I have a conundrum. I have a project. The specifics are immaterial to this post. The prospective setting, however, is. I am undecided between setting the project on present day Earth or a secondary world. The issue is one of style versus freedom.
The biggest selling point for setting my project on Earth is the style of major cities. I love the diversity of architectures. The dynamism of modern city life has always called to me. Even contemporary fashion has its appeal.
And let me not forget the pull of the small town. I may loath having grown up in a small town, but I cannot deny the appeal it has.
As much as the style of Earth attracts my desire to use it as a narrative canvas, I must admit that I am interested in occultism and the unexplained. For those who remember the Magic Project, my fascination with the occult and unexplained does cultivate an inclination to use real occultism and the unexplained as inspiration for my writing.
But my fascination with the occult and unexplained also weakens my freedom of imagination. I am, perhaps, too entwined with the fascination to be able to do anything but write a fantastic realist novel. And that is not what the project under discussion is (though the term does define the Magic Project very well).
Two other issues also impact my freedom of imagination: the required hidden nature of the occult and the presence of too much science and technology. A demimonde or occluded fantastic world existing alongside our experienced world isn’t what I want. I want something more known. I also really don’t want to have to explain away why modern technology doesn’t break the illusion.
Making up a world allows me to do what I want. I can have the level of technology I want without having to deal with the bits of technology I don’t want to deal with (yes, I recognize figuring out ways to magically beat modern technology may be fun). I also provide myself with a freedom to go as crazy as I want to.
The style issue remains. But I can make up my own style and draw inspiration wherever the hell I want.
So, I’ve convinced myself that a secondary world is the best option. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the characters I’ve already created.
I have always wanted to write a portal fantasy. The reason why, I believe, is that I want to write about the experiences of a contemporary character trapped/ touring/ adventuring in another world. Indeed, this project has, in several forms, been gnawing at me for years. It is finally time I get off my ass and write the damn thing.
But am I writing just another portal fantasy? In that this novel is an adventure novel, maybe. However, I strongly believe that the approach I’m going to be taking is atypical of most portal fantasies.
What do I mean by portal fantasy? A portal fantasy is any fantasy in which a character from “our” world is thrust into a clearly fantasy world. The fantasy world can be both a separate world/ dimension or the hidden places of our own world. I am also going to include planetary romances like the Barsoom series for good measure.
The fantasy world that I will be utilizing is a separate dimension from our own. The world I am imagining is, frankly, impossible according to the laws of physics that we know. That said, I will be including some typically science fictional elements because I love science fantasy.
To be honest, I am psyched to finally get to work on this project. And I’m excited to write about it on this blog.
My next post will explore my influences. The second post will sketch the world. The third will be a response to a series of posts on Black Gate dealing with planetary romances. The fourth post will explore some of my past ideas. The fifth post will discuss the problem of Jett Drake. The sixth post will deal with Tyler Spang and his libido. The seventh and final post will deal with whether this project will be a novel or a series.
A fantasy is being written. The setting is a secondary world. The inspiration for that secondary world is the British Empire during Victoria’s later reign (though it could be the whole damn world during the same period). Does that make the work steampunk? Or is it gaslamp fantasy?
What I’m asking is what exactly is “punk” in the context of speculative fiction? Is “punk” science fiction only or can it incorporate elements of science fantasy? But is it still “punk” if the setting is a more “accurate representation” of the inspiration period just with solely fantasy elements?
I started thinking about this as I formulated some early plans for a few project Ideas I have. For one thing, my early twentieth century project is looking to be pure fantasy baring a few fantastic science elements which may, or may not, appear. The other project, inspired by late fourteenth century Western Europe, is looking to have no magic. Or at least supernatural magic. So, is either project “punk”- either diesel or dungeon?
I don’t know. As far as the TCP (twentieth century project), I would guess not. The setting, though a secondary world, is based on the period without too many elements that lead one to ascribe “punk” to the genre. Though that is not to say that there won’t be punks as characters.
But as I was looking up dieselpunk on TVTropes, I discovered another genre which could equally describe the project: two-fisted tales. I don’t know much about this genre, but I will do my homework on it.
While TCP might not be “punk,” I could argue that L14th (late forteenth) is dungeonpunk. The direction I’m heading with the idea just screams punk. And there is no supernatural magic. Which means I need to do some science research.
Now that that is out of the way, I still don’t think I’ve adequately figured out what “punk” is to speculative fiction. The problem is, I think, that “punk” itself has changed from when it first appeared as a genre. Cyberpunk was a revolution in science fiction. It opened new avenues of style and subject. But as time goes on, “punk” has become more commercialized to the point where “punk” is little more than a marketing ploy. Set something in x period (whether historical or secondary)? Put it with a “punk” and it’ll sell.
In some ways, I think “punk” should have an edge, a rebelliousness to it. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that way any more.
Yesterday during a brainstorming session, an idea struck me. When is it appropriate to utilize a secondary or constructed world in a fantasy story (or a science fiction story for that matter)? What are the advantages of creating and utilizing a constructed world rather than our own Earth? What, maybe, are the disadvantages? Are writers maybe too willing to utilize constructed worlds in their stories when our own consensus world would be a better setting? Now, I could bloviate as a blogocritic, but I rather don’t want to. I want to rather work through this as a writer myself.
A project I’ve been working on for a while has been predicated on being a constructed world. But yesterday, I realized that I don’t need that world to be constructed from scratch. That the project works just as well, if not better, set in a, perhaps, highly mutated, weird, and fantastic version of Earth had never occurred to me.
Once this leap was made, I realized that I don’t have to rack my brain trying to come up with fictional names of planets, countries, states and provinces, cities, species, and people. I can just use Earth as the backdrop for some really strange adventures. That’s what I meant by the highly mutated comment.
This new direction also opens up avenues of deeper and more complex interrogations and explorations of issues that a secondary world may not readily allow.
So now I have to question, why was I so hell bent on a secondary world in the first place? I don’t quite know. The earliest iteration of this now mutated idea was set in a strange and terrifying postapocalyptic or dying earth setting on earth. Now, elements of that original idea have spored out and become a beast of its own. Gradually I had the idea of creating a constructed world based on the early twenty first century. But while that idea may be fun, I really do not know if it really has a chance of working. Then I began to gravitate more and more around creating worlds inspired by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (roughly “steampunk” and “dieselpunk”). And I’ve flirted with modernizing the ancient world, but while that idea has merit, the story never quite fit.
Now I’m excited and happy with these developments. And I don’t have to worry too much about sounding silly when I have to create a lot of fantasy names. Particularly since all of them pretty much were Earth based in some way anyway. So, I think, it is easier to avoid some of this flak to begin with.
This is not to mean that I won’t ever use constructed worlds in anything I do. I have some ideas floating around now that would probably work better being set in constructed worlds rather than being set on Earth. But I think it is important to question at the outset whether or not a constructed world trumps setting a story on Earth rather than Fantasy World 239 or something.
I haven’t touched on, yet, the possibilities and dangers of so mutating and weirding Earth as to make it virtually a constructed world on its own. This, I think, really raises questions about creating secondary worlds and what makes them different from Earth. How heavily mutated does Earth have to be before it is a certified secondary world? Very interesting question. I’ve read arguments calling the Wizarding World of the Harry Potter a secondary world. But I don’t know if I really agree with that argument.
Well, my niece is getting impatient with me, so I’m going to have to cut this post here. I may update this post if I get the chance.