New World Ordering

16 06 2009

Building a plausible fantasy world is tough.

Building a plausible fantasy world on the smoking ruins of Earth is a LOT harder. No matter how many years you remove yourself from present day, you’ll always get something wrong in your armchair sociology… ether factually wrong, or wrong by interpretation. “X couldn’t have happened in Y manner because of Z,” and all.

So when I sat down to write this whitepaper about the world of anachronauts, I decided not to worry the finer details and just sketch out some crazy-ass fantasy future. I can never claim to get the kind of exacting detail that leads us from A to B as was done in great books like World War Z, and by and large, most of this isn’t even going to come out in the story itself. It just provides the backdrop, the launching pad to go from.

Hope it works. Read on if you’re curious. Some spoilers ahoy, but I’ve cut out portions that relate to the overall series plot that’s currently in the works. At the very least, most of this would be revealed within the first three chapters, easily (particularly since jetpack girl would be talkative).

I’ll be making a full website with this and the earlier vingette at the link above later.

EDIT: I should emphasize… this is a VERY rough draft. It’s almost literally my mind poured out on paper, just jotting things down as I came up with them. I’m also considering alternative pitches, which run in reverse — the Pandora Event dumping humanity on another world, instead of dumping inhumanity on our world, or something completely different. The closer we are to Earth the more research I have to do and the more holes people can poke in the concept, so we’ll see what this eventually shakes out as. Consider this a first attempt and feel free to leave comments on what’s nonsensical and what’s intriguing.

EDIT #2: Okay. I’ve figured out how to make this work with minimal changes. Even if I get some details wrong, even if someone armchair’s a theory that my ideas are implausible, it’ll all work in the end. I can’t say WHY, though.

I’ll also note in bold edits after each bit where I’m rethinking things.

EDIT #3: If you’re reading this right now, you should know that I’ve jettisoned a good portion of this and revamped other bits and will probably rethink along the way. Don’t expect anything here to actually resemble the final product, especially the stuff about Westusa and the Orbitals. Still, it serves a purpose as a historical document, a first draft.


HISTORY

Once upon a time, there was the Earth, and it was good. It was modern, albeit not universally modern due to class and wealth and other factors, but for sake of arguement it could be considered modern. There was electricity and plumbing and cars and bullets and tanks and the Internet.

The Pandora Event changed that. Scientists still don’t know how or why, but for some reason, creatures of myth and forklore simply… appeared, in our world. The majority of them quite keen on laying claim to it, in fact, as the tribes of ogres and goblins and the faerie courts waged war right out of the gate. According to interrogated prisoners from the Event, they were just as surprised at the Event as we were, but quickly adapted to this new world by sword and blood and spell all the same. Panic and confusion along with the random seeding throughout the territories of man gave them the initial advantage in the Pandora War.

The Pandora War, humanity versus inhumanity, did not go well. Our weapons weren’t designed to take on the anatomies of these strange beasts. Our communications networks were too easy to disrupt by hexes and curses. Nuclear weapons were used by some of the more panicky nations, only to find they’d created a breeding ground for creatures that thrived in radioactive environments. And with the enemy spread out evenly amoungst us, there was no one front to the war, no one direction the invaders were coming in. They were simply everywhere, all at once.

In America, with communications down and cities under siege, pulled back to its shores. Here, the urban and suburban sprawl along the east and west coast provided a good bulkhead against the armies of creatures that spread through the heartland. Focus was turned to securing what nearly amounted to the 13 original colonies and the California gold rush, outlawing magics that humans had started to play around with, and assigning military units called Frontliners to watching over the withdrawn borders to prevent incursion. As for the west coast, presumably it thrived as an alternative seat of power for America, but getting a message across thousands of miles of fantasy-race controlled territory was extremely difficult.

