Thursday, 10 May 2012

CampNano: C is for Crops and Crafts

Day Three of Applied A-Z World Building: C is for Crops and Crafts

I'm trying something different today in that I'm writing the blog as I write the world-building rather than writing the blog afterwards.

Crops for my story is a giant can of worms, the reason being that in a moment of insanity I decided my central world were all vegetarians!

Now a modern vegetarian has no problem with getting their proper amount of carbs, fats, protein and various vitamins but I'm not writing modern or urban fantasy, I'm writing cusp of industry fantasy. This leaves me with many fascinating problems.

I should probably confess here that I am a geek, I am a proud geek and I love research. This area happens to touch upon two of my geek interests:
  1.  Eco-Geek. I try to always eat free range, responsibly-sourced meat. I try to shop small, local stores and get fruit and veg grown locally. The carbon cost of shipping foods isn't as simple as shop local though because the carbon cost of growing lower yield crops here can actually be higher than shipping over higher yield crops. Nonetheless there's the economic and social benefit of supporting local farmers.
  2. Nutrition-Geek. This is a side effect of the fact I have lost a lot of weight and am continuing to try to lose more. I don't take any 'diet' at face value and, being a geek, I set about trying to understand where my eating habits had gone wrong and where I can improve. That involves being aware of the calories in things, the fibre content, the carbs and proteins and healthy fats versus bad fats and everything else.

So my poor vegetarian race is facing some big issues right off the bat.
  1. Whilst not vegan, the fact that animals are all sacred means there is no 'farming' of animals, wild animals are the only source for animal products. This does lead to the conclusion that the biggest, toughest, most bad-ass people in the village are the milk maids 'cos do you fancy sitting under a wild cow and squeezing its boobs? This means that eggs, milk, cheese, butter are all going to be somewhat luxury and certainly not part of the daily diet.
  2. For simplicity's sake I'm basing the central culture on England. This eliminates a lot of crops that need consistent heat and humidity for growth (though does favour crops that like rain). The main fertiliser is usually cow manure (another brave job for someone to venture out to do though less brave than milk maids). I would probably need to look at a book of foraging to under all that is available in this climate especially with regards to nuts and seeds which would be some of the main providers of protein and fats.
  3. Being pre-industrial revolution storage is going to be problem. While some crops do keep well after harvesting, they are also forbidden from killing pests so a certain amount of the yield will be lost to mice. There will also be the more rural agricultural zones and the more urban which leads to the issue of transporting crops from here to there. Can my people uses horses or does that contravene their rules on animals being sacred?
  4. Outside trade looks likely to be banned. As mentioned in B for Beginnings, my culture abhors meat-eaters and considers them the lowest of the low. This would make it extremely hard to trade, also my civilisation must have been able to survive pre-trade.
You may notice that I have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers here and that's because this is something that will take more than a day of world-building. That it will be based on England gives me a head start and a random plot idea while washing up (Everyone daydreams while washing up, right?) might solve the trade issue (which I'll explain when we get to the letter for Trade).

For now, I will look forward to finding some answers to these questions down the line.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

CampNano June: B is for Beginnings

Day Two of Applied A-Z World Building: B is for Beginnings

Despite being the second post on the same day, this is actually from two separate days. It's just that VirginMedia tried to up my productivity by shutting down my internet.

So having struggled yesterday with the quandary of how to build an academic system for a world that doesn't exist, I was glad to see today's topic turn up. B for Beginnings, I could use some beginnings and some nice baby-steps. Unfortunately for me, B is for the Beginning of my as-yet-anaemic universe rather than for myself.

Perhaps fortunately RE in Secondary School gave me a good grounding in creating Creation myths for imaginary societies though mine usually ended up bloody enough to put me in the category for either future psychopath or writer. The jury is still out on which one I'll end up at.

Here I must admit I have cheated a little bit if only by accident. The aforementioned lack of internet led me to falsely believe that A was for Animals and I have done a little world-building around that aspect. That is relevant because the central concept I came up with was that all animals are sacred animals. This was highly fortunate when it came to creating my Creation Myth because it gave me a place to start.

As creation stories in society go, the Judeo-Christian story has to be one of the more boring. World in seven days, yada yada, Eden, yada yada. Compared with the Aboriginal creation story of being dreamed into existance or the exotic Discworld Elephants all the way down, there isn't much to it which is why it was odd to me that why I started my Creation myth it ended up with parallels to the Garden of Eden.

