World Building. ‘Powers’ In ‘The Precipice Dominions’ Series

Setting the Scene

In the last post I wrote a brief overview of some of the challenges a writer will encounter in world building. This post is an account of my own experiences.

Once again I stress this is not a How To….. This was a great deal of fun putting together and honing, thus has more in common with someone’s account of a strenuous holiday. It is hoped the enthusiasm will seep across and encourage other writers to experiment in their own style, at their own pace and in their own direction.

Basic Strategy (employing my own weaknesses or inclinations)

My own imagination does not sit still on a facet for very long and so jars with my experience as a UK Civil Servant leaning for a requirement for order. To avoid these two quarrelling and getting in the way of My Muse ( delicate fellow at best) the world of my stories needed to have a degree of flexibility to aid the narrative. To help me here I called in the part of me fascinated with history, science, the history of science and the social approaches to science, religion and so forth, while trying to avoid detail. The lessons taught to us on the great panorama of Creation from cosmological scale down to the quantum, along with our own jagged historical paths were enough for me. For I needed an easy background to work with, one the narrative could dip into. The stories would centre on a group of individuals the web of relationships and personal challenges, around this would be their various ways of dealing with their world, survival and getting whatever job thrown at them done. This was complicated enough. The detail of the world had to be background.

Sleeves Up Times

Firstly I took this World of ours, or maybe a world so similar as to be nearly indentical. In a cosmos of 14+ billion years in age and at least 50 billion light years in size (I think) the situation of two very similar worlds would be perfectly acceptable; just think of the number of possible worlds in Time and Space. Whether it is this world, or another is not to be answered, great upheavals have distorted the deep historical record. The events take place after a great deal of history has passed. You might care to call it a future of our World, if you care. It is all very open. Again this gave me a great deal of flexibility, as I find rule books somewhat constricting. (my civil service career was a troubled one)

Inviting Cosmological Nature In

The event giving rise to the particular circumstances of this world was to introduce another possible aspect of Cosmological Nature. This I named The Ethereal. Whether it simply arrived in the area of this world or resulted from some incautious physics experiments is lost in various upheavals over thousands of years. Its actual nature is also kept somewhat vague. To take advantage of my own impatience and weakness in sticking to this sort of detail I relied on our current perceptions. This strategy was based on the premise of our own knowledge of physics, chemistry, weather, geology and so forth still being in an area of constant investigation. We simply do not know everything and nor do the folk of these stories. There are no tomes of all knowledge (forbidden or otherwise), lots has been written, about lots of bits and that is that. Just like today.

Powers and Utilities.

Folk can utilise The Ethereal in many ways; a force to move or destroy things, a type of communication and means of travel are the most common. Some folk have an inate ability, others uses complex, usually portable devices. Those wise and honest practitioners are the first to admit, these days they are wary of it. Whether it affects folk or folk affect it is also a complex matter subject to debate. In addition its presence has given rise to realms and pathways which occupy nearly the same place in Time and Space, some easier to access than others. It will also act in its capricious ways; like the weather.

Volume One Of Patchworks Warrior opens with a brief account of recorded history of the world and The Ethereal. Officially it is view with hostile suspicion and titled The Stommigheid (one dictionary I encountered inspired links to the Danish word for ‘folly’- I do a lot of that taking another language and its English equivalent then mangling it- lots of historical precedence). The State-within-a-State The LifeGuard name it The Astatheia, which has connotations of a warning (and I’ve forgotten where I stole the root for that from). The convent-like Libratery to indicate their independence are still terming it as The Ethereal. There are various regional terms none of which are complimentary. There are independents known as the Jordisk (another managing of Scandinavian this one for ‘Underground) and are best viewed as hackers; these having no single viewpoint but operate outside everyone’s laws. In addition there are a collection of crusty guilds collectively known as Mechanicals; these are home to cussed, conservative but inventive folk who believe the only safe way to harness this force is by solid, dependable (usually large) machines, they tend to grumble about and dismiss everyone else in particularly the Jordisk who they feel take too many short cuts . To add to the general variety and confusion, the empire in which these tales are based has officially banned the use of this power; except that all the official organs of the state have to use it to get their tasks done. All these views, contradictions and hypocrisies gives the power an unsettling quality, similar to our ambivalent views about nuclear power (as I write this it suddenly occurs to me where I got the notion from- without nuclear power’s history or detail of course!)

So there is a lot of talk and action involving this power, along with some theorising but very little of the latter. In fact the only time there is great detail arises in Of Patchwork Warriors when a conflicted captain in the LifeGuard, Dekyria is writing up a treatise on how he sees this power affecting the three central characters and speculating on whether they in turn affect it. It is therefore left up to the reader to gain an overall picture from the conversations taking place and descriptions of actions taken by individuals. A learning curve if you like.

Conclusion

This is one way to go about World Building. You may decide you have a better idea. You could think ‘This is not for me’. I am quite content with that.

In the next post I will talk about the politics, local, institutional, geo-political, religious, etc, etc, etc

Fiction and World Building

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Every Picture Tells A Story???

Sometimes a picture just…well y’know….it begs a comment:

Flirty Singles

(the following dialogue inspired by the great Bob Newhart)

‘Ah Good Morning Miss Singles. Welcome to the job interview. Can I get you a glass of water? Tea? Coffee? Sure coffee! And, black, yea. No sugar, sure….Just a spoonful of salt? (nervous laugh)..well that’s different…Eh keeps you focused does it? I’ll have to…err…look into that.