Later, after mankind endured generations in stagnation and isolation, the slow trickle of rebuilding and growing outward begun. The newcomer races had carved out their own niches, now warring with each other as much as they war with humanity — providing enough distraction to establish desperately needed rural villages, to start gathering resources and salvaging abandoned cities. In some cases, peace treaties were signed between the occupiers and the natives, establishing a myriad of roadways and settlements that carefully skirted around contested territory. In others, settlers simply snuck away from human governed lands, armed to the teeth and determined to realize their dreams of an independent settlement.

The end result, an untold number of years after the Pandora Event, is a hodgepodge. Major world powers clustered around their old turf, guarding it jealously and clinging to history, scrounging for whatever they can to survive. Newcomers settling kingdoms of their own, some peaceful, others not quite as such. And humanity starting to merge and mix and blend with the new state of the world, no matter the risks, in a desperate attempt to move forward instead of relying on centuries old technology.

THE WORLD (specifically the politics and general tone of each faction)

Much of the world remains a mystery. The old maps can still tell you the shape of the lands (usually) but the composition of them shook up during the Pandora War, and with limited communications, what has become of the deep lands of Africa and Asia remains mysterious. All that matters to this tale is what has become of the land formerly known as the United States of America.

EASTERN STATES OF AMERICA (Eastusa)

The traditional power of the continent, and still quite formidable despite its desperation and refusal to move forward from its early glory days. Eastusa has considerable military power thanks to hoarding and trading for modernized weapons, and training specialized teams of Frontliners out of the remains of the old American military to defend its borders.

The capitol has been moved to New York, after the Faerie queens turned Washington into a floral paradise bereft of all animal life (including the human animals) early in the Pandora War. Baltimore and Boston are used as industrial centers, for shipping from the Old World nations deploying the oceanic divisions of the Frontliners, in newly designed warships designed to keep the tradeways clear of krakens and sea beasts.

New York also serves as the cultural center of Eastusa, a culture primarily concerned with preserving the culture of the past rather than creating much new culture. Fiction and even historical documentaries concerning the newcomer races are not banned, exactly, but are looked down upon — few within the borders of Eastusa want to glamorize the enemy that had nearly pushed them into the Atlantic. This has the unfortunate side effect of keeping the populace from understanding what truly lies outside the borders, leading to plenty of misinformation.

After decades in blackout, the Internet is coming back, albeit in compartmentalized segments. One major network blankets Eastusa; underwater connections to the Old World are available, but slow, and subject to government restrictions in the name of conserving the bandwidth available for official military use. Links to Westusa have been severed.

CULTURAL NOTES: Eastusa is mired in nostalgia of the 20th and 21st century. Sometimes they even get the details right. The pre-Pandora years are considered humanity’s golden age, and by reaching back into the past for fashion and music and style, you’re grasping what this nation was and SHOULD be once again. Although schooling is common and the overall quality of living has smoothed out (rich being slightly poorer and the poor being slightly richer) due to the need to carefully allocate resources, general ignorance about the rest of the world prevails. If it’s outside the borders of Eastusa, it’s a matter for elected officials and the Frontliners, not for common citizens.

THE FRINGE

Fringe settlements have started to rise in the recent decades, sponsored by Eastusa and given Frontliners to defend themselves. Some settlements were established in accordance with treaties with the newcomers, but more often Eastusa simply found an uncontested spot, usually on the grounds of an ancient American city, and set up camp. Rogue cities and settlements from breakaway factions also exist, usually ones who don’t see eye to eye with how Eastusa does things. The rogues either are consumed by the newcomer factions, annexed by Eastusa, are too small to care about, or too well armed to lay claim to.

CULTURAL NOTES: The Fringe is widely varied in nature, with no one common menality. Most Eastusa settlements are rural and agricultural in nature, but suburban styled ones do exist on the edges of major cities. By and large they rely on local mayors our councils of elders, and the Eastusa-sponsored Frontliners to guide their destiny and keep them alive. Some have embraced magic, but most with Eastusa ties have maintained the laws against spellcraft.

