27/10/10 Lalala lasagna!

Ok, so let me paint the situation for you. I’m living alone now, in a flat that’s a few square metres in surface, with a small kitchen and bathroom. I’m hungry (it’s midnight, so it’s about lunch time) and there’s nothing to eat bar a few oven lasagna’s that ‘went bad’ a few days ago (you know. Are going to go bad in a few weeks). However, the oven is bust (when I turn it on the room fills with gas and the thing DOES NOT WARM UP) and I am currently not in possession of a microwave. What do I do? Quite simple.

How does an oven work? It prepares food by heating it up. That’s about it. So I decide to try and emulate this effect by putting some of the (near frozen – even on the warmest setting, my fridge is bloody cold) lasagna in a pot and putting it on a fire. However, the difference between an oven and a pot on a fire is that in an oven the heat comes from everywhere, while on a fire, it is concentrated on a certain point: namely below. So I decide to babysit my cooking and turn it over every few minutes -and since I’m paranoid and afraid I’ll burn it a minute lasts about five seconds. Result: the lasagna starts to get all messed up with tears in the pasta, the whole ordeal becoming a pile of cheese and tomato, etc. Eventually I say to myself ‘fuck it’ and cut the whole thing up in tiny bits and constantly stir the pot. This works, but has several drawbacks: Firstly, it doesn’t look very apetizing. Instead of the red-white-red-white-red-white layered thing it is supposed to look like, my entire meal now looks like a pot of muck in a uniform bleak-orange colourĀ  because the tomato sauce and the cheese mixed together as a result of the stirring. Another drawback is that the tomato sauce and the cheese mixed together as a result of the stirring, and thus no longer tastes like tomato sauce or cheese respectively. I called this creation cheesato sauce and after sampling it I deemed it ‘edible’. It’s not the most fantastic thing I have ever eaten, but it certainly is the most warming thing around here (like the oven, the heating is bust. This place needs work) and, well, my stomach was abhorrently empty.

So, now you know what to do if you ever find yourself with oven lasagna, but no oven, and I know what to eat in the coming days.
Cheers.

~Helena

P.S. What do you mean, it’s not five-hundred million words long?

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05/10/10 Shades of Light: The World and Magic

The reason for this post is twofold: Firstly, I need to finally get around to write down some of the stuff regarding the fantasy world I created ages ago. Secondly, I want feedback. I want opinions, suggestions, I want to know why it sucks and how I can improve it, etc. While I really appreciate ‘this is cool’ and the like, I much more appreciate ‘this is cool, but maybe you could do this’. You’re allowed to say it sucks, but unless you also tell me why, and how I can improve it, I’m not really interested.

Now, much as I’d like to say ‘without further ado’, there’s just a little bit of ado. Mainly I’d like to rant about the subject of ‘talking about a fantasy world’ itself.
There are basically two ways for a writer to present the workings of her fantasy world: from the perspective of the writer to the reader, or from the perspective of an inhabitant of that world -usually a scholar, scientist or historian- writing down their experiences. There’s pros and cons to either approach -or rather, there’s pros to either apporach that the other lacks. The latter approach, an in-character account adds immersion. Having letters, lectures of history books in the world telling about the world helps to bring it to life. It can also be used as a tool for the writer to make the reader aware of certain facts within the world that all characters are aware of, but are still important for -or add flavour to- the storyline, this without breaking up the narrative or a dialogue with an out-of-character explanation of why organization Y is the most powerful in city X. For example, everyone in Shades of Light knows what the Kira’Jin are. That doesn’t necessarily mean you do -and, quite frankly, I’d be surprised -and just a little scared- if you did.
A good time to use this is inbetween chapters, when the narrative is interupted anyway. Say a chapter begins where the characters arrive at a new city, before that chapter you can put in an excerpt of a book about that city (usually the introduction) that gives the reader a basic introduction to the place.
Also, keep in mind that these kind of in-world ‘documents’ are written by inhabitants of that world and, as such, can be incorrect or incomplete, as the one who created the world desires.

