Fantasy and government

Posted by nightphoenix on February 29, 2012 in Output |

Slogging my way through Promises. There was a week where I was hitting around 1,000 words a day, but things have slowed down as I’ve been having to do a combination of rethinking, re-plotting, and worldbuilding.

The political situation on Caosgi, the world Saeli and Co. are currently on, has always been the most difficult and complex bit of the overall story. I’ve rethought it from the ground up at least three or four times, and in this last rewrite alone I’ve added and tweaked a number of things.

I changed the people of Gephina to look physically different from the native Teyae people. The Gephinans now resemble something like emaciated elves or dryads. I did this because I decided that while the Gephinans are native to Caosgi, the Teyae are not. Caosgi is the First World, where all immortals and spirits are born. On such a world, where spirits are simply a fact of life, it doesn’t make much sense to have a people with such an immense dislike of spirits…unless they imported it from elsewhere. So the story is that sometime in the distant past, a tribe of Teyae blundered through the Waters, found their way to Caosgi, and settled there.

They brought with them a large chunk of rock from their homeworld, which they believed had magic properties. And it does; in fact it interferes with and dampens the expression of pure energy. Which means it can repel spirits and prevent qi forms from manifesting. They shape chunks of this rock into spheres, which they attach to portable staffs carried by their shamans. I had to give the Teyae a way to hold their own against the far more powerful Gephinans and their spirits, and also to capture Saeli and the Cowls.

In the scene where the Teyae drifters, carrying Saeli and Co. prisoner, are overtaken by the Gephinans, I was always going to have the group split up…half go with the Teyae, half to Gephina. Because Raphel was going to use the Teyae and start a war between the parties as a distraction, blah, blah, blah…and I realized this was starting to sound exactly like Hands, Like Secrets. I’ve already written that book. Raphel needs to do something else this time around.

Well, Raphel decided then and there, on the Teyae ship, that there was no way in shayol they were going to split up. At that point, I had to stop writing, go back, and completely scrap the outline I’d been using up until that point because it just didn’t remotely work anymore. Wrote a new outline from that place onward, one that didn’t hinge upon a war and a split group. Now it hinges upon Raphel’s inexplicable insistence on seeing the inside of the Keeper’s grotto.

I’ve also discovered, in rewriting, how little work I’d put into Caosgi in general and Gephina in particular. What does “a city teeming with spirits” look like? How many kinds of spirits are there, how do they interact with the mortals, are they visible, what forms to they take, what exactly do they DO, etc? So far I’ve just been pulling ideas out of my arse, as it were, as I need them. Thus, Gephina needs wards…I give you guardian spirits that look and act like spiders and build ethereal webs all around the city.

Then there’s Gephina’s government. Having not really thought about it before, I gave the city a Mayor and maybe some kind of city council and let it go at that. But then I realized that every single government in Shades, on every world, is some kind of combination orligarchy/theocracy with elements of representative democracy.  Verre: Mantle city-states are autonomous, governed by a High Priestess and a Council which represent the various guilds and such. Cowl city-states: much the same. Dheu: villages are autonomous, governed by a council of spirit walkers/judges. Caosgi: various Teyae clans are governed by their individual Chiefs, who occasionally get together to make bigger decisions that affect all Teyae. Gephina: autonomous city-state with a Mayor and a Council.

But why? Well, I suppose it’s the least complicated (no voting, no term limits, little bureaucracy) and most fair (no rulers-from-birth, no dictatorships, everyone is somewhat represented) system of government one can have in a fantasy story. (Oh, and too much high fantasy seems to focus on the doings of various royalty. Blech.)

On Verre, it makes sense. Verre has two ruling deities. Two extremely visible, extremely involved deities. You don’t get to pretend the gods don’t exist on Verre; they are as real as the priests who serve them. It would make sense for said deities to appoint people to speak for them, to handle the mundane day-to-day issues…thus you get High Priests and Priestesses. However, these will never hold absolute power, because everyone knows they only rule at the behest of the gods, and that the gods could smack them down at any time if they step out of line. It would make sense for the High Priests and Priestesses to build a small, trusted group of advisers that will keep him/her informed of what’s going on with the various groups in their cities. Thus, oligarchy/theocracy.

On Dheu it makes sense because we’re only talking about a small village. And the spirit walkers don’t “rule” or even “govern” in any real sense of the word. They offer themselves as judges, arbitrators of disputes…and as they have the backing of the angels, no one really challenges that. What sort of government the Dheuans had while the three goddesses still ruled, or what sort they developed as they grew more urban…I don’t know and don’t intend to spend time on, because it’s not important to the story.

On Caosgi, though…Gephina, if it’s ruled by anyone, it’s ruled by Ge’shandris, the monsoon spirit. And spirits don’t really talk to mortals, like immortals do. Spirits commune. It’s all feelings and nudging and gut instinct. Someone, ideally someone with a particularly close connection to the spirit, has to listen and interpret what the spirit said. And it’s not nearly as obvious when that person misunderstands, or decides to exaggerate, or outright lie. Thus, you could potentially have a situation where one person speaks for the resident otherworldly power, and what that person says cannot be easily proven false.

That, to me, suggests the makings of a monarchy. Gephina’s Mayor should be a Queen. And since I also established elsewhere that Gephina has “colonies”, people that don’t live within the confines of the city itself…the Queen needs advisers. So I’ve decided she has a Chamber, which is something of a combination of a Council and a Senate. And I may even make the position of “Queen” an elected position…as the primary purpose of the position is to speak for Ge’shandris, and you need to find the most sensitive person for the job. Makes royalty-by-birth unworkable in the long run.

Geez…all this just to set up the background situation Saeli and the others find themselves in. But the shift from Mayor Adna to Queen Adna is kind of a major one, especially since Saeli comes from a world that’s never had an actual monarchy.

In other news, Nightwish’s new album Imaginaerum is glorious. Absolutely glorious. And I can’t write to it because I’m too busy listening to it. The imagery is pretty intense. However, between Two Steps From Hell and an album I just acquired by one of the composers from that project: Illusions…I have plenty of writing music.

Imaginaerum has one song that’s, IMO, all about fantasy writing:

Nightwish - Storytime

“I am the voice of Never-Never Land
the innocence, the dreams of every man
I am the empty crib of Peter Pan
a silent kite against a blue, blue sky
every chimney, every moonlit sight
I am the story that will read you real
every memory that you hold dear”


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