Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday is Building a World, on the Fly!

First of all, I'm 20, yo. Secondly, as an fantasy writer, there is this little something that plagues my very existence. It is worldbuilding. It's rather heavily debated, by those in the trade, whether or not this as hard as it looks, but you have the likes of Moorcock (a hilarious name, I know), who makes things up as he goes along, but maintains consistency, and then you have Tolkien, who wrote more about the world for his book than he did the book itself. It's quite the spectrum, really. With the release of Pottermore (and, if anybody doubted it, I was sorted into Slytherin!), we can see a bit of good ol' J.K.'s worldbuilding (and miscellany character development, as well). I am mixed on the issue - I like to know more than the reader, but I'm not going to be writing the encyclopedia up anytime soon. And some of my stories are a bit more fantastical than just dragons and faeries, it's the air of mystery and magic that supports them, and tedious explanations of trade routes break the illusion. Nonetheless, with a vague idea in my head, I am going to - basically blindly - create a new world! Right here, right now, on this fine Tuesday.

I'm obliged to warn you, it's going to get long. Because I didn't quite want one that would require me to spend the entirety of the day working on it, I've chosen this 30 Day Worldbuilding Meme.

Day 01 Are there countries? What are the country’s names? Where did the names come from, and what do they mean?
  •  There may be countries somewhere in the world, but for the story, it is going to take place entirely in city-states. Though there are to be hundreds, I think the three largest ones will be Ocypeta, Aellos, and Celaena. These come from the names of the Greek harpies.

Day 02 What is the local language like? How is it different from ours? How is it similar?
  • I imagine that this is completely irrelevant, as regardless of the local language, the story will be written entirely in English. However, the dominant cultural influence on the world is Greece, so the language they speak would likely resemble Greek, though perhaps with a Turkic or Mongolian influence, as that is the culture of the 'lower world'. There is also the language of the birds, which we all likely hear daily from chickadees and pigeons and whatnot.

Day 03 What is the religion like? Are there more than one? How do they feel about each other? Monotheistic, polytheistic, or what?
  • It will not exist any longer, by the time the story will take place, but its legends and customs are still prominent, and from those, I would say it was polytheistic. There are definitely tales of gods sleeping with humans in the form of birds, so Zeus is going to be an influence there.

Day 04 What’s the technology level like?
  •  Relatively advanced. In terms of aviation, it is further ahead than it is in other areas, and science and technology are held in high regard by both human and harpy societies. Astronomy is held in the highest regard, and nearly every major technological leap was made for the sake of a star. Mechanics and steam technology, though not widespread, are in use.

Day 05 What’s the state of their medical technology?
  • Decent. Magic itself does not really exist, at least not in the same way, but alchemy is very prevalent in society, so there is still a bit of 'you'll heal better under the right stars' and whatnot. Nonetheless, they have long since figured out that certain herbs help with certain symptoms, cleanliness is key, and in the hands of a professional, most people will survive a surgery. Mental health and bone setting are the most important fields of study to the harpies, due to their fragile forms and the mix of bird and human mind.

Day 06 How is their educational system? Who is and isn’t educated, in what?
  • Though it would definitely depend on the city-state or land in question when it comes to specifics, there is very little standardized education, but very few people who are completely uneducated. There are many who work independently as teachers, who will take in students - for the lower class, in groups, and for the upper class, alone - and teach them what they know. All classes learn the art of warfare, and the lower class are generally educated in labour, the language of man, and the basics of life. Men and women are taught to cook and clean, though women are still generally regarded as the keepers of the house, marriage is not as widely regarded, so many men live on their own and must be able to keep their own house.

Day 07 What’s their rich / poor divide like? Is there a middle class? Who’s in it?
  • Amongst harpies, the rich and the poor are divided by skill and birth - money is secondary, and comes after class. Tradesmen are, more often than not, among the wealthiest in the land, due to their business with humans (who have a more thriving economy), but ultimately society above the land is less economic in nature. Blood - how far back a full bird or man was in the blood determines how low your class is, with the son of a full being a social outcast (one who was born of one bird and one man is immediately jailed), and those who would have to trace it back to the first harpies are the upper class. That said, they value intelligence and talent, and anyone who lacks either is likely to live the life of a 'middle class' man.

Day 08 What are some examples of art and literature from this culture? What is considered a classic, what is considered trash?
  • Statuary is by far the most praised art form by the harpies, though architecture is a close second. They have little interest in literature or paintings, particularly given how few can actually read the language of man. Music - particularly song - is considered something more than an art, rather a skill. Singers are held to the same standards of work as a farmer, as opposed to a poet or sculptor.