My race, let's call them humans for the sake of not making up any unnecessary word, once led the same life of bliss as animals. They ate animals and were eaten by animals. In a moment of rage though, a mother took vengeance upon a goat who butted her daughter into the river and slaughtered the goat. This act was enough to bring the wrath of the Gods who felt such an act was betraying their principals. It was only the mediating middle child's interference that prevented the abolition of the human race.

See, you can't even do a simple creation myth without Gods butting their heads in. The human race was punished with knowledge in the same way as Adam and Eve, forbidden from consuming the flesh of the animals and forbidden the simple existance of not acknowledging sin.

I'm pretty sure my current Creation myth won't stand the test of time when it comes to future world building but it's given me some good ideas in relation to my pantheon and to those who will be outcast in society (The meat-eaters!).

Roll on C!

CampNano June - A is for Academia

Day One of Applied A-Z World Building: A is for Academia

My first thought upon looking at the blank piece of paper (or blank word document to be more accurate) that comprises my current world and realising I need to design its academic system was: WTF am I doing?

My second thought was to resort to advice given out by Brandon Sanderson: Go with what is cool.

What's cool to me is Apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships give me automatic relationships for characters with their masters, former master and fellow apprentices.

Apprenticeships give me conflicts as parents had to struggle to get their child into good apprenticeships and the risk of specialised skills being lost as a master can only take on so many apprenticeships.

It allows me to start building my society. If all knowledge is passed on one-to-one then I figured that they would need to start early in order to educate enough people. I picked eight years old, at the moment just because it seems like an age where a child has enough maturity to learn but is not too late.

I also strongly feel that the current education system pushes a child to decide their future too early and I didn't want to enforce that in my world, especially when we come to the limited options for apprenticeships discussed further down. Because of this, I decided each child would undertake three simultaneous apprenticeships, one in each realm (Physical, Mental, Metaphysical (Magic/Spiritual)).

It gave me an insight into the cultural system. Cities, being more populous, would have more masters available and hence more educational opportunities. It made sense to me that city-dwelling families would accept 'foster' children from the more rural communities to compete for the good apprenticeships. That also gives the idea that these foster children would be tied socially to a more powerful family, perhaps indebted to them for life. More fodder for conflict.

More than that, if the only way to obtain knowledge is to learn it off someone who knows it then the acquisition of knowledge is automatically tied to travel whether the travel of the master or of the suitable apprentice. This led to the idea that many families would be forced to choose between a less illustrious but more stable apprenticeship or the high status but migratory profession.

I can recall reading a BBC news article about one of the African tribes that operates an apprenticeship system to the point of having separate languages and separate written languages to prevent the stealing of knowledge from one trade to another. I really like this idea as world-fodder hence there is no one written language in my world but a set of symbols per trade and even some within trades for particular masters who want to keep secrets between themselves and their apprenticeships.

This then led on to the fact that the magic system cannot be written down, being too complicated; composed of gesture, intonation and language. It's then I realised I was perhaps leaking the limits of World Building on just Academia (Only now, you may ask) and set my pen (keyboard) down for the day. It's a challenge not to go beyond world-building as even just at A characters are trying to form and push their way in. Can't wait to see the world by the time I get to Z!

Applied A-Z of World Building

So CampNaNo is approaching in June and many members of my Writing Group are looking forward to it. I have two approaches to NaNoWriMo:
  1. I dig out an old story that I've never quite got around to writing: or
  2. I do the opposite and start on November the 1st with nothing and fly by the seat of my pants through the thirty days of November.
This June I've decided to take a different approach. My fellow writing group member and friend, Angeline Trevena, wrote an awesome series of blogs for the A-Z writing challenge on World Building. Because I am a maniac I've decided to follow those A-Z challenges approximately one a day until the 1st of June when I will attempt to come up with some characters and drop them into the world to find a story.

So things to note:
  1. The blog doesn't advise tackling things in this order. I'm the nutter who decided to do that.
  2. This is a completely blank world. I have not written anything on it yet, no characters, no plots.
  3. I'm going to attempt to minimise leakage from the topics so I design only around the topic, there probably will be some leakage as, for instance with day one, I can't design the academic world without knowing something of the magic system and the cultural areas.
  4. There are, when I started this, 24 days left until June the 1st and 26 letters of the alphabet so I will have to do a couple of days with two letters of the alphabet. 
And so to A... for Academia.