Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Some Story/Setting Thoughts

I thought to myself "let's have an update post where I complain about having insufficient motivation to write and how it's messing with my self image as a writer," but then I thought "let's just post about writing and save the wanking for my special private time."

You're welcome.

This is an idea I've been kicking around for a while. I'm eager to hear your thoughts on it, oh faithful readers.

The premise of the setting is, basically, epic fantasy all growed up. A world of sword and sorcery, having achieved not just an industrial revolution - that's arcane steampunk, and it's been done - but the same successive waves of urbanization, nation building, and advances in information technology that define the world we live in today. In other words, this is a world grounded in fantasy, but looking a lot like our world.

I'm not a big fan of magic/science as a black-and-white dichotomy, but for reasons that will become apparent later on, I am going to say that in this world, they are at least a little dichotomous. Magic is an inborn trait of many individuals and species. With practice, you can more or less count on magic to do what you want it to, but it maintains a personal, mystical nature. Magic is not repeatable or rational. Although you can use it to get results, it's ultimately irrational, subjective, and unreliable. In this world, science, on the other hand, is just science. Ultimately, it's rational, reliable, repeatable, and inherent to the entire world - and therefore, democratic.

In other words, magic is the old world. It's hierarchical; it favors the few and the lucky. Science is democratic. While I have no illusions - and this setting doesn't, either - that everyone has equal access to scientific training or the fruits of science, theoretically anyone can learn it and benefit from it.

Sorry about the commie digression there.

Now, to get us to the time and place the game is actually set in, there's a bit of fantasy history I need to cover.

About a generation ago in this world - roughly equivalent to the 1940s - the last independent Elven nation began the equivalent of World War II. They had been in decline for some time - think the fading Ottoman Empire - in part because of their traditional reliance on magic (a powerful force, but since it's unreliable, it's more helpful as a source of personal power than it is as the basis of nation-building) and in part because of their insistence on remaining a racial monoculture, led by an inbred monarchy supported by an unwieldy bureacracy.

So, the elves had a renaissance, but pre-war Germany style, they decided to blame everyone else for their problems rather than accept that the needed to change, and started a war to right old wrongs and reclaim their dominance.

The elven armies were crushed. Their territories were carved up among the nations who had united to defeat them. With no appreciable economy, an elven diaspora began, leading to elves living as underclasses in cities all over the world.

Which brings us to the modern day.

Before I continue with the actual story I actually want to tell, I want to acknowledge the holes.

  • Other fantasy species? What about, I dunno, Gnomes? Hobbits? Dwarves? Are dragons monsters or an intelligent magical species (I'm inclined towards the latter) and if so, what is there role? If part of the appeal of this setting is "epic fantasy growed up," then I ought to include a selection of favorite tropes, the question is which and how.
  • Magic. I went and put magic in. That means that there's still a lot to decide about how it works, its limitations, and so on. Since I decided that magic is actually magical, rather than just being science with the serial numbers filed off, I can cheat a little, but only a little.
  • There are many details that would need to be fleshed out to tell a larger story. "The allies" who defeated the elves need histories, cultures, religions, and so on.

Now, the story.

Personally, I think there's a lot of potential here to tell a lot of interesting stories, but the story I want to focus on is something dear to my heart. I kind of want to write a story about a teacher in an impoverished, partly elven neighborhood in the equivalent of an inner city. I like the idea of mixing all these big ideas and fantasy tropes with the job I've come to know so well. I like the big history, and how it provides lots of complicated causes for the current events.

So... well, I guess I don't really need to know what you think. I'm happy that I got a chance to put my thoughts all together and in print. That said, I'm curious to read any thoughts any reader might have.

I don't know where this story is going to go, but it's good to be creative again. Catch you later.