Sedes Draconis:History

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My History in World-Building

Interest in created worlds goes all the way back for me. My very earliest influence was my older brother by four years, Kellan. At nine, ten, eleven years, he would draw maps of worlds and sketch their inhabitants and tell stories of them. I wuold ask him to show me his sketch books, and tell me about them over and over.

Another important early influence on me was ElfQuest (see also my reading guide to ElfQuest). To this day, some of my favorite things, I learned from ElfQuest: elves, trees (and living in them), worlds masquerading as fantasy but with some hard thought and science behind them, and really, really good fantasy art.

Nothing I've ever seen, with the possible exception of the work of Michael Whelan, comes close to the vibrant, technically flawless, incredibly creative art of Wendy Pini.

My early-world building, once it got out of the stage of merely copying my brother's maps and sketches, mostly consisted of creating worlds for AD&D. After a number of half-baked worlds, my first large project was a world called "Raneth". It was a world without humans, as I was (and still am) heartily sick of the utter dominance of humans in AD&D worlds (though, I have since put together a possible explanation)

It's always talking about the extreme versatility and diversity of humans, as opposed to the specializations of the other races. There's a gaping artistic flaw there. If the one race based on knowable reality is so totally different than the others in the basic details like that, then it seems like you've totally screwed up creating all the others. So I made Raneth. One continent was dominated by the great elven cultures, another by half-wild, dragon-worshiping halflings, and such like. But no humans, none.

Another influence on my early world-building, and my brother's before me, was David Eddings. Eddings is an extremely good and, at the same time, deeply flawed writer. This applies also to his world-building as well as other things. A particularly insidious part of his world-building is the division of the world into nations that between them incorporate every scrap of land. This is an extremely modern idea; for most of history, it just didn't work like that.

In Raneth, for the first time I started to move away that, populating the map with cities with implied areas of influence, rather than nations with borders.

Then I played Sid Meier's Colonization. Truly, I never really got into the game, I think it's the weakest of the series. But it did have a fairly complex economy built into the game with around twenty or more different commodities to produce, buy and sell.

I decided to research those and similar commodities, and design a new world and its economy and trade routes. It was actually a very colonial world, with two continents with an "Old World" and a "New World" that was starting to be exploited by the cultures of the old. Here for the first time I explicitly adopted the city-state, rather than nation-state, model.

I got out my encyclopedias and started researching silk production, what metals are often found together, where sugar cane grows, etc. Several key points that are still very visible in my building of Sedes Draconis came together in this project: research and application, the pivotal role of trade, and the city-state.

At about the same time, on the bus on the way to high school each morning I listened to schoolmates talking about the culture of graffiti, of "crews" and "tags" and well known (in a sense, legendary) figures. This served as an inspiration for my next project, the project that lead directly into Sedes Draconis.

There's a good article on graffiti from Grove Dictionary of Art, excerpted on onestopenglish.com.

I took some ideas from the Mage Schools of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series, and from the workings of magic from The Legend of Nightfall by Mickey Zucker Reichert (in which wizards acquire spells by tearing them from the souls of the naturally gifted), and mixed them together with the ideas that I'd gotten from graffiti culture to create a form of magic.

In this magic system, there were certain places scattered around the world that offered magical power to whoever could control them by marking them as their own (tag them). Some such magic users would go it alone, but many others would form groups (crews) in which each individual could lay a group mark on a site that open it's power to the whole group. Such groups would be better able to defend their multiple sources from encroachers.

I went on to create a game system that had several very different forms of magic. This game system included seven main species: dwarves, elves, gnomes, goblins, humans, kobolds, and orcs, who became the seven species of the Trade Culture. The map for that world was a very early version of the Hajasith, though it is barely recognizable.

From that starting point, there was a continuous progression to the Sedes Draconis of today, though almost everything from the beginning was thrown out, including the magic system that was its original root. Somewhere in that time grew my mission to create a world from a vantage of scientific knowledge as I applied what I learned and studied to the elaboration of my created world. I strove to base my living things on biology, to create my maps from an understanding of geology and climatology, and of where cities truly spring up.

Because, truly, truth is stranger than most fiction. Those who try to create alien worlds often fail utterly because they don't even know this one. They end up with something that is, so often, not only preposterously unworkable, but at the same time not even as different from our conventional view of Earth, as Earth really is.

So I set to "Play a Game of Imagination, using Reality's Rules".

Post Script: Interestingly, as impressed as I am of Tolkien's work, it was not a major influence. By the time I really started getting into Middle-Earth, I was already creating my own world. Though all of my influences were, of course, themselves influenced by Tolkien.

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