THE FAERIE COURT

Unlike the Ogre Tribes or the Goblin Hordes or any number of other race-specific cultures of newcomers, the Faerie Court is quite diverse. Many different species, wildly different in shape and size and mentality, fly under the banner of the fae. At their head are the queens of the Seelie and Unseelie courts, who united in uneasy and unheard of truce during the early phases of the Pandora War.

Of course, the Faerie Court is one of constant infighting and backstabbing and scheming and clever wheels within wheels, which would have kept them from getting any toehold whatsoever on the strange new world they found themselves in — if not for the alliance of queens. Even if Summer and Winter are polar opposites in every respect, they recognize that without some sort of unity, the humans would eat them and their children alive. Together, they had the strength to establish the Court as the dominant force in the midlands of America.

As the years went on, the tenuous alliances weakened, to the point where there’s a constant sense of cold, civil war in the courts. However, the official word is that the alliance is strong, the alliance is forever, the alliance stands against the human animals that would otherwise push unward and purge them from the world.

The main reason the court hasn’t collapsed is the external support from the Old World, where the Fae have set up embassies and even colonies and settlements, finding it much more to their liking than the harsher Americas. They probably would thrive more if they upped stakes and left, but with a more even mix of humans and newcomers, there’d be no room for a fully-stocked Fae nation in that region. The political alliances would have to do.

CULTURAL NOTES: Although the lands of the Faerie Court are not the mutable dreamscape they orginally hail from, vast magics have been used to make the races feel more at home. They tend to gather along racial lines, even if they swear fealty to the Seelie or Unseelie Queen, and build their homes to match. Racism abounds, against other Fae races, against their opposing Queen’s peoples, against man, pretty much against everything. But universally they distrust man and his technologies, and most have bans in place on ironworking and firearms and electronics. Cold iron weaponry can hurt a Fae, but it’s not as lethal as sunlight to a vampire… it’s simply discouraged because it’s useless to them, a tool outside the scope of their use.

EDIT: For purposes mysterious, I’m going to assume ALL the newcomers are in fact various flavors of faerie, even ones based on other cultures. They’re all mysterious creatures of myth and lore and it will make sense in the end why there’s such a huge diversity.

THE OLD WORLD

Europe didn’t exactly fall to the newcomers. For some reason, the lands of Europe felt more homey to the newcomers, more like territory they were familiar with and able to mesh well within. After years of war, exhausting both sides… eventually both human and newcomer alike realized peace was the only way they were going to endure, and they’d just have to make the best of a bad situation. The even saturation of both sides in the war meant sharing the lands with both races.

The newcomers settled in much easier than they had in other lands, and after many, many years, a sort of equality between the peoples have been established. Incidents of racism and strife still occur, and militaries are kept on alert to quash pockets of resistance that could shatter the peace. It’s not a comfortable peace. But it is a peace, and the allied nations of the Old World, human and newcomer, are going to work with it as long as they can.

This has strained ties with the Americas, notably Eastusa and the Faerie Court. Eastusa wants nothing to do with the newcomers and the prevailing attitude is that the European Union (now the Old World) is comprised of cowards and surrender artists. The Faerie Court would really enjoy purging the humans and establishing a pure Fae nation, but in order to appease their allies in the Old World, have to dampen down that language and attempt token gestures of peace.

The mixture of magic and technology in the Old World, as opposed to the hardline mages of the Fae and modernists of Eastusa, have contributed to both the peace and the unrest. With human minds rarely able to sustain powerful magics before breaking under the strain, the occasional wizardly rogue territory has needed to be put down hard by either newcomer or human militaries to keep the peace. Technology has moved slightly forward compared to Eastusa’s stagnation, thanks to magical enhancement, but the progress is slow and bumpy. Although many feel the Old World’s approach is going to ‘win’ in the long run, in the short term, it’s one of contradiction and confusion.

CULUTRAL NOTES: There’s a sort of quiet desperation and yearning for peace over the Old World, to the point where even the most grevious of crimes and misdeeds will be stopped and then go unmentioned by all but some grumpy elders. Nobody wants the situation to fall apart, to descend back into the chaos of the Pandora War. Reaching across the lines for magic and technology is common, and even if most attempts to directly mix them have failed, it’s not uncommon to see a pixie addicted to text messaging on a cellphone, or a medical doctor with an alchemy set.

WESTERN STATES OF AMERICA (Westusa)

Westusa is supposedly hanging on by a thread. Communications are rare, and the bastions of Combined Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle have not had the strength that their east coast counterparts have had. Eventually, communication dried up almost entirely, leaving Eastusa in the dark as to the fate of its western cousins. Some scientists have speculated that a seismic event some one hundred years ago, timed with a light show on the western horizon, signalled the doom of Westusa in some manner — likely, officials speculate, that it fell to the Faerie Court.

The truth of the matter is quite different.

Orbital Arcology #A076 lost control of its drive engine, and plummeted to Earth. Control was recovered soon enough to prevent total devastation, but the impact and resulting death and destruction ruined much of Los Angeles. When the Orbitals emerged from their ruined city-ship, they realized two things. One, they were in immediate danger of violating the laws of cultural interference. Two, that they had grievously wounded an entire race and had a responsibility to help them rebuild.

These two contradictory concepts — don’t get involved in the surface world, versus making amends to the surface world your failure has brought harm to — led to brief but passionate debate. The decision was made… they would split away from the Orbital culture and create a hybrid here on Earth. One that isolated itself from the rest of the world. They would assimilate Westusa and make it into the Suborbital shadow nation, a secret to everyone, and thus both help those they hurt and remain out of the way.

This decision was met with a mixed reaction. Most of Westusa was grateful for the help, as they were struggling to hold on as-is. If going into isolation meant living a high-tech existence of wonder where you never had to want or suffer, so be it. But others refused to cut themselves off from the world, and wandered off, often taking some Orbital technology with them. This tech was tracked down and recovered, and in a move that was kept quiet, memories of the Suborbital nation wiped from those who wandered off. They were free to form fringe settlements, but unable to remember anything other than the destruction of Los Angeles.

Under an illusory veil of force fields and image projectors, showing a ruined city to the outside world, the new hybrid Suborbital race endured. Gradually the humans were fully absorbed, much of their root culture lost, but their languages becoming the new pervasive mode of speaking, mostly as a fashion trend amount Suborbitals. (English, with its many twists and turns, was considered a fine challenge for their poets; Spanish was considered a wonderous language of love, and so on.) Although more humanized than the Orbitals they left behind in the skies, their culture remained about 80% Orbital, and 99% isolated from the world.

CULTURAL NOTES: The culture of the Orbitals applies, with the exception of more compassion for both the humans and newcomers, a penchant for languages, and more focus on arts and culture. The mission of observing a planet until the Orbitals move on to the next one has ended for the Suborbitals; they are here for the duration. Still, there’s a sense of unease about the future, as they know they cannot remain hidden for long, but there’s a strong in-born desire to interfere as little as possible.

EDIT: Okay, completely eating the culture and replacing it with some flavor of Orbital is too much. The Suborbitals are going to be a more even mix of Westusa and Orbital cultures, when presented in story. They’ll still be veiled away for secrecy and security, but definitely will be Orbitals with a more human touch to them. (This also lets me make the Orbitals far colder and aloof, as a side benefit.)

THE ORBITALS

Arriving shortly after the Pandora Event (or shortly before; the record is unclear), the Orbitals vast Arcologies, city-ships miles in diameter, hover over our world indetectable by modern sciences. Their advanced hyperscience makes them almost entirely self sufficient, as they carry out the task of observing our culture through anthropological study. By and large this is done by remote, using sensor arrays and imaging devices, but rare surface excursions do happen — undertaken by trusted scientists, upholding the one law above all others not to interfere in our culture.

And so, they sat. And watched. And watched humanity nearly be wiped out by the newcomers. And watched the nations scrounge and starve and fade and desperately cling to life. Watched wars, unreast, upheaval, tenative peace, settlements, everything. Watching and waiting and waiting…

The existence of the Orbitals is known to a some on the surface. Rumors spread, after all, and excursion teams can’t continue visiting for centuries without some awkward and telling interaction with humanity. Nothing officially confirmable or deniable, and with newcomer races being largely shrouded in misinformation and myth, Orbitals fall nicely into the category of Here Be Dragons.

All in all, putting the right set of rumors together would paint an accurate picture of them… enough for some who believe in their existence to wonder why the hell they aren’t lending a hand, giving us infinite food replicators, or weapons that can be used to wipe out humanity’s enemies. Others wonder why we haven’t pounded them out of the sky with nukes yet. But others see them as helpers, saviors, perhaps even gods with sky-chariots who could come down here and save us all from our wretched existence… and those are the ones that conmen dressed in tinfoil covered suits prey on.

…assuming they ARE conmen. There is such a thing as a rogue Orbital, someone who doesn’t care as much about the law of non-interference as his people do, and sneaks down to Earth to have some fun. One or two have actually gone as far as to form worshipful settlements which revere the Orbital as a sky god. Others just have fun buzzing through human cities in jetpacks, or getting into fights with the locals, or seducing with promises of power and wealth and technology. (A “hey baby, I’m from outer space, wanna do it” sort of seduction, often enough.)

If incontrovertible evidence of the existence of the Orbitals reached the heads of state of the world, there COULD be problems. So, the Orbitals often dispatch cultural enforcement officers to round up rogues and the technology they leave behind. Officers who aren’t quite the enlightened and peaceful scienc-y type their bretheren are, and have no compunction about drastic use of technology to clean up the mess.

CULTURAL NOTES: The Orbitals are not cold and emotionless, but do find many of man’s social mores and customs confusing and at times totally superfluous. Orbital families are formed out of circumstance, emotional attachment, or if all else fails and you haven’t started contributing to the continuation of the species by age 30, genetic compatibility testing followed by arranged partnership. Once partnership is established, the family unit takes on new designations of their own choosing, with children adopting numeric subversion numbers of the parent until time comes to form their own families. …and that’s only one of the many ways in which their day to day living differs from that of races on the surface, which is why only highly trained specialists at human/newcomer culture are allowed to undertake excursions, and even they get it wrong quite often.

EDIT: To contrast the more humanistic Suborbitals, the Orbitals will be more aloof, more rational, more emotionless. It’s a standard scifi trope to have the super-science chariots-of-the-gods types be advanced beyond ‘petty human emotions’ and such, but since this series is an exploration of genre tropes, that does fit.

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8 responses

17 06 2009
cmdr_zoom

1. Why is it always the European fantasy critters that invade? Just once, for novelty’s sake, I think I’d like to see Earth overrun by the beings of Indian or Chinese or Finnish legend.
2. As a citizen of Westusa, I’m a little saddened by its fate. For practical purposes, the illusion might as well be the reality: if all that survives of human culture is the bits the colonists found entertaining, hell, they could have got that by sifting through the ruins before they built over ’em. Sure, the humans were assimilated rather than exterminated like the Midusans, but the end result in both cases is the same – only the newcomers are left.

17 06 2009
lirazel

I don’t know which would be harder, honestly — doing what you’re doing, or doing a Tolkien. And it seems to me that even though the Orbitals look “cleaner”, as it were, there are probably as many ways to do a continuity trip-up with them as with Recorded History. Quite a task you’ve set yourself!
Here’s a question… what happens to all those blends of myth and religious fervor and genuine phenomena that mark the great pilgrimage sites (Guadalupe, Lourdes, Kamakura) when the Pandora Event happens? Do any of the religious artifacts/cultural sites/etc. that have reputed power over magical beings still prevail? What about the notion of Sanctuary?
You may want to be less USA-centric. Vancouver isn’t that far from Seattle. And I don’t think Chicago/Detroit/Toronto or New Orleans/Texas coast would just melt, unless a nuke went off there… But this leads to the problem you speak of; too much stuff to get wrong. I like turning Washington DC into a huge flower-garden, though.
Do the Fae control the weather?
Thoughts like these come all the time, without reason, thought or rhyme…

