Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Worldbuilding A to Z: P and Q

Because posting topics on the correct day is for the weak! (Just let me keep telling myself that, ok?) Don't miss my other EPIC CATCH UP POST brought to you by the letters M, N and O. Now I'm finally on schedule!

P is for Politics

How do you like the politics in your fantasy? Do you like them as the main course, served with a delicious sauce of intrigue? Do you like them as a side, like a healthy scoop of vegetables? Or maybe sent right back to the kitchen where they belong? No matter how large a part you want Politics to play in your narrative, a fully formed country (even in a fantasy world) can't exist without it. As an author, even if you don't talk about it in the story much, you should be aware of what type of government your country has and how it will affect the characters in your story.

In Akhet I will, of course, be following the Egyptian model of state with the King as its absolute ruler. From the days of Egypt's first ruling dynasty, the idea of a centralized state was central to the Egyptian way of thinking. While there was a system of government workers including advisers and administrators, regional nomarchs (see letter N), and many scribes in service to the government, it all led back to the King. All craftsmen in Egypt were also under the direct authority of the King and one could only obtain their services with royal permission. And it stayed that way for thousands of years.

One reason that this worked was the religious aspect of the Kingship. At times the King was considered to be a god himself, or the son of a god or the god's representative on earth (depending on the time period). The King was also a High Priest and, according to Egyptian belief, "lord of burial". If one turned one's back on the King one could not be buried in a tomb, an all important aspect of the Egyptian religion. Again, everything goes back to the King.

The ruling King during my WIP will certainly feel the weight of that responsibility when some of his priests rebel and cause chaos to descend on Akhet. My King will be served on the side, like a nice helping of mashed potatoes with gravy. But he won't get to take it easy. Oh no, not by a long shot.

Q is for Quintessence

Quintessence, literally "fifth element", also referred to in classical thought as "aether".

The Quintessence, or Aether, is a concept from classical philosophy that I will be employing in my fantasy world as a vehicle for magic. I will be using the Aristotelian conception of Aether which he included as the fifth element along with air, earth, fire and water. According to Aristotle:

1. Aether fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere.

2. It has no qualities like the other elements (it is not cold, hot, wet or dry).

3. It is not subject to changes in substance, quantity or quality though it is subject to change of place.

4. By its nature it moves in circles around the terrestrial sphere. (The movement of the stars is explained by their position altering as the aether moves around the planet.)

5. It is unalterable and incorruptible. While it can push on "ordinary" matter, it cannot be pushed back by that matter.

Taking this fascinating concept, I am adapting it to my fantasy world thus:

1. The Aether will be the material that composes the celestial and underworld realms of the gods.

2. The gods are the gods because they are beings who are capable, unlike the "ordinary" matter of the terrestrial sphere, of touching and altering the Aether and using the Aether to touch and alter "ordinary" matter in undetectable ways. This is the source of their power.

3. Certain human beings will be able to develop the skill of using their ba (see post on the letter B) to do the same. This skill is most often exhibited by priests and other people who have deep understanding of the religious mysteries of the universe. This is their "magic".

This is the grounding for the magic system of my world. I hope you find it as interesting as I do. I think the potential is limitless and I can't wait to explore it through my stories.


  1. Have you started writing this yet or is it still in the outlining stage? It sounds like it will be fascinating. You've done so much research!! I like the idea of mixing magic with the egyptian elements.

  2. I have *barely* started writing it. I've spent a lot of time on the worldbuilding and frankly, I've had to put the writing on hold a bit until the new baby sets up a more regular routine. But I'm thinking I'm going to go back and do a more thorough outline before I go back to the writing anyway. The kind of outline that could almost qualify as a first draft.

  3. I find the concepts unique to what I've read out there and look forward to learning more.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  4. I love that you're Egypt as a model for your fantasy world. Egypt was quite magical in its own right. It sounds like an intriguing story, I hope your baby gives you lots of time to work on it.

  5. I would never have dreamed of Egypt as a fantasy world setting--wow. Get busy, girl, and get this one written. It is fresh.

  6. You have a great blog. Thanks for sharing.

    I am a new follower from the A-Z challenge
    Her World

  7. Thank you. I was hoping by using Egypt that I would be reaching into the realm of the original. My goal is to not just use the historical realities of Egypt for inspiration, but the spiritual and philosophical meanings behind those realities. Egypt belief and thought was so much more complex than most people realize. It's perfect fantasy fodder. :)

  8. It seems there are always political elements in a fantasy novels - and you've chosen the perfect backdrop. Sounds fascinating!

  9. They don't call this A to Z thing a "challenge" for nothing, do they? Good luck with the rest of the alphabet. We're almost there!



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