Eirie: eerie and fantastic … the art (or not) of world-building
I am well into the writing of the fourth novel of the world of Eirie. One of the hardest things has been to create a world that many would believe in, would be able to relate to. My image of my world was always inside my head, made up of the choicest of views and places that I had visited through the years. But somehow I had to place it on paper and have you believe that you could see what I see, survive there if you had to.
The difference between my world and our world is that Eirie is overlaid, underlaid and woven through with the Other world. At all times and in each of the provinces, Others; enchanted beings like the Færan or Siofra, hobs and merrows (and a thousand others from legends of our own world); merge and mingle, causing malicious mayhem before retreating to their secret places within Eirie. Till now the story of Eirie has shown little of the Other worlds, as though Others dragged at my pen for fear of what I might say. But in the fifth novel, I am fairly sure we shall be meeting a cartographer who shall cross through the cloak that veils those Other worlds and we shall see him taking his chances.
Till now my world-building has shown little geo-politics, something critics have found wanting. My comment is this: this is a story about characters, about what happens to those characters. The arc that the characters follow is never driven by some nebulous Venichese Doge’s political ambition or the Baron of Pymm’s mild mannered management of his archipelago, but by interaction with Others who help and hinder them in their journey. To be frank, life goes on for my characters in one way or another, whether the Doge, the Baron, His Bright Light in the Raj or the Emperor of Han sneezes, scratches himself or passes a law. Such detail which works for many, doesn’t work for me and I prefer not to drag my own characters through it.
What I love about world-building is the freedom to create rivers, forests, mountain ranges, villages, oceans, even celestial byways and to name them the way I wish. I use names that exist, some that might resonate and be familiar. But I never make up names. Again it’s something that works for others but ill-fits me. Tolkein is an icon and he managed it par excellence. Why would I even try? My names are now synonomous with my world, with a toe in the world of fantasy and reality. The most recent editorial report describes the path I’ve taken as magical realism and I’m immensely happy with that. Never have two words meant such a lot.
I admire the many fantasy worlds created by the most highly regarded of our fantasy writers but the ones I love the best come from my childhood, from legend told by heavens knows how many mouths. Tales from the riverbank or from the willows. From the wild oceans. From soaring minarets and ochre deserts. They have names I know, that are familiar, that may even exist . We all write differently, we all have different imaginations. This is just one writer’s view of a world . . .
ooo, thanks for this teaser for the books to come! love the map!
Vvb 32 Hi! Haven’t talked for ages. I’m sweating on this new book, I can’t begin to tell you and yet I believe it will be almost summer your time before I can say definitively if it will be published mainstream or independently.
You say “Till now my world-building has shown little geo-politics, something critics have found wanting. My comment is this: this is a story about characters, about what happens to those characters. The arc that the characters follow is never driven by some nebulous Venichese Doge’s political ambition or the Baron of Pymm’s mild mannered management of his archipelago, but by interaction with Others who help and hinder them in their journey. To be frank, life goes on for my characters in one way or another, whether the Doge, the Baron, His Bright Light in the Raj or the Emperor of Han sneezes, scratches himself or passes a law. Such detail which works for many, doesn’t work for me and I prefer not to drag my own characters through it.”
I say: same here! 😉 My character-oriented novels don’t bother with the main geo-politics of the world, usually. And I avoid wars as much as I can – not good enough to write them…
And I enjoy your writing as is, don’t change it! 😀
Thank you Barb. It’s nice to have another writer agree with me over this issue. Much of what turns me off mainstream fantasy is the wretched (and boring detail) of politics and the law. If it advances the plot for sure its vital. But if it has no bearing on the character’s arc, I can’t see the point.
But that’s, as I said, just my opinion.
I suspect that fantasy novels with elaborate world-building detail are written to appeal to the lucrative 18-24 yr. old male gamer market. In creating a world with a sentient non-human race, you write book for readers interested in humanity.The few details of Eirie you provide are so illuminating and intense that they follow the same rules for visual design. Everything placed in proportion, a balance between just enough and not too much, make a few details carry as much weight as possible, and plenty of white space. Your books are also written for artists.
I’m so glad Gervais might get his own novel – I have a proprietary interest in him, since I did his first map. And seeing more of the Other world is the dream of every fan, of course.
And with apologies to Barb, may your writing always change – for the better
I hadn’t thought of the Gaming market, Pat. You could well be right and it certainly gives those authors another potential form of income.
My main concern would be that there is not too much white space, just enough to give the imagination a break when it needs it. And as to books for artists . . . yes, yes, yes! I scored there and am delighted!
Gervais is still there . . . waiting, tapping his fingers. He’s remarkably patient. His life scares me a little. I don’t know where that comment that he will go into the Other worlds came from. Certainly not from my rational head. To be able to create the Other Worlds without making them similar and cliched will be . . . hard!
And re you and Barb . . . I shall try very hard to please you both.
I’ve never much liked fantasy that deals a lot with the politics of the world. If I wanted a political thriller I wouldn’t be reading fantasy.
I couldn’t agree more! But it is often a requirement of world-building to have such things revealed. But not for me, that’s for sure!
I think perhaps that I’m your opposite in this. I tend to create the great geo-political situation and then drop characters into it like a ball on a pinball table. I have to slope it right so the characters end up where they should be, but it’s the random twangs and boings in between that I enjoy.
Yes, but Si, your novels are dependent on a geo-political backdrop. It’s why your characters do what they do. A centurion in Gaul wouldn’t be a centurion in Gaul without Rome’s geopolitical outlook. And your random twangs and boings are amazing! Look at how well Marius’s Mules sold and how Fantasy.Book.Critic (Liviu) LOVES your work!
Mine are slightly different. A woman embroidering a robe in which she will hide secret miniature journals, paperweights that conceal charms, a cloth woven with a crucial message in the warp and weft. No politics there. Vastly different.