Monday, April 18, 2011

Worldbuilding A to Z: M, N and O

EPIC CATCH UP POST! (I apologize for the length.)

Just a couple of notes first.

Hello to all my new followers! I'm glad you're here and I hope you enjoy the ride. This has been so exciting meeting new people. I know I haven't been as present and active as I should be to get the most out of this challenge. (I blame my new baby who was born on March 30.) Hopefully things will quiet down in May (when there aren't a million posts to read every day).

 It looks like I've confused a few people with all my talk about Ancient Egypt. I am not writing historical fiction. (I so do not want to do that much research.) What I am doing is worldbuilding for fantasy. To that end I am using Ancient Egypt as my inspiration for the particular nation that my current WIP takes place in. This fantasy version of Egypt is called Akhet. I admit that it is very heavily based on Egypt, but it will not be just a copy. I'm taking certain things from the real Egypt and fleshing out lots of other things from my own imagination. I hope to end up with a world that feels real because it is rooted in reality. So here I discuss those aspects of Egypt that have inspired me and how I will be incorporating them into my fantasy world.

M is for Monuments

The temples and tombs of Ancient Egypt. Pictures do not do them justice. One must see them in person to truly realize their scope and their immensity. (I've been fortunate enough to do just that.) What motivated the Egyptians to toil over such amazing constructions?

The truth is that these were far more than just buildings to the Egyptians. Their homes, even the King's own palace, the Egyptians constructed with mud bricks, materials that wouldn't stand the test of time. Precious stone was used only for their monuments because these things were meant to last for eternity.

The tomb especially has special meaning. It says in the Instruction of Djedefhor (which I am quoting from Jan Assmann's Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt):

Build your house for your son;
then a place will be created for you, in which you will be.
Richly equip your house in the realm of the dead,
and effectively outfit your place in the West.
Heed: death counts little for us;
heed: life counts much for us.
The house of death counts for life.
 In this passage the "house" it talks about is the tomb. Likewise the tomb and temple will have a significant place in my fictional world of Akhet. As my main characters are priests, the temple (in this case a Temple of Re) will be a major setting, along with its rituals and responsibilities for the ordering of the cosmos. And the tomb as a house of life will play a major role in the resolving of the conflict.

N is for Nome

What is a nome? Well, it's what Egyptologists called the regional divisions of Ancient Egypt, using the word that the Greek used when recording information about Egypt. The Ancient Egyptian word would be sepat, but I like the sound and look of nome better. Nomes were ruled, under the King, by what we call a Nomarch, which is another term I like the sound of.

When doing research I was able to find the names of the different nomes as well as their capital cities. So I will be able to use authentic names for the cities and districts of Akhet, though I will apply those names as I choose and will not be copying a map of Egypt.

O is for Other Races

At last, a subject that is not directly tied to Ancient Egypt, but deals with questions of fantasy in general. One of the most important questions in fantasy, I believe. Namely, do I want to include non-human races in my fantasy world? It may not seem very important, but I think it ties into the issue of what fantasy really is and what purpose, as a genre, it is meant to serve.

Tolkien, arguably the father of modern fantasy, believed that the focus and purpose of fantasy was about exploring our desires. He also believed that one of the fundamental desires of human beings was to experience contact other types of beings, such as beings of faerie. Hence the popularity of Elves and Dwarves and Goblins in fantasy. These beings are a direct development of beings from our ancient mythologies such as the Tuatha de Danann or the Ljósálfar, precursors to our modern fantasy elves. There is a movement in contemporary fantasy to move the genre away from these tropes. However, I can't help but think anything that removes the genre too far from its mythological roots will ultimately be a negative thing.

So, will I have elves in my fantasy world? Well, not exactly. I will not have genetically separate races that can somehow still reproduce together. (That always bothers me. Half Elves in particular are my biggest fantasy genre pet peeve. Why are they EVERYWHERE? Ahem.) What I will have is one single race, the human race (though I will not use the term "human" you can assume it's the same), that spreads out across the world in the beginning of history. Over time, different groups of these humans will evolve differently due to the different conditions they live under. For instance, one part of the world is always dark, and so the inhabitants of that place evolve extra large eyes with extra large pupils to take in as much starlight as possible. They can see as well at night as you or I can in the daytime. In addition, because of the lack of light the flora and fauna in their part of the world is very different and it has caused them to grow very tall and lean. They will, admittedly, be my version of the Irish Aes Sidhe or fairy peoples.

In other parts of the world there will most likely be other differently evolved peoples, but all will be genetically the same race. And the inspiration for all of them will come from various world mythologies, but fleshed out and developed by my own imagination.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments, Precious, we appreciates them!