Saturday, July 12, 2008

World Building: Lakes and Rivers


Lakes and Rivers by anthropology student Sabrina Klein

Economics: The ecology of lakes and rivers does promote trade. The ease of transport along water ways improves the likely hood of travel a great deal. Money systems would develop in cultures that were built up on shores, more often this would happen in lakes. Rivers on the other hand may encourage groups to become nomadic among the river systems. Entire cultures may not follow this model, so it may only be a part of the culture that does.

Language: Language of rivers and lakes would be affected by ecology. River areas are far more than lakes would exhibit an effect on the ecology of the inhabitants both flora and fauna. Rivers tend to have natural geologic boundaries that in a low tech culture could serve to create a language barrier and thereby create a large group of languages or dialects. These dialects have the potential to become isolated over generations of little or no contact with other groups. The language may have the syntax affected in that it may be a slow spoken language with long sounds rather than short sharp ones. The written part would most likely not be pictographic. However the writing would be influenced by the materials at hand to create it. A good example is the papyrus paper of the Nile as opposed to the clay tablets of Sumerian culture.

Kinship & Descent: Stationary residence creates one of two effects. A tight knit community where family is extremely important, or a looser knit group where nuclear family is important and the relationship with extended family is not stressed. The choice of matrilineal or patrilineal could be entirely based on geographic community. Travel between groups may occur therefore differences in viewpoint in descent would occur as communities may be far enough apart.

Leadership & Stratification: Leadership in a culture or grouping of smaller cultures might be formed on several levels. Group coalition in an area where travel between groups is easily achieved might be the most common. Group coalition would be particularly prevalent if the group resides around a lake or group of lakes, and then they may breaks down into smaller groups of clans or tribes. Rivers would make travel a little harder, rivers flow only on direction, making the upriver trip harder. Cultures of a river system may be divided by natural barriers. Rivers, unless they are on floodplains are normally pent up in valleys which over time have been cut through hills or mountains. Natural barriers tend to isolate groups. These natural barriers in turn create smaller groups based on the size of the geographical area in question. Therefore governing systems that apply to smaller groups would best apply here, at least in a low tech culture. In a high tech culture where travel is easier across drastic landscapes the isolation of people is less therefore the idea of small based governments or large based governments would be more flexible. Not to say that just because it’s a low tech culture or group of cultures they are going to be isolated and have a smaller based governmental system… just its more likely. Besides what happens when different small governments meet either conflict or friendship… this still may lead to smaller disagreements.

Religion & Magick: Religion among inland waters would reflect both the ecology surrounding the water as well as the presence of water. It is one of the few ecologies that often blends with another. The significance of the water ways with in the cultures would dictate the significance in the religion.

World-building: In many cultures lakes and rivers hold special supernatural significance. Usually they have connections to the underworld, or to the domain of the gods. Perhaps in this culture they will be cherished as places of purity where none may go whom do not perform cleansing rituals. Some water ways would set aside for religious specialists, yet others would be used for strictly profane practices. Women might be deemed to be unclean if they aren’t married and are of childbearing age and would have to bath here rather than contaminate sacred water with their un-cleanliness. The goddess of water would be a mother goddess to signify the cleanliness of the water. The moon would play a light role as it creates the tide flow, a male god as the character for the moon. In most cultures the moon and the sun are opposite sexes. But perhaps the moon and the sun are brothers in competition for the affection of the water goddess.

Trade would be optimized by the water ways, yet the ecology surrounding the river or lake would also affect economics. Keep that in mind. Rivers are often traveled by many groups which draw languages together, so influence from another culture’s language would be defiantly possible.

Surrounding ecologies would also affect the kinship relationships, and the rivers and lakes would alter how those base ecologies build cultures. Polygamy doesn’t seem likely unless the surround ecology would promote that behavior. If the water ways are taken symbolically into the culture marriage would be extremely important. Rivers running together and lakes as singular bodies, fed by a single tributary or multiple tributaries would affect the rules off marriage where these water ways were considered symbolic of the relationships between the sexes.

If it’s a desert the water ways become essential. Forests with river systems happen frequently, lakes also occur often within woodlands. Wetlands have a symbiotic relationship with lakes and rivers therefore the culture would incorporate them the same way. Rivers found in tundra and taigas are arid climates. Rivers often spring forth from mountain tops where ice melts and flows toward the sea. Lakes in these two areas are cold and freeze over most of the year. Apply the effects of the surrounding ecology to the river and lake systems and then incorporate it into world building cultures accordingly.

World Building: Taiga


Taiga by anthropology student Sabrina Klein  (also see Tundra)

Economy: the economy of the taiga would exist only within the group or groups of an area unless the traders encountered another nomadic group from a climate that was not their own. This climate is very harsh often with an average growing season of 3 months. These areas are often cool with rainfall that doesn’t evaporate. This creates a type of wetland. Trees here grow slowly and are often conifer rather than deciduous. Exports might include furs, but not likely as those would be used by the indigenous peoples. Bone beads might be an export as peoples of this ecology types throw nothing from the hunted kill away. They usually will not kill a young tree. With such a short growing season they are likely to be hunter-gatherers but not nomadic except by season; perhaps not even then, depending upon the availability and the materials used for housing.

Language: The languages would be fairly isolated. Parent language groups might exist but the dialects would evolve on their own; unless groups frequently can into contact with one another.

Social Structure: Leadership of the groups would likely not be in the hands of one individual, but most likely many. Harsh climates tend to produce wither singular leadership with a defined chain of succession or a groups leadership usually consisting of elders or the strongest individuals or both.

