A guest blog by James A Moore
So one of the nicest surprises I’ve run across in a long time is the sheer number of people who think I’ve done a good job of building the world of Fellein. It certainly is a complex enough place, what with a gathering of gray-skinned killing machines in the east, pirates all around and cities large and small to consider along the pathways of what has only, to date, been roughly a third of the continent.
The land has been seeded with places that are sometimes only mentioned and threats that have, apparently, been vanquished here and there along the way. One of the largest complaints, by the way, has been the appalling lack of a map. I’m working on that last part. Honest. I should have something to show you sooner than later.
Something that has been mentioned a few times, but not in detail, is the level of history that I’ve worked on establishing. Mind you, that hardly makes me unique, but it is something I find fascinating. History is what shapes us, after all. How can I shape a world without knowing what has gone before?
The thing is, I know what happened. What I and every other author have to decide is how much of that information to share? How much will be enough without being too distracting? Too little and you have a shell. Too much and you wind up with your main characters and story getting lost in the shuffle.
Part of how I handled that was by mentioning past events in passing. I have several characters discussing the Cataclysm, the event that led to the creation of the Blasted Lands, but I never actually give exact details about what happened. There actually are reasons for that. First, actual dates and times being recited quickly becomes an exercise in boredom. I’ve studied several times in history vigorously when researching different projects and, even when I’m utterly fascinated by an event, if all you give are dates and a brief description of events I find the subject matter can bog down the thought processes. Do you really want to know the entire history of how canning foods came about in order to make mention of the fact that there were canned goods on a wagon train? No. I might need to know, but I don’t need to know the exact trial and error process that started the entire canned food industry unless I’ve decided to write a book on the subject.
I find it enough to know that canned meats were available and that some of the cans were shaped in interesting ways, like as pyramids, or roughly the same shape and size as a whole leg of a cow.
The same is true of every facet of a history. I make mention of the Wellish Steppes, a desolate enough location at the edge of the Blasted Lands. I also mention the following facts: the Wellish Overlords once almost took over the whole of Fellein before being beaten back. The Overlords are buried in a location in the Steppes that has been marked by several very large rocks. Oh, and the Overlords may or may not actually still be alive under the weight pressing down on them.
I know the rest of the story. I know that the Sa’ba Taalor, for example, have met the Wellish Overlords and that they fought them at the same time as the Fellein Empire. I also know that they did not win their battle.
I make mention of that in passing in the third book. It is not a direct statement, but if you look for the clues that information is there.
I mention several possible origins for the Blasted Lands. I also mention the location of Korwa, and I point out that a thousand years after the fact, no one can say for certain what caused the war that led to the Cataclysm. And that is almost true. I know. No one else is certain. The reasons are simple enough: the truths of the world are hidden by perception, folklore and time. There is the history of a world and then there is the distortion of that history. The Sa’ba Taalor firmly believe that they know how Korwa fell, and who was responsible. They have founded a great deal of their culture on that belief. The Fellein Empire is more likely to refer to the Cataclysm and then guess about what truly happened, because as a people they were focused on different things. They had cities to build and other groups that needed to be convinced as to exactly who was in charge.
The truth is malleable. Did George Washington really cut down a cherry tree and confess his sin? Did he truly go unpunished? What about those wooden teeth of his? How did JFK really die? How many people were involved in his assassination? Often times, when a people decided that an event is significant enough, they will investigate the answers as to what happened and, despite massive breakthroughs in modern technology, learning the truth is often a game of guesswork and supposition.
Once upon a time the dinosaurs were all reptilian and cold blooded. Then researches did more work and started carving the secrets away from the suppositions. Careers were founded on the beliefs that came around with the discovery of the first skeletal remains and the secrets they revealed. Along the way, those unexpected bones have caused endless discussions and arguments between philosophers, teachers, politicians and theologians. To this day there are folks who will argue that dinosaurs never existed, and others who claim they were there, but they died out only a few thousand years ago. The words of a few modern scholars do not hold the same weight as the words written down and held as sacred for a thousand years.
How much of the history of a world is revealed is up to the author, but without a strong foundation to work from, Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Lewis’s Narnia would be very different worlds than the ones we’ve enjoyed.
About James A Moore
James A Moore is an award winning author of over twenty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Deeper, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) and his most recent novels Alien, Sea of Sorrows as well as Seven Forges series: Seven Forges, The Blasted Lands, City of Wonders and the forthcoming sequel The Silent Army.
He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.
James cut his teeth in the industry writing for Marvel Comics and authoring over twenty role-playing supplements for White Wolf Games, including Berlin by Night, Land of 1,000,000 Dreams and The Get of Fenris tribe. He also penned the White Wolf novels Vampire: House of Secretsand Werewolf: Hellstorm.
Moore’s first short story collection, Slices, sold out before ever seeing print.