De fabularum mirabilium VII

Fantasy thoughts.
  • Decided to add some human civilizations to my Pathfinder setting, from the other side of the world—they warred with the ancient "Atlantis" analogue (so, Mu/Lemuria, I guess, except I think they're not also a fallen civilization). I already used Valyrian as a model for the evil Atlanteans' language (and Númenorean as the basis of the other human languages); I had thought I might model it on Marc Okrand's Atlantean ("Adlantisag"), from the Disney animated Stargate Atlantis: The Lost Empire, but then I thought no, Tainish from Unsounded (which has orthography decisions that make hanyu pinyin look intuitive). Obviously I need other human societies for the other side of the planet, but it's super hard to find conlangs for fictional humans. I could possibly use something from Earthsea as a model (yech)? Maybe Edgar Rice Burroughs's stuff?
  • Thought I might give 'em an Egyptian feel, make 'em super proud and more than a little warlike but not witches (I wonder what the Egyptians thought of Carthage, given they didn't even like Greco-Roman pragmatic infanticide?). Maybe some Incan or Mound-Builder elements, too. (Though those both did practice human sacrifice—the Inca one mainly of children. The Inca were just generally a deceptively unpleasant society, the more you research them.) The evil Atlanteans are kinda more like Sumer and the rest of Mesopotamia, with some Chinese (especially Neoconfucian) elements.

    Not sure how the people on the other side of the world will look; maybe Australian Aboriginal facial features and hair texture with brown hair and amber eyes? (On the first hemisphere they're African—thinking specifically Sudanese?—facial features and hair texture with red hair, ivory to terra-cotta skin, and green eyes, and Asian/Native American faces and hair with blond hair, alabaster to dusky skin, and blue eyes—though the two are now often intermixed.) I'd had the first hemisphere have brown hair and amber eyes as variations of the blond-blue group, but no reason I can't change it.

    It's not weird to have everyone have one main phenotype in a whole hemisphere; the New World does, after all.
  • I find the reactions to the ending of Game of Thrones absolutely hilarious. For eight seasons they crowed about how this was a show with "no heroes", where "anyone can die", and looked down their noses at any work of fiction with characters who weren't either psychopaths or ineffectual, or whose story did something other than "subvert expectations" (never mind things are usually the "expectation" because they are the most narratively satisfying and make the most internal story-sense). Then Daenerys started sacking cities, and they whined that she was supposed to be a hero; she got shanked and they whined that she wasn't supposed to die. Like…wasn't this what you liked?
  • Maybe, in keeping with using Valyrian for a villainous society because I hate George Rape-Rape, I should have the culture that speaks something based on Old Speech be evil somehow. (Okay so Le Guin is just pompous, miseducated, and overrated, as opposed to Martin's utterly disgusting. Though some have recently reinterpreted "Those Who Walk Away From Omelas" as a rationalization of fandom's conspiracy of silence about child predators like Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Nevertheless.) Maybe Sea Peoples/Hyksos, if the Tainish-based guys are Egyptians?

    That would be an interesting parallelism to the first continent, since there, the ancient civilization is evil and it's the people who began as "barbarians" on its margins who are the protagonists. The Egyptian idea is also interesting in view of the fact the planet's in an Ice Age: maybe they're tundra Egyptians rather than "normal" desert, and their calendar is organized around a fertile period caused by glacial runoff? (Ancient Egypt's calendar had three seasons, inundation, growing, and harvest.) I'll have to research some more about ice-age climates.
  • People complain about "homogeneous" nonhuman races in fantasy settings, but it's a "justified trope" in the case of many of them. They live many times a human's lifespan, if not forever, so why would their culture shift? E.g. in my setting, where elves live twelve times as long as humans: the time separating us from the late form of Proto-Indo-European, about 10,000 years, is only the equivalent of the time since English replaced its dative and instrumental cases with prepositions. (And most languages don't undergo a Great Vowel Shift; the 12th-century version of most languages would be fairly comprehensible to their modern speakers.)

