I can’t believe it’s June already. So little is happening in my life. 😦
I have at least accomplished one thing during this lockdown, writing-wise, and that’s to have written a 63k Regency-era gay romance. Uh, okay, calling it a “gay romance” is going too far, especially since it’s only fanfiction. (And there’s a pretty heavy emphasis on a straight romantic relationship as well as the gay one, though the straight relationship was supposed to be more of a side thing.) Still, apart from the language starting to modernize towards the end and one reference to the Epic of Gilgamesh, I don’t think I did too much that was anachronistic, so that at least is a win, right? (I’m going to have to replace the Gilgamesh reference in editing, probably with either the Illiad or the Aeneid, but neither of them fits as perfectly as Gilgamesh, sadly.)
Anyway, I tried to go back to my usual fare (in fact, to something I had left unfinished in order to write the Emma fusion) but it simply has not been working. I kept dithering and trying to get out of writing the next scene because it was a confrontation with a character I don’t really “get” and thus don’t write well. But said scene is one of the ones I’ve been planning the longest, and I have some very concrete plans for it, even with a little bit of dialog prepared. And yet I could not motivate myself to write it.
So, I took that as a sign that I needed to do something else for a while, and decided to do another revision/rewrite on my low-fantasy-with-a-slight-element-of-steampunk. And I get to the first page, a recruiting poster for an international trading company, and realize that no, before I can properly work on this dang thing, I need to actually finish my worldbuilding, rather than just going blithely along only making up what it feels like I’ll need for this book. (It’s the first in a series, y’see.)
But the more I’m thinking about it while staring at that first page, the more I’m thinking it feels like a video game’s intro text. See, a while back, I backed a game on Kickstarter called Silk (now available on Steam and Switch), which is a retro-style game in which you’re a trader on the Silk Road in the later Roman Empire. (Not super-late, mind you. But not the early heights, either.) That was one of the main things I was thinking about in this decision, along with the trading mini-game in my favorite ever RPG series, Suikoden.
So, my current project is not to write fiction, but to write the text of a video game. There are a number of programs that don’t require too much programming knowledge in order to actually make a game (I’m currently thinking of using RPG Maker, specifically), but I’m going to lay out the basic text and stuff before I even look into the idea of assembling the game itself. It’s going to force me to do a lot of the stuff that I normally leave for the end or even side-step around, like hammering out names and trying to figure out what the world map looks like. (Of course, I can’t draw worth a darn, so I’m going to try and use a site that I found ages ago that lets you design maps online. It’s intended more for the use of DMs of D&D sessions, but it should work fine for my purposes, too. Naturally, if I end up actually making the game (never a sure thing that I’ll follow through on anything), I’d have to redesign the map in-engine, but at least I’d know what it looked like. And more importantly, I’ll know what it looks like as I move forward in writing the other books, so I know how possible or impossible it is for my characters to want to go from place A to place B, and how many places need to be in between.)
I put together a list already of the nations of the world of the books/game, starting with just the ones I already had defined or planned, which really forced me to confront just how Eurocentric the original plan was: it started out with a whopping five countries based on European cultures (though it’s a fantasy world, each culture is inspired by/based on a real one), whereas Africa only had three (of which I had only specified two), and South America only had one. (North America had four…unless you decide to split off Central America as its own continent. I can’t help it; I spent several semesters studying the cultures of Mexico pre- and immediately post-European contact, so of course I had to include both the Mexica (aka Aztecs) and the Maya. And unlike so many other people, I am absolutely not going to combine them.) So I’ve evened it out now, with five countries on each of the major continents, though I have to research before I can even decide what some of the other cultures I’m being inspired by even are (especially in terms of African cultures, which I am sadly less knowledgeable about than any other continent), and still only the one country on the smaller continent, though depending how big I make it, I may put several “tribes” in that country to allow more varied influence from the Oceanic cultures. Of course, this kind of research would be a lot easier if the world wasn’t still in COVID lockdown (though my area is starting to reopen, which is not necessarily a good thing, in my opinion, as I think it’s too early and is going to lead to a renewed outbreak, to say nothing of the spiraling descent of this country into a police state) and I could go to the library or even the bookstore. Though at least bookstores deliver. 😉 (Technically, libraries also have curbside pick-up and stuff in some areas, but realistically for this kind of stuff I’d rather get books from the university library than a regular one anyway, and I don’t think I get to check out books from the university library anymore, given that I graduated some time ago. 😛 )
Overall, it should be fun to work with the nitty-gritty of developing the whole world, advancing various cultures along their relative historical paths until they all match up to the same level of technology (mid- to late 19th century) with various extra factors added to world development and certain other factors removed. The added factors are primarily the giant animals (the oceans are too dangerous due to the giant sea monsters, so all international travel is by means of animal-powered airships, many pulled/carried by giant birds, bats and even insects, though of course the standard winged horses are also present) and the magic-like effects of various alchemical potions. It’s the removed factors that make it especially fun, though. Due to a mystical event (central to the overarching story of the series), one thousand years before the action of the novels, the world was made to forget that war had ever existed. On top of that, there is no colonialism (in part because everyone is at a common technological level since every nation has access to various flying animals for airships, and in part due to magically-repressed race memory of the entire human species having been forced to serve the fae for many thousands of years) and no religious strife, as no religions ever developed that sought out converts. However, the effects of the mystical event are beginning to wear off, so while very few people realize that there used to be wars in the distant past, war has been returning over the last century, leading to the novels taking place in such chaotic times that many people were beginning to think they were living in the end times. (Ack, that reminds me: I need to figure out what each culture thinks the afterlife is like.)
So, yeah, bottom line is it’s very different from anything I’ve tried to write before (while still being directly related to something I’ve already written) so hopefully it will help to rejuvenate my writing brain. Or re-energize it, or whatever it is it needs.