In this post, however, I will be opting for the other option. I will write about the world as the creator of the world. Main advantage here is that I can explain my rationale behind some of the choices I have made, which is only a problem if you’re not interested in my rationales (in which case, the fuck are you doing here?). I can compare to other ideas, cite my influences, et the cetera. (yes. I know ‘et the cetera’ makes no sense. Fuck off).

Now that the ado is taken care of: Shades of Light.

First, the name. I believe the meaning behind it is obvious to the small, intellectual elite familiar with the phrase ‘shades of grey’. Morality is going to play a big role in my stories. I’ll try to refrain as much as possible from black and white stereotypes or any dichotomy of good and evil. No character will be absolutely just, innocent, or righteous, while every character will have redeeming qualities, or at the very least a goal that is -from their point of view- morally justifiable. With this I will try to have no clear ‘hero’ or ‘villain’. In my writing I will also switch from point of view regularly to further express this. This way, the reader can decide for themself who they feel most sympathetic towards.

The ‘Light’ bit refers to the magic of the world. In it’s essence, ‘magic’ and more specifically ‘magical abilities’ is the ability to control and manipulate various forms of magical energy. When the world was created, vast amounts of energies were summoned to serve as the components of basically everything. And yes, I’m going with the elements earth, water, air and fire here. It gets better. When life was created, all four energies were merged together to create the components: earth became bone, water became blood, air became breath. Fire is unique because fire serves as a sort of catalyst to the other three. Fire represents the passion and will that every living being has -chiefly the will to survive and procreate. And thus the four elements created Life.
When the world was created, large amount of energies that weren’t used up in the creation still lingered, usually within the things they represent (Earth energies lingered in the earth, air energies in the skies, water energies in rivers, oceans, glaciers et the cetera). Again, fire is unique, as it empowers the other three: empowered earth manifests as lava, empowered air is lightning and empowered water appears as steam in geysers. Now how do mortals use magic? Brain-tumors. During pregnancy, these energies (called spirits, by the way) can affect the developing brain of the unborn child, causing a variation that allows them to see and manipulate the energies that affected them (a child affected only by water energies, for example, will only be able to manipulate water energies). Spirits also aren’t static entities: they evolve and adapt to their environment. A water spirit in the cold north will most likely be an ice-spirit, and the people it affects will be able to use ice magic. An earth spirit in the desert would be a sand spirit, and so on.

Then the gods came.

I love that line. I can’t explain why, but I think it’s awesome. Let’s say it again.

Then the gods came, and everything changed.
If magical energy, or spirits are basically nuclear radiation that mutate the brains of unborn babies, then a god is the centre of a gigantic fallout zone.
And when I say gigantic, I mean they cover half the world each.
To specify: two gods descended onto the planet: Anghra, the White Lady and generally believed to be the daughter of the Sun descends onto the southern hemisphere and begins radiating spirits of Light, while Nocturnos (placeholder name. Suggestions are welcome), Prince of the Nightsky -believed to be the son of the moon) descends onto the north pole and transmits spirits of Darkness. These two new types of spirits are much stronger and much more prevalent than the old elemental spirits, and as such more people are ‘tuned’ to Light or Darkness magic than to the other four. As a result people convert to worship of one of these two gods, depending on where they live.
Then I went really boring and decided more gods came!
This time it’s a couple, calling themselves the Empress of the Moon and the Emperor of the Sun (again, placeholder names. Suggestions are welcome. As are suggestions to their actual names). These don’t radiate their own spirits, however their presence (and ‘presence’ is relative, as it’s about a third of the world) causes other spirits to change to what will be known as spirits of Might.

