For the last 14 years at least, a world has been taking shape in my mind, and for the past eight years or so, I've been working on stories that take place within it.
So far (January 2019), I've had one short story published ("Lightness" which you can read on this blog) and have two others drafted and in revisions with one submitted to a magazine. Meanwhile I've drafted two NaNoWriMo novels set in the world and continue revising my main novel, tentatively titled Confessions and Heresies. I've probably written over 300,000 words on it so far and I keep cutting and rewriting.
I'm currently seeking readers to give critiques. I'm also looking for artists to help visualize characters and scenes, and to draw pictures for cards (see below).
Here are some of the interests and curiosities that have driven my writing, and made their way into the story so far (and I expect to update this from time to time):
- Religion. I'm a native of Utah, a product of Mormon pioneer history, and despite my frustrations with the modern culture, I have a deep respect and affection for the place of my birth, including its religious history. In one sense this whole enterprise is a love letter to my homeland.
- One of the central episodes in the history of my main culture is loosely based on the story of Abinadi and Alma in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah chapters 11 to 25. The working title for this novel is Confessions and Heresies and the plot revolves around the discovery of a manuscript believed to be a copy of a lost book written by an influential prophet (based on the figure of Alma). But the faiths in the world aren't intended to be copies of my own or of others in our world: I'm trying in my own way to combine the themes, questions and answers that perplex all humanity, in religious systems that have their own character even if they allude to earthly creeds.
- Numismatics and the history of money. Some of my readers will no doubt have played fantasy role-playing games with neat decimal money systems: 10 copper = 1 silver, 10 silver = 1 gold . . . What's good for game mechanics I believe is generally bad for fiction and vice-versa. I've spent hours obsessing over comparative values of precious metals, the history of currencies from weights to coins and so on. I think I'm ok with the money systems used in my main cultures now. I considered basing them on the one outlined in the Book of Alma, chapter 11, but decided not to.
- Libertarian/anarchist economic theories. I owe a great debt to Kevin Carson for articulating many of my yearnings for a better world. This blog still retains more than a touch of its former focus as a bleeding heart libertarian blog (yes, that is a thing, ask Professor Peart). The world I'm creating got its start from the same yearnings and the same questions: what would a society look like in which mechanism didn't lead to the tragic, destructive industrialization that has shaped our world? For example, what if mass production was from the start kept localized and small-scale, managed by the workers and subordinated to the material needs of the host communities? There's a Rilke sonnet that expresses quite eloquently the state of affairs I want to write against: what if the machine did keep to itself in its factories as an obedient servant? (You can read an alternate English translation and the original German here.)
- I realized fairly early on that to try to write a completely ideal/utopian society wouldn't work, so I'm trying to allow my world to have enough problems to be interesting. So it does have some pretty serious problems, though I continue to use the central focus society as a means of imagining how society could be better.
- On my YouTube channel I've started a series of monologues by an imagined visitor to our world from the polity of Tyban, telling us why their civilization is superior to ours. You can listen/watch here.
- Card games. I became very interested in the history of Tarot cards as games a few years ago, and I have started building up a modest collection of them through Taro Bear's Lair (this is not an affiliate link). In my world I have designed several decks of playing cards of varying sizes and designs, and I entertain a Quixotic - or Borgesian - dream of printing some of these and selling them: a Tlön-ish sort of enterprise. (And in fact, Jorge Luis Borges has been one of my important inspirations, as I mention below.)
- Speaking of Tlön, the work of counter-factual history enthusiasts has been of tremendous interest and influence to me over the years. For example, the group project of Ill Bethisad shows the kind of thoroughness and imagination that I seek to emulate in my own worldbuilding.
- Depth psychology. I started reading Carl Jung a few years ago, working my way through the heavy black tomes of his collected works as time allowed. One of my regrets in life is not appropriating the entire set from the discard shelves of the university library where I used to work: those volumes are hard to find! But it's nice to re-read Memories, Dreams, Reflections from time to time too.
- Sacred geometry. The ruling icon of my core societies is a set of variations on the circle quartered by the cross, sometimes referred to in American Indian traditions as a Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel. So strong is its influence in the dominant religion and culture of the region that there hasn't been much attention paid to five-pointed stars/pentagrams, Metatron cubes or other such things. But one of the other major world religions does use five-pointed stars as symbols.
My debt to Tolkien seems so obvious to me that I don't feel the need to discuss it at length, beyond pointing out that my enterprise is not to write a mythically-based story, nor is there magic in my world. But yes, I have created several languages for it, in varying stages of detail.
Some of the authors whose work has most strongly influenced me - whether or not that shows in my writing:
Samuel R. Delany
Carl G. Jung
Jorge Luis Borges