Day 09 What are politics like? Are there political parties? What do those opinions consist of? How do your characters fit into these political niches?
  •  I don't think politics are a very advanced thing in this society. I imagine the upper class is the governing class and they keep things running and organized. They name the towns, make sure everyone respects the boundaries between land, and group the military together for any battles that may occur. There are no taxes, but they gain the satisfaction of regard. People like them, and they can basically do what they please as long as it doesn't disrupt the order. Not to mention, they live in the Tree of Life, so they are, in a way, immortal. They may die of old age, but not of sickness or a wound. Of course, the protagonists do have a problem with being locked in jail for their blood.

Day 10 Is there magic? How does it affect the world? If there isn’t magic, how would it affect the world?
  •  The Tree of Life is magic, entirely. All of the first harpies were conceived on or in the tree, for only a union in the presence of Life itself could produce such offspring. Otherwise, there is an air of magic, but to say it exists is a stretch. There are arts, such as alchemy, which tap into it, use it to further science, but without that science there, it would not work. There are no spells or wands or any way to use magic unless you are magical - which, to be fair, there is a possibility of. Phoenixes exist, for instance, which are creatures as magical as the Tree of Life.

Day 11 What’s their mythology like? What fairy tales and bed time stories do they tell each other?
  •  Mostly irrelevant, as the gods are gone and no longer worshipped or, by many, believed in at all. But there are lingering legends, mostly of the "Zeus, in the form of a swan, came to Leda..." sort that we dare not elaborate on. And superstition about those born of magic, born on the Tree of Life, has caused a great deal of prejudice.

Day 12 What food is easily accessable, and how does if affect the local cuisine? What is rare, and thus expensive? What are common ingredients and dishes?
  •  Though I imagine the culinary arts are quite advanced in the human half of the world, to the harpies, it is basically irrelevant. Most have the stomachs and tastes of a bird, be it by nature or nurture, and anything more advanced than a bit of thyme on their rabbit (or, hell, cooking the rabbit to begin with) is much for them.

Day 13 What are some common sports? Who plays them? Where? How important is winning and loosing? Who is and isn’t allowed to play?
  •  I can't imagine, between the wings, beaks, and talons, that sports are particularly widespread beyond the basic races and whatnot. Also, I could care less about sports, and don't really care to develop them in full.

Day 14 What’s the weather and environment like? How does this affect clothes, culture, food?
  •  Now would probably be the best time to mention that the city-states of the harpies, save for the Tree of Life, are all located on floating islands or castles. Some even above the clouds, where rain and snow are no great worry. Nobody is clothed, regardless. Food is limited basically to what lives on the land - birds (a bit cannibalistic, but what can you do?), rabbits, rats, snakes, etc. - and what they can grow beneath the clouds, which is mostly trees and flowers, but very little in terms of vegetables or fruit. They can get apples and berries, though.

Day 15 What fashions are hot right now? What body areas are taboo to show, and which are prominently displayed? What body parts are considered the most and least erotic?
  •  This is basically not a thing. Everybody is nude, due to the massively varying body types and the simple fact that most people are at least fifty percent bird. There may be clothes made for the upper class and tradesmen, for visiting humans, but they would likely be little more than cut up sacks. As such, there isn't really anywhere regarded in a taboo way. As for erotic, it depends on the species and gender. Males with a lot of colour to their feathers are regarded as sexier than men with nice abs, for instance.

Day 16 What are the gender roles like? Matriarchy, patriarchy, or something else? What are and aren’t men allowed to do? Women? Other people?
  •  Women have rights in terms of reproduction, but when it comes to the rest of society, they are still secondary. It's rare to see a woman warrior, or a woman craftsman or trader, but there is no arranged marriage, no tolerance for assault, and women are held in very high regard and are exempt from many of the laws (including murder) if they are with young (as an aside, depending on their anatomy, a woman may either lay an egg, or hold it in her womb until it has hatched).

Day 17 How are issues of gender variance dealt with within the culture? Homosexuality? Queer issues in general? How are they treated, and why?
  •  In general, monogamy is not highly regarded, because sex itself is relatively irrelevant in society. Though lust is not unknown - they are half-human - ultimately people don't think of themselves as inclined either way. It's not seen as odd to fall in love with a man while also taking a tumble with a few women for the sake of having a child, nor is it wrong for a woman to share a nest with her. The ideas are considered rather separate, so ultimately, it matters little. The only thing that is forbidden is mating with a full bird, or with a full human.

Day 18 What are popular means of entertainment? Who provides them? What are the stigmas involved with providing entertainment, if any?
  •  Singing is, as mentioned briefly, very highly regarded, particularly if it is in the language of the birds (as that language lacks words, truly). Beyond that, though, entertainment is basically limited to a bit of hunting, racing, or just the joys of companionship. Or dropping things on humans. That never gets old.

Day 19 What are the different races, in this culture? Are people homogenous? How do they treat people who look or sound different?
  •  I've basically covered this one, by now, but harpies and humans are the only [sentient] races, and harpies vary quite wildly. Some are basically humans with talons and feathers down their arms, whereas others are birds all but their human faces. Those descended from other harpies are held in the highest regard, and those who came from a true 'pairing' are imprisoned once their lineage is discovered.