17 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Odds are there was very little true magic in this world before the Fae got there. Sites of proported magic might not have much effect, or very little. (Or maybe they DO have plenty. But it’s not an area I’m planning to go to, yet.)
I think I’ve figured out how to do this and still avoid trip-ups of contradicting history. I can’t say WHY, though, since it ties into the secret uberplot.
There’ll definitely be some weather effects. You don’t have Summer and Winter as personifications without that. But not likely much from the lower members of the court.

17 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

1. Mostly, it’s a matter of wanting to mesh Dungeons & Dragons / Tolkein style fantasy into the mix. You need Fae or Fae-esque creatures for that. I’m trying to ram three broad-brush pulp genres together — Swords & Sorcery, Military Modern, and Flash Gordon. So, you gotta go with the western cultural flagbearers
2. Now that I’ve hammered out Ye Secret Plotte, I think I’m going to revise Westusa to be more of an even mesh between the two. You’re right, in that it’s a bit excessive to totally eat the area.
I just needed a reason for Jetpack to be a bit of a fish out of water, but I think having her be the daughter of the leader of the former Orbitals of the Arcology would be enough, really. She’d be raised traditionally, and surrounded by the tech-lifestyle of her ancestors. There’s no need to completely consume all of Westusa and rid it of its identity just to get her to be wacky. Plus, the idea of Hypertech powered East LA Lowriders amuses me.
Still, they’ll stay under the veil, for the sake of keeping the world stable. For now.

17 06 2009
ranneko

Agreed, Twoflower may have a USA focus, but really the story is taking place on the North American continent, what happened to the northern neighbours? Especially since the old nation borders have changed, did eastusa break further north or are they hemmed in from the north by some other group?

17 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I’m guessing Canadian cities got wrapped up into Eastusa and Westusa, too. It’s just not a major focus of the story.
Honestly? One of the reasons I’m sticking with what I know is because people banged me hard over Sailor Nothing not being japanese enough. If this isn’t a totally made up planet then I have to stick with the cultural experiences that I know, or I risk pissing people off. I’m already pondering how to handle one episode I was considering putting in Africa. I could put that one in Canada instead, maybe Mexico, to keep it “in the ballpark”.

17 06 2009
ranneko

Probably not a bad plan, once you start adding in better international travel and communication you will have people(like me) asking you what happened to the other continents and countries, not just the local ones.

18 06 2009
storytellersjk

I just love this. Beyond the fact that I am excited to see you working on a pure writing piece again, I also love what you have chosen to write about. I have become enamored during the last few years of the idea mixing high fantasy and sci-fi so what you are developing is right in my wheelhouse.
I am currently in the middle of a novel that I have been writing for the last 2 and half years (up to about 200 pages FYI) that plays with similar ideas (Current day girl goes into suspended animation, wakes up a thousand years later to find the world is now ruled by three great powers: Science, Magic, and Martial Arts. Turns out she is vital to a nasty plot and chaos ensues) that this does and I definitely feel where you are coming from. World building is the hardest part, yet it is also what I enjoy the most. Figuring out the little details and intricacies while sussing out the large facts and elements of the plot can be addictive. I spent nearly a year just on the world building with nothing more than a brief outline for what I intended(and said outline got quickly thrown out and the current plot barely resembles it).
Overall this seems like solid world building. I don’t know if I would green light the tv series yet as it were based on what you have written here but I have enough faith in your writing ability that I’m sure the plot will work itself out. One aspect I might comment is when you say old world does that include the more oriental and Russian parts of Asia or just Europe. Also what about India? I understand that the Americas will be the focus but I am still curious.

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