The Big Picture, Part 4: The World of Tomorrow

Foreword:

This post is part of an ongoing series laying out essential elements for understanding both the complex plot of my epic fantasy, Gods Among Men, and the byzantine plans of its protagonist, the wizard Damon Roth.

Here are links to earlier posts in this series.

The World of Today

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I see Gods Among Men as being set on earth in the very distant future.  At some point where Arthur C. Clarke’s adage, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” has finally come true.  

In my last post, I explained how in my mythology the faerie world exists, but broke off most contact with humans in our early pre-history.

Adopting this mythology lets me both claim that supernatural entities—and hence supernatural or magical powers—exist, and explain why mankind at our current moment in history would be largely unaware of that fact.

It also, however, begs the following question: From this point, meaning our present, how does our modern society twist and turn to become my fantasy world of the future?  A world that draws heavily on Medieval and Renaissance imagery with Gothic overtones.  A place where Greek mythology and Shakespearean tragedies are plot elements in a battle of wills between the protagonist, Damon Roth, and the antagonist Demiurge.  The kind of world where spacecraft coexist with spellcraft.

Where Do We Go From Here

It is my belief that certain trends in mankind’s past will continue into the future.  First and foremost, there will be scientific and technological progress.  Mankind will learn more about biology, genetics, physics, and a host of other subjects.  Computer technology will advance, as will space travel, engineering, and the like.

Take these assumptions forward an indefinite period of time; a thousand years or more, tens of thousands if need be.  What might be possible at the furthest reaches of these broad trends?

In my mythology, in the far future there will be practical space travel within the solar system.  There will be many colonies on asteroids, moons, and planets that are functionally self-sustaining. 

Nanotechnology is perfected and able to operate down at the atomic and possibly sub-atomic level. 

Genetic engineering has reached the point where building custom life forms from scratch is possible if one has the right tools. 

The differences between quantum mechanics and relativity theory have been resolved, and we have discovered how to draw vast amounts of energy from the universe itself.  (Or from alternate universes or parallel dimensions or the space between universes or some other techno-babble explanation.  The details here are not important. What matters is that there is nearly unlimited energy that can be tapped and converted to a myriad of uses.)

The Daemons in these Details

But I do not have a utopian view of the future.  There are now, and will continue to be, those who oppose progress of the nature I describe.  We have terrorist and dictators now who seek to disrupt the stability and peace of our world.  Who, if given a chance, would cast us into a dark age. 

I doubt the current batch of thugs have much chance of success, but suppose that desire continues to burn in one form or another for generation after generation.  Suppose evil itself has a form, perhaps intangible, that will return over and over, searching for a way to break the foundations of civilization. 

In my mythology, at the very height of our technological prowess, those who would do great harm found a way to do so.  A way beyond their imaginations or ability to control.  These evil men and women destroyed themselves, and unleashed forces that sent earth spiraling into a new dark age. One which isolates people on earth from their brethren in the space colonies. 

In the process, the destroyers of civilization unleashed Daemons on the world of tomorrow.

Daemons are hybrid humans whose descendants will be called Wizards because of the powers they command which appear to be magical.  Powers rooted in the merger of quantum mechanics, relativity theory, computer science, nanotechnology, biology, and genetic engineering.

I shall go into further details about daemons in a later post.  One point worth noting is that my antagonist, Demiurge, is the last and most powerful of the original daemons.  At the height of his power his name became synonymous with the honorific people hailed him by: God Among Men.

What Is Important To Damon Roth?

The events leading up to the fall of the scientific and technological civilization give rise to the magic that permeates my story.  In a later post I will detail the scientific nature of magic in my mythology, and how its creation resulted in the new dark age.  The key point right now is that Damon Roth and Demiurge are the only characters who have knowledge about the true nature of magic.  This knowledge allows both of them to control people and events in ways impossible for anyone else.

Damon also has detailed information about how the societies on earth and in the space colonies developed.  He knows the strengths and weaknesses in both, understands their history and goals, and is prepared to bend both to his will.

Damon’s plan to confront the future threat he knows of requires those on earth and those in space to unite with elves and other races.  Both humans on earth and those in space must agree to abandon their existing governments and social structures and adopt new ones of his creation.  Damon gives each side the chance to do so willingly, knowing their leaders will refuse.  After their refusal, Damon violently destroys those who oppose him, saving those who are more amendable to his plans.

The details of what happened to those on earth and those in space are important, and beyond the scope of this post.  Later posts in this series will explain what happened to each and how their respective experiences are needed for the survival of humanity and the rest of life on earth.

And On Another Note…

I am approaching the complex hub of my mythology.  The events that foreshadow the tale I am trying to tell in Gods Among Men. Many times in this article I have had to use a phrase like, “In a later post I will explain…”  This is because there is much information that I developed in fits and starts over many long years.  Details which I have never formally expressed in spoken or written words. 

I hope I am clear in my explanations, and the world I describe understandable.  I believe this exercise helps me order my thoughts and answers my own questions about my own work. 

It does take a long time to write these posts, however.  Much longer than it took to write most of my earlier posts.  The amount of time I spend actually writing and editing on Gods Among Men has decreased dramatically in recent weeks. 

I may need to intersperse some smaller, less complicated topics amidst this exploration of my mythology.  But I don’t want to stop writing on this subject out of fear that the clarity I have been blessed with recently will fade if I do.  I am uncertain how to resolve this quandary, so I will have to wait and see where inspiration leads me next.

Until next time, have fun.

Analysis of My Opening Paragraph: Part 3

Today I am continuing my narcissistic and self-indulgent analysis of my opening paragraph. In Part 1 of this analysis I established the pattern of focusing upon the symmetrical relationship between the opening and closing lines. I continued this pattern in Part 2 where I focused upon the second line and its relationship to the next to last sentence. Today I will continue first by looking at the third sentence and the matching second-to-last sentence. Assuming I don’t bloviate too much, I will conclude by looking at the fourth, and middle, sentence in the paragraph.

For ease of reference, here again is the paragraph in question:

Damon Roth built a grand house. An extensive foundation supported mighty oak limbs that reached skyward, unwavering in their duty, holding soaring gables aloft through the centuries. Wide windows were the manor’s great eyes, searching in all directions from behind a gothic countenance. Color-stained eyes framed the world in a kaleidoscope of possibilities. Clear eyes actualized only one: a well-maintained garden of flowers and shrubs, a manicured lawn sloping gently away, and a resplendent thicket of trees that concealed the mansion from the world. Only the central tower, covered in a spider-web of vines, was tall enough to break the barricade of trees. From there Wizard Roth changed himself by changing the world.

And the sentences I will be focusing on first are:

Wide windows were the manor’s great eyes, searching in all directions from behind a gothic countenance. … Clear eyes actualized only one: a well-maintained garden of flowers and shrubs, a manicured lawn sloping gently away, and a
resplendent thicket of trees that concealed the mansion from the world.

In Part 1 of this analysis I established that the paragraph, and by implication the entire story, is about my protagonist, Damon Roth. I inform the reader that Gods Among Men is an epic fantasy whose central character is willing and capable of challenging the established order to achieve a personal goal.

In Part 2 I explained my use of personification to link to older literary genres, most notably Medieval, Renaissance, and Victorian. I established that everything said about the house as if it were a person is in fact a comment on Damon Roth.

With that thought in mind, consider the phrase, “Wide windows were the manor’s great eyes”. The image of the manor’s windows as eyes links to Damon’s eyes. By implication this links to his vision of the world, both as he sees it now and how he thinks it should be.

This leads to “searching in all directions”. On the surface it says the windows face in every direction from the house. Underneath, by personification, it implies Damon is searching for something. Saying he is searching in all directions carries hints of uncertainty. Does Damon really know what he is looking for? Would he recognize it if he found it? Does he have an idea where it might be, or is he flailing about hoping to stumble across what he wants?

In the sentence “from behind a gothic countenance” we again are given a visual image of the house as a European Gothic manor. This style of architecture begins in 12th-century and lasts into the 16th century, again pushing a Medieval and Renaissance image of the novel’s culture. The sentence also continues the theme of linking to literary genres such as Victorian era Gothic novels.

Given that I am writing a fantasy novel, it is fair to assume that the Gothic reference links to Gothic horror. To be honest, I have always loved the imagery contained in well-written Gothic horror, so I will admit it does strongly influence the direction I am taking my story.

Gothic horror does not focus upon what I refer to as “horror porn”, i.e. an excess of gore and violence. Rather it focuses upon psychological and physical terror, mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses. The characters of Gothic fiction tend toward being tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femme fatales, madwomen, magicians, monsters, demons, angels, fallen angels, the beauty and the beast, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, the Wandering Jew, and the Devil himself.

