by aliens and is hugely durable.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat series is set in a universe where the League attempts to reassemble a fallen empire. Steampunk style robots with imported brains are present, and one character was wearing a homemade leather jacket with plastic boots.
  • In Kevin J. Anderson's Terra Incognita series the general tech level is the usual Middle Ages type found in fantasy stories but the Saedrans use navigational equipment better suited to the 18th century that enable them to determine longitude and the Urecari invent crude, balloon based airships.
  • The Thursday Next books are set in an alternate version of England in the late 1980s, with fusion generators, genetic resurrection of extinct species, and Gravitubes that tunnel through the Earth's mantle to allow travellers to cross the globe in forty minutes. Their aircraft consist of zeppelins and propeller planes, though, and space travel is pure science fiction.
  • The Tripods series by John Christopher. If you believe the blurbs on the backs of the books you expect some kind of vaguely futuristic sci-fi world. The dissonance hits after reading the first few paragraphs of The White Mountains and realizing that actually the entire Earth is purposely held in a kind of hodgepodge of the 16th to 19th centuries in terms of technological development and governments and societies are generally quasi-feudal in nature, with limited self-government at the town level. Yet the Masters themselves live at a 20th/21st century standard, and go beyond it in being able to manipulate gravity and fission/fusion power.
  • In Tunnel in the Sky, interstellar travel has been invented in the form of the Ramsbotham Gate, a instantaneous means of travel. It is most often utilized by animal drawn wagon trains. Justified, as it is used to colonize untamed planets.
  • The Sivaoans in Uhura's Song. Turns out they were Luddite aesthetics that make up for their lack of a high tech infrastructure with photographic memories, and the related Eeiaoans were a technology-embracing splinter group that was exiled from Sivao.
  • In The Witcher, technology generally rests around late medieval or early Renaissance levels, but the degree of understanding in medicine and biology rivals that of the modern day: genetics, washing hands before treating wounds to fight diseases, antiseptics, viral and bacterial cultures and lactic acid buildup in muscles are all things described at different points by characters in the books. Admittedly this knowledge is limited to the clergy, Witchers and magic practitioners; the average villager knows little of medicine beyond natural home remedies.
  • The Worldwar series, also by Harry Turtledove:
    • It's considerably harder, the Race, despite having mastered things like cryogenics and half-light speed travel, never thought to stick poison gas in a canister and shoot it at their enemy. Meaning they never invented a proper defense. In addition they have been unified for fifty thousand years and have only fought pre-gunpowder civilizations since then (until the 1940s of course), so they haven't needed any military weapons more advanced than assault rifles and nukes. It is stated multiple times that if the Race had arrived just 40 years earlier they would have conquered more than just the third world countries and that if they had arrived much later they would have been utterly defeated (or would have found a radioactive rock where an inhabitable planet used to be). In fact the Race invasion caused human technology to advance more quickly, by the sixties most cars are powered by hydrogen and the US sent a nuclear powered ship to the asteroid belt, and sent a starship traveling at a third of lightspeed to the Race homeworld by the end of the century. Thirty years after that, humanity develops Faster-Than-Light Travel, and the Race is officially screwed.
    • They were expecting a walk-over (the last info they had was from the 12th century), not an industrial enemy. Plus they'd not had any use for the stuff in 50,000 years, so they'd probably just forgotten about it. Despite this, they can still be called Crazy-Prepared for bringing nukes to fight what they thought would be Medieval savages, even though they themselves abhor using these weapons due to the long-term damage to the environment. (It's possible that the nukes were intended to intimidate the enemy to the point that a fight would not be necessary and humanity would submit to worshipping the Spirits of Emperors Past as soon as (for example) Rome or Mecca was nuked.) The nukes they use during the first days of the invasion are only for EMP purposes, which utterly fail because humans haven't developed integrated circuits yet.


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