Monday, 6 April 2015

An Atlas Of Imaginary Worlds 17: Rooksmoor's Guide To Creation Of A Fantasy World - An Easy Example

This posting is a sequel to my brief 'how to' guide about the easy creation of fantasy kingdoms which I posted in January 2013.  I cannot believe it was that long ago:  This latest iteration was prompted by a couple of things.  One was an article in 'The Guardian' about how the status of fantasy literature has been rising, especially as a result of the success of George R.R. Martin's 'A Song of Fire & Ice' series and the 'Game of Thrones' television series that came from those books, now in its 5th season.  You can read it here:  The article has a small quiz about different lands created for various fantasy series.  The other prompt was stumbling across a map of the 67P Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet that the ESA probe landed on in August 2014. It seems made perfectly for a fantasy map especially as the regions have been name after Ancient Egyptian mythological characters.

As it is a solid, you get some repeated as we are looking at different faces of the irregular comet.  However, these could easily represent colonies of one country on another of the three continents.  Ash might be a colonial power like Britain, France or Spain, perhaps even the Netherlands or Portugal, from our history.  Nut seems to be a narrow coastal country pinned in by high mountains like Chile.  The dominant powers seem to be Imhotep on the south-western continent, Ma'at, Babi and Seth on the eastern continent.  Perhaps the people of Serqet are like the Tamils of our world split between northern Sri Lanka and southern India.  On the north-western continent maybe they were force inland by the arrival of Maftet.  

We could look at the global picture in two ways.  Perhaps the north-western continent is crowded with a range of powers fighting for territory with people looking for colonies in the much larger eastern continent.  Conversely the eastern continent might be the dominant one with countries having enclaves; the Ma'at lands on the western continent certainly seems something like Hong Kong or the German control of the Shandong peninsula in China in our history.  What is it that the people of Apis have that has allowed them to survive and not be engulfed by Ash or Imhotep?  The same could go for Hapi, perhaps important traders on what looks like comparative low-lying ground at the end of the long gulf.  Do they play off one against the other?  What is the history of Anubis?  It lacks colonies.  Is it actually a break-away from Atum which still surrounds it on three sides and itself lacks colonies.  Has there been a civil war or an ethnic one.  Could Atum be the Biafra to Anubis's Nigeria?

What about the Khepry, seemingly pushed to the periphery of two continents?  Down on these extreme southern coasts, what is the climate like - bitterly cold or very hot and humid or desert like?  What about the people of Aten in long valleys.  If these continents are on a sphere, is there travel between their two regions?  Perhaps they are undeveloped tribes left in the inaccessible regions of these continents.  Have I mistaken Maftet are the aggressors and it is they being pushed into the remote regions of their rugged land?

Starting with this map, I have adopted a very geo-political basis.  However, maybe the different regions represent different religions, with Ash as a religion of fisher people along the northern coasts and the religion of Ma'at only becoming established in a port on the north-western continent.  Perhaps Hapi is a religion only found in the most urban areas of the world.  Khepry seems ostracised no matter how you look at it.  However, perhaps controlling the trade across the Wide Sea or the Black Ocean they are far better off than they might look.

Do each of the colours represent an ethnicity, even a species?  Is there common ground between the Aten, Apis, Nut and Hatmehit or between the Ma'at and the Ash or the Aken, Bastet, Anuket and their southern cousins, the Imhotep?

The image though a scientific one can easily trigger off lots of ideas for a fantasy story.  The nature of the continents, the topography and the regions marked on them generate lots of prompts for plots.  As I have noted before, there is always a danger that you might simply transfer the British or the Chileans or the Biafrans into your fantasy world.  However, with changes and crafting you can move them away from that start point.  One you develop your story the different kingdoms or religions are likely to take on a life of their own and so will soon be unidentifiable as their Earth equivalents.

You might not want to use Egyptian names; Imhotep is well known.  However, you can use them as a start point as I noted in my previous posting on creating worlds.  Move them forward one vowel or consonant and immediately Ash becomes 'Etj' (though I might break the rule on that one and stick with Eti) or Urg, if you go back one.  Ma'at becomes 'Ne'ev' or 'Lu'us' both pronounceable.  Imhotep, perhaps the one needing most immediate change becomes 'Onjuviq' or 'Elgisan' the latter one much better than the former.  Nut probably needs to go too, 'Pav' or 'Mos' both are feasible.  Khepry sounds like it is the result of this process but could become 'Ljiqsz' or 'Jganqx' both very hard.  The system might need modification so 'h' goes on to 'i' rather than j; and r back to 'p' rather than q and p on to 'r'.  It is probably worthwhile treating y as a vowel. Thus Liirsa or Jganru are a little better.

Of course, sorting out your world is just the first stage of your fantasy novel.  While less picturesque, far more vital are the characters and you will have to turn to someone else for advice on them.  Unlike George R.R. Martin I find it hard to have amoral characters or see through the eyes of evil ones.  Like a lot of people I also hold back from killing off the nicest ones, so there would be no 'red' wedding in mine.  Perhaps you have more courage and skill than me and can succeed like George.  Remember it has taken him over twenty years to get there.

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