    Even the time separating the elves from their ancestors who left the moons is only the time separating the modern Hellenic Republic from the lifetime of Pericles and Democritus. And unlike Greeks or Englishmen in almost all of that time-period, elves are not only all literate, but have the magical equivalent of multimedia recording, so their speech, dress, and other habits will change a lot less than humans have in similar periods. (Our dress and social mores shifted since the introduction of recording media, but those changes have to do with external factors; our speech has certainly changed much less than it would've without recordings.)
  • I recently got about three-quarters of the way through Ordination, first book of the "Paladin Trilogy" by Daniel M. Ford. I stopped because I suddenly realized I didn't give a damn about the story. There were two issues.

    The first is the aggressive genericness of the setting. It reads like D&D tie-in fiction, carefully purged of anything that would make a D&D setting worthwhile. There isn't anything particularly unique or interesting about any of the three main locations. The fortress the protagonist leaves at the beginning, the muddy-gritty port city he tracks the enslaved villagers to, or the dirt-farm village he takes them back to, all feel like generic locales from an RPG.

    The second, though, is the religion the protagonist is tasked with (re)founding. Ford is at such utter pains to assure us that it won't offend our modern Western secular sensibilities that he makes it in no way interesting. And the blinded monks are just ridiculous, an ugly caricature of asceticism. Actually I guess these are just one issue: shallowness. Shallow generic setting, shallow stereotyped religions—come to think of it the characters are pretty one-note too.
  • Remember how, on the basis of "twentyscore", I said you might (and my dwarves and elves do) call 1728X/1000XII "twelvegross"? You can (they do) also call, say, 36X/30XII "threedozen". Gotta leave 288X/200XII as "two gross", though, since "two hundred" isn't one word. (3456X/2000XII would likewise be "two twelvegross".) I also realized that 8000X/1000XX can just be "onescore twentyscore", the way 1000 is (sometimes) "ten hundred". Still have no earthly idea how they'd say 160,000X/10,000XX, though. "Twentyscore twentyscore"? You could call, say, 3 million "three thousand thousand", though normally "thousand thousand" is only poetic.
  • A trope in fantasy that I do not care for, particularly, is the "ancient things are better" trope. Ironically it's the Renaissance in a nutshell: "forget your cutting-edge warship design, we're just going with a reconstructed Roman quinquereme". You don't get that in the actual Middle Ages; though the medievals rightly admired Roman roads and aqueducts, and their pop culture depicted Vergil as a wizard, they didn't restrict themselves to Roman knowledge in things like agriculture, manufacturing, or building stone chimneys instead of open firepits in the middle of wooden houses. (Nor in philosophy, medicine, what we'd call "science", or law.)

    Especially common with swords, in fantasy, and I can see it when the sword is both historically significant and magical, like Narsil-Andúril. But something mundane, like "Valyrian steel", would be mostly Valyrian rust by just a few centuries later, if not very, very carefully maintained anyway. The medievals not only didn't bother trying to use Late Imperial spathae, they didn't even copy them. They innovated, changing the design of the fuller (e.g. stopping it several inches short of the tip, to improve its strength for stabbing), the taper of the blade, the proportions of the hilt and the shape of the guard, the angle the cutting-edge was sharpened to.

    And while I love me some "sealed ancient evil awakens" plots, you could change things up once in a while. Like, have some wizard's new research be the plot driver. (IIRC Warcraft strikes a good balance there.) Always remember, "modern progress" is a medieval concept.
  • An idea I had is to have the cities of the elves, dwarves, and gnomes in my setting have something a bit like a mythal from Forgotten Realms, and a bit like a Superintendent AI from Halo: but have it be a celestial. I'm thinking have it be one with a CR equal to a character who can cast the highest level spell available in the settlement in question (e.g. a CR 15 celestial, or a CR 16 one like a planetar anyway, for a "metropolis" where 8th-level spells are available). Like the city's priests bargain with the celestial, à la the "Binding Outsiders" rules from Ultimate Magic, and it becomes something like the tutelary spirit for the city. I'll have to work out the specific game-mechanic effects.

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