Now, with three sets of gods the stage is set for a world with three major religious factions, and all the plot that comes from that, but I’m 1200 words into an article about magic and I haven’t told you yet what magic does, so here’s a rundown:
Earth, air and water are obvious. Anyone who watched, say, Avatar: the Last Airbender (not the movie. Do NOT watch the movie for it will Eat Your Soul) should have a fairly good idea of what those kinds of magic do. Fire, again, is different. Fire can be used on it’s own, where the magic user consumes energies around them to create fire to manipulate (if none is readily available), however if one is affected both by spirits of fire and another elemental spirit type, they can use the ’empowered’ version of that element (lava, steam, lightning) as well as either element. Again, I point to Avatar: the Last Airbender -yes, I actually like that show. And so should you, damn it!
Light, Darkness and Might are different, as these actually alter the way the body works. As I explain this, keep in mind that the three are closely related and as such some effects will overlap.

Light: an inner energy that allows the user to enhance one or more aspects of their own body: strength, reflexes, speed of thought, etc… Light spirits can also physically alter a person: sometimes one affected to Light energy (a so called Enlightened) is overwhelmed by Light Spirits when they reach puberty that they start growing exponentially in every way, turning into giants (the shortest of which are about two metres and a half, the largest nearing the four metre mark). Giants are physically very strong, but cannot control their powers (there’s no on/off switch).
Sometimes, a similar effect is simulated with adults, by artificially infusing them with light spirits. Their bodies -specifically their muscle tissue- grow exponentionally, but not to the sizes of full giants. These half-giants are still in control of the active powers Light gives (they still can turn physically stronger, faster, etc, than they are ‘in rest’ at will) and their size isn’t as overwhelming when dealing with non-Enlightened (or non-giantifief Enlightened) people. Turning someone into a half-giant isn’t done very often, either. Most Enlightened retain their natural sizes.
Another skill Light gives is so called ‘Light-forging’. Light spirits can be collected and fused into a solid object that can be manipulated by the creator, until it dissipates again after a few minutes. A common use is to stop wounds from bleeding on the battlefield until they can be tended to.

Darkness: Darkness itself manifests in two obvious ways: Blinking and Mutations. Blinking means short distance pseudo-teleportations, where the persons body turns into darkness, and uses darkness to move to another place within sight where the body reassembles. The location must be visible to the person the moment he uses the ability, and the start and destination must be connected by darkness or shadow (where shadow is any bit of existence where there is no light shining on directly.
Mutations are more varied. At it’s most basic form, it’s basically the darkness version of Light-forging, only whatever is ‘created’ must remain connected to the body that creates it, and is basically a part of that body, until it dissipates. These can be tendrils or arms to grab things, as well as ‘bridges’ of darkness created to blink through. Doing this, however, makes the blinking very obvious.
Most darkness spirits, however, take on the aspect of a beast found in the wild, and the Starborn (one capable of Darkness magic) can take on a totem animal and use the spirits tuned to that animal to mutate his own body.
Cue werewolves.

Might: For the magic of Might, I looked to what many people like to believe is reality. Might manifests in two ways: telepathy and telekinesis. Telekinesis is just that: manipulating objects with only your mind. Telepathy, on the other hand, is not reading or controlling someone’s mind (not directly, anyway). Telepathy limits itself to transmitting thoughts to another brain, and is usually used as a form of long-distance communication. This can also be used to create illusions in the minds of others by making it less obvious which thoughts are yours being transmitted and which thoughts are the recipient’s original thoughts, and depending on your own skill and talent, and the recipient’s intellect, this can work to varying effects. It usually works very well on animals, for example.

Now, I mentioned before that the elements were merged and ‘created Life’ and I did use that capital L for a reason. In some areas of the world, spirits of all four elements did merge to create spirits of life, and attunement to these allows the user to manipulate, well, life. More specifically plants and most animals.

Now, I really could go on about this, but I hit the 2000 word mark somewhere during the last paragraph, and I already cut stuff out, so if you’re still reading, thanks. As always, suggestions, comments, feedback, etc are most welcome. Thanks.

~Helena