blog... blog... blog...
My class at Forward Motion Writers Workshop is jinxed. This is the second or third week in a row that the site's gone down just at the time I was supposed to be holding the class. Meowww!
I have to laugh, otherwise I'd be whining and no one wants to read a whiny blogger. Well, maybe people do. Is it that I've got insufficient whining in here or way way too much for someone who's got time on his hands, stories and articles to write and rewrite, novels to bash out and whole worlds to create? I did another article for http://www.selfhelpforwriters.com going on about what it's like working on worldbuilding by doing the map first. I'm as inordinately proud of doing the map first as some six year old with the crayons dragging it over to Grandma's so she'll put it on the fridge.
Well, it is a fair decent looking map, all right.
And hey, I can always stick it on my own refrigerator.
The background files and drawn maps and things were stuff that I skimped on back when I was running roleplaying games. I fudged a lot. I tended to make notes after the fact and sometimes not even then, because in writing I'd rewrite anything I had that didn't turn out all that well. As a writer, I have always been someone who played by ear.
I can't just go on doing the same old same old. No sooner do I get something done than I'm itching to try something else that seemed hard or seemed impossible. All through working on Thrice on a Blue Moon I was itching to get ahead and get back into fantasy again. I wasn't sure if I was going to do low, colorful, wild and woolly Sword and Sorcery or high fantasy about cosmic conflicts and grand nobles. Both were appealing in their way, rogues or princes have different types of stories potential. But once I got the map of Ziriavan done and now that the history of the Sack of Ziriavan is jelling a bit, it's not low fantasy or high fantasy. It's middle class fantasy in a way and very down to Earth and everything I've ever read about medieval guilds is coming into it. The magic isn't going to be that far over the top compared to my high fantasy series, but it's a lot more than Thrice had. I can just see blurbing this. It's the middling fantasy world with middle class magicians muddling through their ordinary days, without a lot of great destinies going on but generally a bit better off ... oh right! Actually that wouldn't be too bad for a comedy, taken to silliness, extremes and say, afflicting a dragon with chartered accountancy.
Then again, I like Barbara Hambly's fantasy novels and she has a knack for creating fascinating, adventurous heroines that I'd love to go out with - who are librarians steeped in academia and wear glasses and look very good when they take them off to get kissed. There is something I'm responding to with all the 'middling' bit and a lot of it is history itself. The Dark Ages weren't something that just happened because the Romans got sacked. They happened because after the Romans got sacked, censorship set in and the same churches that preserved most of the Roman histories and technologies without using them were - holding it back and not using it. And persecuting heretics of any flavour, which is to say anyone who was't part of that group. There's so much dark material in history as it is. If I want a nice 'escape' book I almost have to look at it and fiddle with it and turn it around again and again to find the bright side. The bright side for me in so much medieval history is ... the slow, lovely accumulation of beautifully crafted medieval artifacts and poems. The songs in Languedoc that remain to this day that pleasant to the ear. The woven, embroidered and painted garments and bedding. The carved wooden furnishings and carved stone monuments - the art tends to remain no matter what caused it and that's making me wonder if Ziriavan is going to take more sketching than a couple of maps, if some of what will deepen that world and give it that local ethnic depth is going to take my doing a few private illustrations. I feel as if I've just scratched the surface - and this is the surface of one place on it, just one, there's a lot more out there for me to write, draw and sketch up for the series. I wanted another series and the stretch for that is to plan it this time. I think it's a little large for a trilogy but I don't want to make it yet another unending one. A fiver might be just about right this time. I don't need to travel to other worlds in it. Just getting to another city in this world with its 12th century level of transportation is a massive journey. And it'll keep shimmering between gritty realism and fantastic wonder, hanging at exactly the level it does.
In game books like GURPS by Steve Jackson Games, you'd rate a fantasy world by its Magic Level - how easy it is to come by, how easy to learn and use, what applications are available to ordinary people. In Ziriavan out of 200 locals who are fiercely independent and surprisingly democratic, there's just one magician and he's treated a lot like the miller or the smith, someone who's made himself a specialist whose specialty does get used day to day. That tells me he does agro-magic and oceanomancy. They fish, he's supposed to do things to help the catch and also to defend the town if raiders with magicians show up.
History has a lot of 'magic is evil' propaganda out of the persecution of pagans by the medieval Church. For me to write about that as that is almost like going over and over something that's already been done, well, by a lot of people. I could do it justice and might in some other areas. Magicians seem always to wind up either the lords of everyone by military superiority or persecuted and driven out because the previous military superiorities really don't like that, in worlds where magic works. Yet in Ziriavan it wound up just accidentally path-dependent cultural choice different - the magician's like the miller and does something useful enough to pay for that leaves him judged on whether he's competent and whether he's cheating on the measure with it. My poor lad's got that for a social situation. In his hometown. And in most quest stories he'd be leaving his hometown that I've spent two days building in about two chapters to tear off into a Great Destiny.
What's more likely is that a Great Khan or a sweeping Empire or a Crusade or something like that is going to come roaring through just as it did all over Europe and that fishing village remnant of a once-great walled city is going to either sink or swim. What I've got with Rillan is the classic medieval situation of a teenager who's got to do an adult job right now because it's needed, whose childhood wasn't romanticized as children are romanticized now but who's still regarded as young and untried by his elders. In the world building documents I turned over the rock and found that even eliminating the prejudice against magicians by way of a couple of canny ones back in its history slamming it firmly into the artisan class and forming a solid Guild mainly by selling magic to Guildsmen who could afford it and pitching in with them politically when anything happened, didn't eliminate the darker side of medieval life at all. It just shifted it around a bit and there are a lot of conflicts, old and new, brewing both in and around Ziriavan.
Odd to plan this much, but it's working...
Robert A. Sloan, exploring Ziriavan and surrounds...
Aristophenes Mr. Robert's Cat Sloan, sleeping under the desk contentedly. >^..^<