Day 20 How is mental illness treated within this culture?
  •  This one is a rather tough one, and it does touch on the above prejudice a bit. When a harpy mates with either a man or a bird, there is always something... wrong with them. Depending on which parent was what, the offspring will either be a bird in the body of a man, or a man in the body of a bird. With the latter, they are often forced to speak without words and scratch out their intentions, unable to be in society fully yet aware of it. They are often left to be raised with birds, in hopes that they go 'wild'. For the former, though, they are lift with someone utterly incapable of taking care of themselves, who will likely be found jumping off ledges and unable to communicate with man (out of lack of intelligence) or bird (out of lack of the right... vocalization bits). They are left with humans, as harpies must fly, and with them, they have found great advancement in mental health medicine, helping them learn - if only through patterns - to communicate on a basic level, to keep them from killing themselves, and to grow to see humans as their kin. Though that was the origin of the study, the advancements have helped many human and harpy alike, and it is considered the best option for any with a mental illness.

Day 21 What are common pets? Where do they come from? How are they bred?
  •  They don't have any.

Day 22 Is there a military presence in this culture? Please explain how they recruit, who they recruit, how they train them, and who they’re fighting. Don’t forget about the navy!
  •  Everyone, or at least most, are trained in the art of combat from birth. Few have weapons - few have arms - though basic armour and knives exist for those who are more human. There is no organized army in times of peace, but those governing the harpies gather them when the time of war is upon them.

Day 23 How does the government work? Who makes decisions, who makes sure change is inacted? Who has the most say, and who has the least? What are the influences within the government system?
  • I've covered a bit of this, but to elaborate a bit more, it is those of harpy lineage going back as far as can be traced, those who live in the Tree of Life, who govern the people. There is a different group, usually a family, who runs each city-state, and decides on issues specific to their city-state, but the council meets yearly to discuss any matters regarding humans, half-breeds, and the birds, and they are generally united, though small wars have broken out between the city-states. Living together within the tree has given many a sense of family, though, and skirmishes are generally few and far between.

Day 24 What does an average family unit look like? What is the price to pay for deviating from this norm? Is it possible?
  •  There really is no average. Most people are raised only by their mothers and whoever their lover is - by no means their father, or even likely to be - and they generally are born with one or two siblings. Fathers rarely play a major role in the life of their children, though they do bring the mother food until the eggs have hatched. Often the children build their nests close to the one they grew up in, and if the mother dies, one of their children or grandchildren will likely take it.

Day 25 How do they handle the concept of marriage, if marriages are allowed at all? Who isn’t and is allowed to get married?
  •  Marriages are basically only a formality amongst the upper class, adapted from the humans they often mingle with, and has no official or religious function. Anyone else would just nest with their lover - without any official restriction, save for the full bird/full human issue - and leave it at that.

Day 26 When are people considered adult? When are they considered old enough to move out? To get married?
  •  Once they can fly.

Day 27 What are funerals like? How is the body desposed of? How soon? Who says what, if anything?
  •  Funerals are silent ceremonies, amongst friends and family at the time of death (often right at the time of death, so anybody who wasn't there when they died would not be in attendance), who briefly mourn the passing their comrade before leaving them. If they died somewhere inconvenient, like in the middle of the nest, they'd likely be pushed out and eaten by rats. If there is a plague, they are probably going to get dropped on the lower lands.

Day 28 What are the actual marriage ceremonies like? Before and after parties? What does everybody wear?
  •  ...

Day 29 How do they count time? What’s their calendar like? How do they measure things? How do they count?
  •  Internal calendars, and 'migration' and 'mating' seasons. Many have adapted the human's system of counting for the instances it matters, which is the same as ours, but for the most part, it simply isn't needed unless you are a trader. They have days, but not weeks or months, and they have numbers. They would call something "ten day's flight from here". They also have excellent internal compasses, and use terms like north, south, east, and west.

Day 30 Describe your main characters and how they fit into the world you’ve described in the past thirty days.
  •  My main characters are all born of man and bird, a crow, a swan, a pelican, a peacock, and a phoenix. They are broken out of their prison by a half-owl and a half-humming bird, who inform them of their intentions to take down the upper class. They agree, given their life in oppression, and head on the run from the prison guard who seeks them (I imagine him as a bit pidgeon, and a bit robin). The main five are important in alchemy, and the phoenix - the main character - is going to burn down the tree of life. There is a lot of debate about the fate of humans in the world, about the nature of harpies and birds, and about the cross between them. Whether it is right to leave some with birds or man, or to lock them up in cages, and what has become of harpies when their blood is of a hundred birds or more. Lots of chimera metaphors, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment