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Thread: Fantasy Fiction's Secondary Worlds

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Back in the days when I was heavily into AD&D I created a world of my own. The map in itself took hundreds of hours to make as it consisted of dozens of A4 sheets of 8mm hex paper stuck together, in which each of the tens of thousands of hexes each had their own symbols drawn in to represent trees, marsh, plains etc.

Each of the countries (there were about 25 of them) then had a detailed history written for them, and a section on their current political situation. In addition, with the land being mainly feudal, I also had details on over 500 lords/barons/kings etc. In addition, I had details for many of the numerous towns, including several streetplans, sewer systems and the hierarchy within several Thief and Assassin Guilds.

As for the animals and magic etc, I didn't need to go into too much detail, because using it for an AD&D setting, I was able to use their creatures and magical restrictions.

I worked on this piece of work, on and off for about four years. We then stopped playing AD&D before it was finished, and we moved into Middle Earth using the Rolemaster system. After several years of adventuring on land, the party decided to become privateers, and again I made a new land, but this one was composed of about 100 scattered islands. Each of these I drew in detail on hex paper and populated them almost to the man with their populations.

Looking back, I now shudder to think how much of my life I have wasted creating worlds and drawing maps for no real purpose. It is fun to start with, but as you are probably finding yourself, Allyssa, you can get tied down with a monster of your own making.

Perhaps there are computer programs around now that can take much of the paistaking work out of the process.
I don't think it was a waste of time, Val. You have just given me some ideas for my talk. I never thought of mentioning AD&D, and I had no idea the games were so sophisticated and complex. You should make a novel out of it. Wink Smilie

If anyone is interested, I will post a transcript of my talk when I am finished. Big Smile Smilie

[Edited on 22/2/2003 by Allyssa]
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You should make a novel out of it.
Funny enough, I did. Three of them actually. The third one, I unsuccessfully tried to get published and will one day (when I find the time to do it) find itself in the pages of my own website (I'm currently converting my paper copy into Word). That dark piece about the assassins which I once sent you was the prelude from it.

I'm pleased my experience has given you some ideas for your talk though. Not all AD&D games are as complex as I made mine. I just became obsessed with details, and my players came to expect the sort of realism I was providing them with.

I think the waste I now feel comes from spending so much time involved with making worlds and writing books about them, that I tended to forget about the real world and the people around me. Between them, they have cost me one marriage and numerous other relationships. How my current girlfriend copes with me, I have no idea.
Val,
you did not waste your time. You are now a mature, talented writer and I suspect that the time "wasted" on creating these worlds was your apprenticeship in the art of subcreation... It was used, not wasted, and used well - I am very much looking forward to read more of your writngs!
I am currently "wasting" my time on creating a complex secondary world and fiddling with details in the truest Tolkienish manner, but this actually helps me to copy with the real world. I did not become estranged from any of my friends, I even have now more friends than before, and they can count on me... I am working more quickly and more efficiently... for the moment, really, no negative side effects!
For me, the most difficult thing is to be true to the inner logic of my world. To give an example, one of the scenes of the last volume of my saga takes place in a garden full of flowering vistaria. Then during the night my heroes move inside, to a little room. In the first version, there was a plate with some fruits (peaches, apples and grapes) standing there, on a little table. And then I realised that it is absolutely impossible, to have at once flowering vistaria and fresh fruits such as peaches and grapes! It's not the same season! So I had to convert my fresh fruits into nuts, almonds and raisins... and I did it at once, but was quite annoyed for having been so silly!


[Edited on 13/3/2003 by Eryan]
Val gives Eryan a big hug Big Smile Smilie

Thanks Eryan, your words really made me glow. I'd never really looked at things like that before (perhaps because on occasion I have had it drummed into me that I am wasting far to much of my time with my head buried in some fantasy world rather than where it should be, in the real world - as quoted by certain ex-people in my life).

Personally, although it has cost me relationships, having a fantasy world to visit has certainly been a huge boon at times in my life. There have been occasions in the past where I have been doing really boring repetetive work, and I have been able to totally drift away into my own world. I've found in this state, I have been able to work better than many of the people around me, who giving in to boredom have wandered off to talk or have a cigarette.

Now days, I am fortunate enough to have a really interesting job, but there are times I still have a storyline running through my mind. I find here, however, others around me don't really understand why I have suddenly gone so quite. They just assume I am unhappy about something and then, annoyingly, try to cheer me up. I think only another writer can really understand these quite periods for what they are.
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I am very much looking forward to read more of your writngs!
I'm not sure if you've read it yet, but I had one about Eol posted in the Fan Writing section a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure if you will like this one, though, as I've changed my style slightly from the others. I found that after the Rangers of the North story, I got a real mental blockage about writing anything similar. Instead I've tried my hand at writing something with more of a Silmarillion feel about it.
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So I had to convert my fresh fruits into nuts, almonds and raisins... and I did it at once, but was quite annoyed for having been so silly!
That's really fine eye for detail. Most people would not have picked up on that point in these days of supermarkets where fruits of the world are displayed next to each other. You can almost guarentee, though, that if you don't spot such mistakes yourself, someone else almost certainly will.
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I think only another writer can really understand these quite periods for what they are.


I think that is definately the most common symptom of being a writer, Val. People often tell me that I am too quiet!

It is a shame that your life's passion has cost you relationships though. In a sense, I suppose the same thing happened to me, but there is no way that I could be other than I am (I could no sooner stop being a writer than I could stop breathing), so I suppose separation was inevitable..

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And then I realised that it is absolutely impossible, to have at once flowering vistaria and fresh fruits such as peaches and grapes! It's not the same season!


I agree with you too, Eryan. Getting those little details right can drive us writers mad. If we have things happening in our world that seem impossible, we loose all crediblity.
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They just assume I am unhappy about something and then, annoyingly, try to cheer me up.


Oh I know that one Val, it really gets on my nerves and people trying to cheer me up, tend to do the exact opposite and put me in a foul mood ending in a bit of a shout from me. Whatever it is going through my head (be it storyline, bit of music, lyrics or huge multimedia project idea) it is almost certainly killed off like this. I've lost so much great stuff this way.
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Thanks Eryan, your words really made me glow. I'd never really looked at things like that before (perhaps because on occasion I have had it drummed into me that I am wasting far to much of my time with my head buried in some fantasy world rather than where it should be, in the real world - as quoted by certain ex-people in my life).


I am glad Val! It's nice to hear that!
I am realising more and more that fantasy worlds ARE real - because, finally, all our experience can be reduced to mental representations of "real" events, but also of events we encountered in imaginary words, created either by ourselves, or vy somebody else... These "pseudomemories" are sometimes equally powerful as our "true" memories. Many people have SEEN Lothlorien, Moria, Mordor already after having read the book, without any need to see the film!
I have seen Yraen on that wet morning in Shire, and Aragorn looking on a face of sleeping Bilbo... thanks to you! By creating secondary words and by communicating them to others we can enrich their lives much more than by small talk and some down-to-earth "serious"activities! A successful fantasy writer has an incredible impact on lives of millions of people! What can be more real?...
I will read the story about Eol today!
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They just assume I am unhappy about something and then, annoyingly, try to cheer me up.

Well, you must be gentler looking, Val and Plastic, because when I am absent-minded people usually assume that I am angry... and they become quite shy! Big Smile Smilie