20 October 2010

Anachronisms and Ancient History

The first real "fantasy" book I remember reading was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I had just moved to South Carolina, been bumped up from second to third grade, and was being pulled out of class once per week for speech therapy.  It was this therapist, whose name I have forgotten, who let me borrow the first book in Lewis' Chronicles.

This isn't a post about those books, nor about nostalgia, though I've already engaged in a bit of that.  It's a post about the Lamp Post.

If you remember, when Lucy stumbles through the wardrobe into Narnia, one of the first things she sees is a gas lamp-post, shining in the middle of a forest.  We later learn this is the traditional border of Narnia.  We later, later learn (in The Magician's Nephew), how that lamp-post got there.  But I've always remembered that image -- lonely, out of place lamp post, shining in the forest.

It's part of Narnia's ancient history, but it's an anachronism and very mysterious for most of the Narnians (and the reader for most of the series).  I always like the idea of an ancient past, one that's incongruent with the present in many ways, but that shows up in strange, scary, and mysterious ways.  This is different from say, Tolkien.  The Lord of the Rings is very much about the past, but it's a past that's always present, known by the current players (think of the Council of Elrond), and embodied in current events.  Aragorn is old, and restores the past line of Numenor.  Frodo fixes the mistakes of the past by destroying the Ring.  The past is known.

That's not the case in many of my influences for this setting.  The aforementioned Lynch books have mentions of the Elderen.  All we know about these people is they left Elderglass -- indestructible glass with varying degrees of strange properties.  In the first book, for example, the Elderglass of Camorr, which is woven into much of the city's buildings, retains the sunlight for a few hours, extending dusk with a soft glow.  Elderglass shows up as an entire island in the second book, but is also used in arms and armor.  It's old, it's indestructible, but we never learn anything about it or the beings that created it, at least not yet.  And if the books reveal that sort of information at some point, I think I will be a little disappointed. 

Another one of my major influences, which I am sure I'll talk about soon, also has ancient technological advances as part of its history.  It's central to the setting.

I'd really like to include this sort of element, but can't quite decide how.  Is it going to be window dressing, like the lamp post?  Or should it be something more central?

3 comments:

  1. I'm still trying to get a sense of how pseudo-historical this is going to be be, but my immediate thought is that the Vikings vs. Barbary Pirates thing is really a conflict between far-future post-apocalyptic cultures with vestigial memories of ancient maritime raiders. To most appearances, the world would resemble a late-medieval/pre-modern Mediterranean with fantasy elements. But there would be occasional artifacts from various historical (and ahistorical) eras.

    That, or there are reality quakes or banestorms that bring in these anachronisms.

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  2. I hadn't really thought of the world as post-apocalyptic Earth, though given an idea I just had for the map, that may be the direction I am headed.

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  3. As far as the questions go, I would say it depends on what the players are interested in. Maybe they want to be archaeologists of mysteries.

    Personally, I would rather play in an altered history than a post-apocalyptic setting, but that is just my tastes.

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