Now construction site work. What a lot of folk don’t realise that in addition to being quite labour intensive, a lot of skill is needed so I hope you don’t mind if some of my questions seems a measure intrusive…Err would you like a tissue Miss Singles..looks like you got something in your eye..Ah I see, that just a twitch..Yeh! Quite twitch. Guess it’s dust and pollen……. and maybe the gun powder? Make your own bullets do you? Well I make my own flies for fishing, so… …Anyway. Now I have to ask (laughs). Your first name there, it’s…… I see….uhh-huh…Yeh grandparents sometimes make some freaky requests of their children….Oh made their money in the 1960s on the West Coast, yeh…kinda makes sense now….Have you ever discussed this with them. Ah, both died in a house fire…I’ll just get your some paper towelling, you spilled some of your coffee when you were giggling. And your parents?….Those creeps are still alive y’say….Well I guess that ties up that line of enquiry.

I see you went through twenty schools. Did you parents move much? No. Hmm, some places can be picky can’t they? Did the kids call you silly-nick names….Yeh I guess it would have gone better for them if they had….. Sports? Gridiron, I didn’t know some schools had girls’ teams…..Not in a girls’ team… Offensive tackle? No kidding, they are usually kinda taller….You say it an’t needed when you jump at the face….Yeh that would be different…Hmm…Now my opinion is those guys were being a bit whinny, it is a contact sport after all, just as long as you didn’t try and wrench the helmet off….Only the once…He used your first name did he? How did I know?….oh….. just a lucky guess.

Ah I see here you signed up for the Marines…..And were dropped out of basic training because your drill sergeant and the rest of the squad were getting nightmares…. Special forces said they needed stealth not banshee screaming. Geez, I hate to come across as sounding stuffy and cranky but they don’t breed them as tough as they did in my day…Nah…cooks and that’s no walk in the park I can tell you! Now this rejection from the Chicago Police Department to my mind just isn’t helpful, I mean what does ‘Hah! Not until Hell Freezes Over’ offer to the applicant? It’s just not helpful.

OK, before we go out and try out on site there, if you don’t mind me asking, who took the photo? It’s only just first impressions y’understand but…..ahhh…doesn’t seem your style. Oh….right.…..So your mother…Sorry, as you wish…This three-dammed witch…. is good at photoshop and all that..stuff…Oh on FaceBook and Instagram……Gee that’s tough. But I guess that mothers for you trying to get you married….My, that is some twitch!

Well anyway, here we are. Office being on site. As you can see a lot of construction going on here….HEY guys! You might wanna tone down the remarks….YEH? Well Joe it’s my opinion you’re damn lucky you are up there and not down here! Don’t worry I’ll have a word with them at lunch break….Sure…ha-ha….for their own sakes.

OK, so this is Harry our site foreman. No Harry I wouldn’t make too much of that twitch if I were you. I’d be careful there Harry…Yeh I kinda guessed she’d have that sorta grip in her handshake, put it in cold water after, swelling’ll go down. So this is Miss Singles…No Harry, her first name isn’t important, truly Harry you want to trust me on that one. Remember how I was right about that gas leak?…Well it’s the same kind of situation Harry. Yeh, glad you see it my way.

Sorry Miss Singles, just a little bit of construction site chat there. Now I’d….You like to try out with the sledgehammer? Oh sure, if you feel that way. That piece of old granite foundation there …Yeh….I guess if……OK, then, there you go…..Yeh I know Harry, that’s one hellava swing there…..No I don’t know what she’s putting on the rock, some, I dunno, looks like a photo…..Yeeaaaaah I gotta feeling it might be an old family photo and…WOA!..No I don’t think was a lucky strike there Harry, and you should come out from behind that truck and see her swing again! No I think you’re exaggerating there, I reckon you did see worse shrapnel in Iraq! Geez-Louise willya look at that, split straight down the middle! I don’t see you need worry about the scream when she swings Harry, I mean you watch those tennis players on the tournaments, the racket they kick up…..Hey! The Racket! Didja get that one Harry?…Oh c’mon Harry you are the site foreman, just ducking when Miss Singles swings isn’t good for your image……JOE! Look I warned you about your comments, that’s just not appropriate……..Now y’see Joe you just provoked that! Thinking she couldn’t hit you with a chunk of granite you being two stories up. Well more fool you fellah!…..Wassat Charlie? Well if your daughter’s little league team needs a new pitching coach, I guess you’d better discuss that with Miss Singles after your shift there, not my business buddy.

Ok Miss Singles, that block of granite looks like it’s ready for the bagging and spreading on someone’s pathway now, you might want to stop…Yeh, if there’s still bit of the photo left, when you’re ready then. But I’m convinced we can use you around here….Pardon…..Oh sure you can take the sledgehammer home to prove to your parents you got the job. The way you’re stroking it, you obviously like the…..We call it a tool on site Miss Singles, not a weapon…….Excuse me a minute…..Joe! Now fellah it’s no use you  clinging to that girder and whimpering, you’re getting in the way of Bill’s riveting there….Boy some of these guys are such cry-babies!

So you start tomorrow then Miss Singles. Pardon…Oh no, you don’t have to be so formal and call me Mr. Nightly…..’Jay’ will do, just like the intial…Uh? Nah I never use the full name, that was my parents’ fascination with east European culture..Jerkov, yeh….yeh! No they aren’t around anymore, died in a tragic freak car accident. Apparently an electrical fault, caused  a petrol explosion….Yeh…Tough break.

Well, then see ya tomorrow! Y’know I got a feeling you and I are going to get along just fine!