I am blessed to be friends with so many amazing writers. Particularly because when I spend days obsessing about the minute details of how something happens in a world of mine, they understand. They feel the pain of “but how did this virus get started??” or “but when did that war actually take place, in regards to this character’s life? Yes, I know he wasn’t born yet but bear with me…”
As I’ve started branching into alpha and beta reading, and just downright world-building, for several of my friends, it’s been fascinating to start to see the worlds and cultures grow—and in turn, see them move beyond any area I held a hand in.
Start with the least and work to the most. Within the past few years or so, I’ve started delving into the worlds of M.C.A. Hogarth (as most of you can tell from the flurry of reviews I’ve posted about her books—and I’m not done yet!) and the Pelted universe. The Pelted are a world in which human geneticists have unlocked a way to splice human and animal DNA to make entirely new and differently abled creatures. Over time, these creatures split from their makers and made their own worlds and societies in space, thus becoming the Pelted. (This is a massive generalization, and more my baseline understanding of the world rather than anything that should be quoted for absolute veracity.)
There are the Harat-Shar, the felid hedonists who see no shame in hiding sex nor affection—warm of heart and soul, and very built around family. There are the Glaseah, half centaur and half pegasus, devoid of a sex drive but no less staunch in their interpersonal relations; these are a people where family is guarded, given how infrequently they give birth. The water-dwelling Naysha, the almost Tribble-like Flitzbe, the avian Phoenix, and of course, the xenophobic and secluded Eldritch. Each of these separate races, equally fleshed out and given time and course. I personally find myself drawn to the two possibly most dissimilar; I see myself in this world as a Harat-Shar having served an Eldritch lord too long, being pushed away from interpersonal contact and taught to watch my hands, my tone, my language, my fervor. It is absolutely fascinating, and indeed, a gift, to be able to wrap myself around these concepts. I’m honored that Micah allows me to act as first reader for her—and that she finds my input on the stories as amusing as she does!
Then there is the apocalyptic world of Addergoole and the faerie, as written by Lyn Thorne-Alder. Here are a race called the Ellehemaei, fae of old kept on Earth after their gods departed and closed the gates to Ellehem. This is magic at its core, borne of three main lines: the Mara, protectors and strong; the Daeva, inspirers and muses, the incubi and succubi of legend; and the Grigori, sharp and beautiful, the pinnacle of perfection and teachers of their own ways. Faced with the prediction of seers that the end was nigh, a lone Grigori by the name of Regine Avonmorea gathered who she could and arranged that a school be made—one to both teach fae children how to survive in the oncoming storm…and to ensure that said children would come to bear more children, in hopes that the fae would survive. It was not a perfect system, and came with its flaws—which the now-professors would learn all too soon—but it was something, which was more than the void they feared.
Lyn and I have had great fun playing in the world of Addergoole and the fae apocalypse; we are good enough friends that if you look closely at canon, you see characters who I helped to create. I have fashioned myself in the image of Ellehem; I am a cross between a Mara and a Daeva, with my ancestry coming out in my Change as a figure of a winged cat; my special skill becomes the ability to walk through a crowded room unjostled. It is very much like sitting at home and waiting for my letter to Hogwarts to arrive, and wondering which of my parents is a witch or wizard and who the Muggle. In Addergoole, however, I wonder if my parents are who they claim to be, and if there is fae blood in them, which is Ellehemaei and which is human. Of course, much like Hogwarts, I’m too old now to Change, by the usual ways of the fae, and am unlikely to be summoned into the project. In addition to that, Thorne-Alder’s apocalypse has already come, the departed gods having returned back in 2011.
In addition to that, there is the universe of the biomage, as created by Ross Bennett. This is one that I have been told my hand has turned the outcome of a bit more, given that it is still very much under construction, and as such, my ideas and questions help to form the world around them. As a world-building exercise, I have been given the character of Amaranth, a girl chosen by one of the foremost biomages in at least her part of the world to be his apprentice. She knows nothing of the Made, the constructed beings (not entirely unlike Hogarth’s Pelted) that the biomages have come to concoct under their own will and power, and lesser still of the powers she is being taught in. But she is given two Made of her mentors—one in the form of an anthropomorphized bluejay, and the other a red fox—and through them she begins to piece together her world…and that which she does not agree with.
The Made are things to her mentor, and Amaranth cannot see this delineation. They think, they move, they feel; how are they so different from her? As Ross and I have begun to sketch out the potential future she weaves, it is quite likely that she could change the course of history…and equally likely that she loses a piece of herself to the fight as well. Both her interactions with her mentor, and the intimacies with the Made, have power and depth that force me to think about how I view things against how she might…and both against still the way He, her mentor, thinks. It is a fascinating study in agency and individuality, and the power of a man-made-God.
I am absolutely awestruck by these worlds, and so many others I’ve had the privilege of reading in one form or another. I want my own worlds to draw people in, to will themselves into a race which I have created. I want people to wonder about life in the Lost Capitol for themselves, or want to walk as one of the Kalvarine in their forests of light. I want people to be drawn as I was to fiction, and begin to write their own stories because the ones they were given didn’t fill them enough. It saddens me to see how many people have stopped reading for one reason or another. To hear that someone hates to read is like a knife to my chest. There are thousands of worlds out there, waiting to be explored! There are characters and cities and lands and worlds that we can barely touch with the tip of our mind, unless we dip it into the ink well these authors have provided, and let them scribe themselves into our thoughts. I see Micah’s and Lyn’s and Ross’ characters in my mind when I close my eyes; it would be the highest honor to know that someone else could do that of mine.
What about you? What worlds can you immerse yourself in, or dream you could walk through? What cultures are you desperate to learn more about?