Hyborian Age. The word is barely in the American lexicon but represents the foundations for the sword and sorcery genre. It was a term coined by Robert Howard in the 1930s. He used it to describe the fictional historical period his most famous character, Conan, inhabited. He defined it as the period after the fall of Atlantis and before the Indo-European invasions. Later writers have specified his words as a period sometime after 20,000 B.C.E. and before 9500. What Howard was after was a period of history we didn’t know much about so that he could give it the history he wanted.
Howard’s universe has been attractive to many writers, among them several continuators of the Conan story. But it does suffer from some painful inaccuracies. For instance the horse was not domesticated nor the sword forged till 4000 B.C.E. Farming was not discovered until 8000 B.C.E., and obviously there could have been no fermentation of grains before then. Though communities emerged immediately after we found a stable food source, there isn’t even a suggestion of kings until 5000 B.C.E.
To be blunt, though reading about a period without any preconceived notions provides a good place for letting an imagination centering around the supernatural to flourish, not having some limitations in the end leaves any creative enterprise without structure. Small children can’t grasp the concept of kryptonite, untrained youths won’t understand that Superman is a solar hero. Without those foundations, the defender of truth, justice, and the American way is boring. Without any boundaries of magic, logic, or science, so is Conan’s ‘Hyborian Age’.
What the 20,000 to 10,000 period consisted of, basically, was surviving the ice age. With glaciers moving south to the equator and the Southern Hemisphere suffering from aridity and heat life was brutal and often short. Groups of people came together out of mutual need. The ice age wasn’t exactly a world of magic. And with clans no larger than twenty or thirty there could have been no real battles. However, a setting like that might be worthy of some interesting stories. Certainly interesting for a loner who likes to travel around the world.
I have a proposition. Instead of yet another Conan movie/book/comic with an oversized sword and two-dimensional female characters, why doesn’t Hollywood try something a little more interesting? How about a clever, muscular, amoral man running around the world in the last years of the ice age trying to use the tech of the time to get the girl and win as much money as he can. We might not generate an iconic figure that way, but the movie would have some serious entertainment value. Imagine how a loner coming upon a primitive Eleusian Mystery might react. Or how he might respond to a sacrifice? Imagine his perceptions of daily life versus the perceptions of a clan fully indoctrinated in their culture. A documentary, drama, or even comedy would be great vehicles for this kind of story
What do you think?
By the way, I have a wiki up on my little universe. If you are curious, go to http://xiaverse.wikia.com/wiki/Xiaverse_Wiki