All of these elements are ones I try, with varying degrees of success, to include in Gods Among Men. With the phrase “a gothic countenance” I am informing the reader of the types of characters and storylines that they may reasonably expect to see throughout the epic.

Moreover, and more specifically, this phrase is a comment upon Damon Roth. He is a Gothic character. In point of fact, he has many of the characteristics of a Byronic hero, though that will only become obvious as the story develops.

Moving on, the second to last sentence begins with “Clear eyes actualized only one”. The eyes are the manor’s windows, so clear eyes are the clear windows; i.e. those that are clear panes of glass. Symbolically they are Damon’s eyes, his vision of the world as it is and should be.

With the word “actualized” a new dimension is added to the story. The word “actualize” literally means make something real and give it substance. Therefore “Clear eyes actualized only one” symbolically means “Damon’s vision of how the world should be is clear and he will make that vision reality”.

The first two parts of the remainder of the sentence are “a well-maintained garden of flowers and shrubs, a manicured lawn sloping gently away”. This is an image of controlled beauty, of life, of an ordered world. Damon’s plans are not to destroy, but to promote life. He is not seeking chaos, but to establish a new order.

The final portion of the sentence is “a resplendent thicket of trees that concealed the mansion from the world.” As I said in Part 2 of this analysis:

Forests, particularly in Medieval and Renaissance literature, were often used as a metaphor for the world or mankind as a whole. Therefore this sentence establishes Damon’s relationship to the world and the rest of humanity.

Ergo, since the mansion is concealed from the world so is Damon. He is alone, isolated, outside. He is separate from the world that surrounds him. He is unseen, and therefore unexpected.

I conclude now with the central sentence in the paragraph. The one with no symmetrical partner and which therefore stands alone. The sentence:

Color-stained eyes framed the world in a kaleidoscope of possibilities.

Once again I return to the image of the manor’s windows as eyes. “Color stained eyes” literally means “windows stained with color” which in turn implies stained-glass windows. This is foreshadowing for later when Damon goes to his casting chamber and begins to cast as powerful spell. All the windows he passes before he gets to the casting chamber are clear glass, clear eyes. The casting chamber has stained-glass windows, eyes stained with color. This sentence becomes a comment upon Damon’s use of magic to examine all the possibilities of what could be, of how the world might be. The word kaleidoscope carries special significance because it translates to mean “looking at beautiful forms”. The sentence as a whole therefore means Damon uses his spells to examine all the possibilities for the way the world could be beautiful to him. From all these possibilities he chooses one, and forces the world to conform to that vision.

This brings us to the end of my analysis. There is more that I see in the paragraph, but I have already written far more about it that I originally intended to. Perhaps no one else will read this in its entirety, but this has been a useful exercise for me. Writing this analysis forced me to put into words the ideas I have never articulated well before. In any event, now when someone asks why I am reluctant to change this one paragraph I can point to this analysis and say, “Here are my reasons.”

Analysis of My Opening Paragraph: Part 2

This is a continuation of my personal analysis of my opening paragraph. The idea being to put into words what I see when I read it and explain why I am so reluctant to modify this one paragraph, despite advice to the contrary.

For ease of reference, here again is the paragraph in question:

Damon Roth built a grand house. An extensive foundation supported mighty oak limbs that reached skyward, unwavering in their duty, holding soaring gables aloft through the centuries. Wide windows were the manor’s great eyes, searching in all directions from behind a gothic countenance. Color-stained eyes framed the world in a kaleidoscope of possibilities. Clear eyes actualized only one: a well-maintained garden of flowers and shrubs, a manicured lawn sloping gently away, and a resplendent thicket of trees that concealed the mansion from the world. Only the central tower, covered in a spider-web of vines, was tall enough to break the barricade of trees. From there Wizard Roth changed himself by changing the world.

In Part 1 of this analysis, I focused upon the symmetrical relationship between the opening and closing lines. i.e.

Damon Roth built a grand house. … From there Wizard Roth changed himself by changing the world.

I summarized this relationship as follows:

With just the opening and closing sentences, the reader has been told this is an epic fantasy whose central character is willing and capable of challenging the established order to achieve a personal goal.

The opening and closing lines of this paragraph are symmetrical in that they focus upon a central theme. Who is Damon Roth? What is he planning? When is he going to act? Where is he at? Why is he doing the things he does? How far will he go to achieve his goals? The rest of a story is to answer these questions.

