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 World-building in EQ

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Wisp

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PostSubject: World-building in EQ   Thu Mar 17, 2016 1:21 pm

I'm not sure if there are any Harry Potter fans on here or if anyone has been following the recent furor having to do with JK Rowling's use of indigenous American cultural and religious concepts in her latest writing. Basically, she's trying to expand her world-building beyond the UK and into North America and doing a pretty hamfisted job of it (IMO). What it underlined, for me, was that not all world-building functions equally well at every scale. I enjoyed Harry Potter very much as a fantastical riff on a British boarding school story, but the universe always felt a little flimsy whenever JKR gestured towards European history, countries outside the UK, etc. The system of government she created never made much sense, her grasp of history was always a little squishy--basically, she accomplished incredible world-building at a small/intermediate scale, but it wasn't the Silmarillion. Some fictional universes work best (or only work) on a limited conceptual, geographic, or historical scale, and I absolutely do not mean that as a criticism.

There are genius elements to the EQ world-building. The whole concept of recognition springs to mind. And yet FQ has really dismantled and muddied recognition as a concept for me. I have no problem with Ember and Teir deciding to suppress recognition with the help of the healers. That tells us something interesting about Ember's character, and it still comports with the "rulebook" on recognition. Ember's sudden ability to unilaterally "turn-off" the demands of recognition is a real problem for me, however. That's a fundamental alteration of our assumptions about what's possible within the bounds of the EQ universe.

The move to categorize Cutter and Skywise's relationship as recognition has also muddied the concept for me. Way back when, W&R used to talk about recognition as an undeniable urge to mate arising from the "reptile brain"--the spiritual communion aspects were pretty clearly secondary to the baseline reproductive compulsion. I still don't understand how "brothers in all but blood" (which I definitely accept as having a sexual dimension despite the squickiness of the "brother" terminology,) transformed into "recognition which could not be fulfilled because of physical incompatibility." If the bodies aren't compatible, why would recognition ever happen at all? Can't their relationship just be incredibly close? And if we factor in that male Cutter shares a soul with female Timmain, then why didn't Skywise and Timmain's lovemaking automatically lead to fulfillment of recognition? Or if it fulfilled it spiritually, why didn't it fulfill it physically? Fundamentally, I just think there's been a lot of "drift" from the core world-building concept of recognition, and it's make things a lot more squishy and less compelling.

Another example of a core concept of EQ world-building is that the elves are immortal aliens. Even Wolfriders can live forever if they give up their wolfblood. The way this idea was handled at the end of the troll war in OQ was really artful: we found out the truth about the elves' origins, got a glimpse of the high ones and their history, just enough to whet the appetite but not enough to make us think too long or too hard about what eons of existence in the palace actually entailed. But the main characters didn't immediately purge their wolfblood, hop into the palace, and take off for space. No, they returned to the forest and to the physical challenges that made for more exciting stories. FQ is really making me think about the day-to-day reality of immortal life in the palace, and....I'm not sure the world-building stands up to that kind of scrutiny.

You might say another element of the world-building is that, up to this point, both the elves and the humans have been "pre-modern" societies, i.e. no guns. It's interesting to think about how the sudden introduction of gunpowder weapons could (or should) disrupt the balance of power. So far, I haven't been impressed with the outcome, but we'll see what happens when the Djunsmen hit the holt.

I recall W&R saying recently that good storytelling can happen when you break a previously immutable rule in your universe--but you can only break each rule once. So there's only one elf-animal hybrid, one postponed recognition, one split soul, etc. In principle, I totally agree with them. But what happens when you break all the rules in close succession? Do you have an extra-interesting story or are you just standing atop a pile of broken glass?

Not sure if anyone is interested in discussing any of this, but I've been thinking about world-building for a few days and figured I'd throw a few ideas out here.
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PCoquelin

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PostSubject: Re: World-building in EQ   Thu Mar 17, 2016 1:48 pm

I'm afraid many readers do not keep this in mind :
you write because you HAVE to, because you have SOMETHING to tell.


So far, the Final Quest has shown us many interesting turns and approaches, the case of Cutter being the latest and most shocking one.
Long list of events short : the Wolfriders' universe is falling in ruins, and many elves will have to CHOOSE between staying on that world of two moons or going with the Palace, some of them guessing that this will change their lives and themwelves forever.

But what I feel coming is FAR grimmer.

Maybe there won't even be ANY choice.
Perhaps it will be a DESPERATE flight with the Palace.

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