So I've got this fantasy planet X, where humanoid peoples Y and Z are at war on an island nation about the size of England, and they've been at war with each other for hundreds of years. They are two very distinct peoples, with different physical appearances, traditions, religions, languages, customs, and the like.

Is it realistic to say that they can still be so rigidly different and still warring with each other after hundreds of years, without any kind of cultural diffusion? Will readers buy the concept of two cultures living in such close proximity but being so drastically dissimilar, and remaining that way for a long time?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this really belongs on the Worldbuilding.SE.
    – Double U
    Jan 28, 2019 at 22:14
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    I don't think Worldbuilding would accept this question. I believe they'll close it as "opinion-based". Jan 28, 2019 at 23:18
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    It actually sounds like England...
    – NofP
    Jan 29, 2019 at 0:13
  • I understand that it might not look like exactly the same situation as you're describing it, and the two sides have come to terms for the most part now, but it's my understanding that the situation you describe is not only something that could happen, but something like that did happen, on an island the size, shape, and location of England. Sure, there was some diffusion, but it's my understanding that each period of peace before last century was always a very tenuous thing.
    – Ed Grimm
    Jan 29, 2019 at 0:13
  • About the size of England... well, it's not like they were always a United Kingdom... and if you believe that, I have "A Modest Proposal" for you. To paraphrase Groundskeeper Willie, The Scots and the Irish have been natural enemies. Like the Scots and the English. Or the Scots and the Welsh. Or the Scots and the Japanese.
    – hszmv
    Jan 29, 2019 at 18:29

3 Answers 3


Readers will buy anything, if you can sell it. Vampires, wizards, talking animals, superpowers, sentient flat figures... Readers don't look for a realistic story. They look for a good story. Any premise will be accepted, if that's what is needed to tell your story, and if your story is good.

Take House as an example: the premise requires a doctor so caustic, that in real life he would never have been allowed to keep his practice. Also, most of what they actually do is plain wrong. Does anybody care? No, because the story is good. (Or at least, good enough.)

One thing you do need to keep in mind is consistency. If your setting is not internally consistent, that's like a hole in your sales pitch - everything starts to fray around it. Whatever your setting is, you're asking the readers to suspend their disbelief, and accept your setting as is. Which the reader is ready to do. But the moment you start to contradict yourself, you punch a hole in that suspension of disbelief - the reader cannot simultaneously accept two contradicting prepositions.

So long as your story is internally consistent, any setting whatsoever is fine.

If you're still uncomfortable about a particular element, you can try to justify it within your story, but that is risky: you would be drawing attention to where the fabric of the story is weakest. Sometimes it's best to ignore the hole, accept it as part of what's necessary to make your story work. Like the House example.


They don't recognise each other as human

It isn't uncommon for humans to disregard the humanity of races that don't look similar to them. With no shared languages and distinct physicality it is entirely possible that both races regard the other as more akin to apes or cattle.

This is less of a "war" and more "pest-control". Each race views the other as somehow lesser and it has never occurred to them to try peace. With so little regard for the other race, cross-breeding and cultural diffusion is unlikely.


if you look at all the longest running conflicts on planet Earth, they are always always between highly similar cultures/peoples

Christianity vs Islam

Christianity vs Judaism

Islam vs Christianity

Islam vs Judaism

Judaism vs Christianity

Judaism vs Islam

Catholic vs Protestant

Protestant vs Catholic

Japanese vs Korean

Korean vs Japanese

In fact it is difficult for wildly dissimilar cultures to sustain an overly long war.

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    Why did you list each conflict twice? That seems really redundant. And can you explain how and why this might be the case? That's what OP is interested in.
    – F1Krazy
    Jan 28, 2019 at 22:44
  • because... I don't want people to get the impression that i am trying to convey the notion that one is the aggressor ... the other is the victim.. And It is directly relevant because... our worst enemies, are almost always people who look most like us... So clearly that answers his question about how to sustain a long war between to vastly different cultures. I am saying that kind of conflicts are virtually nonexistent on earth.
    – ashleylee
    Jan 28, 2019 at 23:00
  • If we have to limit conflicts geographically "on an island nation about the size of England" then I can think only about Palestine, and even that conflict wasn't flaring for centuries.
    – Alexander
    Jan 29, 2019 at 18:43
  • @Alexander: oh why do you think i threw in Catholic vs Protestant? have you heard of a place of Ireland?
    – ashleylee
    Jan 30, 2019 at 14:08
  • Ireland (particularly Northern Ireland) is fresh in our memory, but real trouble there started only in 1960s. In other places, Catholic vs Protestant feuds burned out centuries before (like in XVI century France).
    – Alexander
    Jan 30, 2019 at 17:21