I will now focus on the second line and the next to last line. Here they are together.

An extensive foundation supported mighty oak limbs that reached skyward, unwavering in their duty, holding soaring gables aloft through the centuries. … Only the central tower, covered in a spider-web of vines, was tall enough to break the barricade of trees.

In the paragraph’s first sentence I introduced Damon Roth and his house and established the house as a statement about Damon’s nature. In the second line I begin to flesh out the metaphor. I also start to establish a relationship to older literary genres. This connection to the other genres culminates in the next to last sentence.

In the paragraph’s first sentence, I establish that Damon built the house. With the first words of the second sentence, “An extensive foundation”, I establish, subtly I hope, that Damon works on a large scale. That his plans are “extensive” and have a strong “foundation”.

The relationship to older literary genres begins with “supported mighty oak limbs”. It was quite common in older genres to indulge in personification, i.e. an ontological metaphor where an inanimate object is presented as if it were a person. The object in the metaphor becomes a statement about the person.

“Mighty oak limbs” directly refers to the timbers Damon used to build his house, but indirectly indicate that Damon is a person of great strength, vitality, and power. “oak”, in particular, is a symbol of strength, durability, protection, longevity, and re-birth. All characteristics I will associate with Damon throughout the story.

With “reach skyward” I imply several things, again with subtle intent, about Damon. Directly I and still talking about the beams and timbers used to build the house. Indirectly I am saying Damon is reaching for something, that he is looking up to some lofty goal. The word “skyward’ itself carries several implications. His plans reach beyond the earth to encompass the whole of creation. Damon is reaching toward heaven, thus implying either a desire to be good, or to be God, or both. It carries the hint of his intent to become (partially) divine by becoming the God Among Men.

The phrase “unwavering in their duty” is simple. The house is still standing, and Damon will not falter in his quest, no matter the cost or burden he must bear.

The phrase “holding soaring gables” gives a physical image of the house. It implies a style of architecture that began in European countries and establishes cultural image of a Medieval/Renaissance/Victorian type of society. This is quite common in modern fantasy and gives the reader a touchstone of what to expect as more details of the society and culture are presented.

With “aloft through the centuries” I establish, for the first time, that this is not a new house. That it is very old and has withstood the test of time. It has successfully survived storms and resisted decay. Since the house is a metaphor for Damon, he too is centuries old and has survived adversity and resisted decay.

Skipping down to the next to last sentence, we begin by concluding the description of the house started in the second sentence. “Only the central tower,” again underscores the image of a European style manor or castle, one with at least two wings, and a tall tower in the center. Since the metaphor, and the entire paragraph, is about Damon, the “central tower” must be “central” to Damon’s personality and plans. The tower is a reflection of him in a fundamental way.

With that thought in mind, consider the phrase “covered in a spider-web of vines,”. A spider-web symbolizes so much it is hard to list them all. Damon is the spider, at the center of the web, sensing the slightest tremor that effects his plans. He ensnares the unwary. In much of literature the spider carries an evil connotation, but it is the spider that traps and kills many of the insects that plague mankind and carry deadly diseases. The spider is cunning, patient, hardworking, skillful, and a lethal foe that poses no harm to those that it cannot consume and do not threaten it. All characteristics I want the reader to see in Damon.

I connect again to older genres with the phrase “was tall enough to break the barricade of trees.” The “barricade of trees” refers to the forest surrounding Damon’s house that was established in a previous sentence. Forests, particularly in Medieval and Renaissance literature, were often used as a metaphor for the world or mankind as a whole. Therefore this sentence establishes Damon’s relationship to the world and the rest of humanity. This image is joined with the tower which is a reflection of Damon.

The tower is taller than everything around it, just as Damon is a larger character than all those who will surround him throughout the story. The image of the tower breaking the barricade of trees expresses his desire to be larger than humanity as a whole. To transcend his own humanity and become the God Among Men.

I spent a long time thinking about each word in this paragraph. I struggled with how it fit into literary traditions, and what it said about my world and my protagonist. Perhaps it is foppish arrogance to see all this in my own work, but I am trying to write something I hope touches on greatness. I do not claim to have achieved greatness, but it is the goal I set for myself. If I fall short it is because of a lack of talent, not a lack of desire or effort.

In my next post I will continue dissecting my personal views of the remainder of the paragraph. I will try to be briefer next time, but my own verbosity will no doubt assert itself as it did this time. Until next time, have fun.