Kinship & descent: Kinship in a place like this would be extremely important particularly if the leadership was a hereditary based council of elders. Patriarchal or matriarchal descent patterns would be likely as well as either possibility for naming patters. The nuclear family would be essential to survival and would be held in the highest regard. There may be some care giving system for those nuclear families that have lost the main provider of food. An adoption system that would help the group as a whole survives.

Religion: Animistic cultures would thrive here. Supernatural forces are often used to explain the things with in nature that humankind (or other sentient being) doesn’t understand. It would most likely be safe to say that predators and natural forces would manifest as gods or demons. Some of the most powerful predators would be considered sources of power and deeply respected or feared.

World building: To create in this ecology is a two edged sword. The culture would be steeped in lore and very detailed, but at the same time to an outsider may seem sparse. People here would let nothing go to waste as resources are very limited. There for amenities would not be found as valuable even if they were in a stable living environment such as a permanent structure. Most things of extreme value that may be frivolous would be small even tiny.

Gods and people would be close. Life here is a precarious thing with potential fatality for any moment of stupidity for the one having the stupid moment or those surrounding them. There would be some animals that would become as members of the family; domesticated animals would be cared for with the utmost respect because of their rarity. Parts of nature would hold fearful supernatural entities, yet others would be good helpful. Supernatural forces, each, a reflection of the environment’s inhabitants.

Cold climate would create a reverence for furs, but summer would be fleeting and a thing to be enjoyed. Women of this culture may be just as capable at defending themselves again the natural elements of danger because men may be away for several days at a time on hunting trips to feed the group. They would also be important as the givers of life to the linage of the village. Depending on if the village is matriarchal or patriarchal males or females may take precedence for survival depending on the social structure of the group; which could vary from one small group to the next. Not a universal thing throughout the ecological area. There may even be some ritual surrounding the forced  cultural exogamy need to keep bloodlines from becoming to inter-married.

World Building: Tundra

Tundra by Anthropology Student Sabrina Klein

The tundra is no real place for anyone to live for long period of time without the proper materials. The sun can disappear for months or shine constantly for the same time periods. The solar winds of the sub beat upon the skies to create paintings of light that to lower technologies may seem to be the magic of the heavens. This is a very cold, cold place. When world-building in the tundra this is one ecology where knowing the specifics is very important. For every one degree closer to the equator the timberline will raise 360 feet. It is there for possible to have tundra on the equator but the mountain would have to be extremely high. Vegetation is minimal and the fauna not as diverse as any other ecology. Tundra flora grows very low to the ground due to wind and other restrictive elements.

Economics: Economics of a culture living in tundra would be one trade system. Mining might be an option; usages of the mining tunnels might begin from the expansion of living quarters. Living underground usually has a constant temperature of 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit approximately. If not living in underground environment then hunting for fur would be essential to survival, but would also make an economic basis for trade for goods not obtainable in the tundra.

Language: Language would tend to evolve from the base language brought with them, and/or be part of a larger language group that was spoken by a trading community that hunted over a large area. If they were living in an underground area they may never encounter another language. Their language would remain unchanged with evolution halted or on its own. It may evolve to a point that the parent language may have little or nothing in common with it over many centuries or even as little as decades, usually longer time frames are required to change language that much from the parent vernacular.

Kinship & descent: Kinship in a group such as this would become very important. Small populations would quickly become small because of the universal taboo of incest. Almost all cultures of the world have a taboo against incest. There have been parts of cultures that take part in it, and have paid the price later. Therefore introduction of new bloodlines into the community would be very important. There may be rituals or festivals where groups come together and mass marriage ceremonies are done. This solidifies ties to surrounding communities and serves to keep the genetic pool in a community from getting to small and causing problems.

Organization & leadership: Leadership could be anything. It would most likely depend upon if the group in question was isolated or had contact with others and how much. Isolated groups would lean more toward a highly stratified unity of leadership. While a group with more contacts may be influenced to have leadership ties of some kind with a separate group. The divisions could be matriarchal or patriarchal or a mixture of both.

Religion & Magick: Religion among a people who live in such a desolate place or those who would live underground may be steeped in folklore. A place where winter is long and traps its inhabitants with in the snow is often the place of storytellers. Stories are told often when there is nothing else to do. There are other places which stories are generated and storytellers are an integral part of the culture, but in an ecology where 8 months of the year is outside the growing season fire may be essential to survival along with the hunt. Gods of these things may become so important because the material representation transforms into iconic figures within the mythology of the people. That doesn’t mean those are the only things that may become iconic. The gods’ purpose is to explain things that humanity (and other races) can’t explain such as; emotions, natural occurrences, and other things that are beyond mortal control.

World-building: Hypothetically a culture in this environment would possibly be a culture that lived within cave systems that were scattered throughout the tundra. Hunting on the surface but living where the winter has no or little effect. The group would move between cave systems either via underground passages or between the seasons. The group may have a matriarchal naming system and a patriarchal leadership. Lineage would be tracked through the mother so that her heritage would be clear. That would account for origins of the groups from village to village, so people new whom they were related to.

The god of fire would be very important and considered a good deity while the goddess of snow and ice would be a harsh and unyielding force. The summer and harvest festivals would be times of marriage and celebration. Each time would be an opportunity to rejoice in the fact that they had survived another year, or a good harvest had been secured for the winter months. Storytelling may be the province of a religious specialist or possibly the eldest people of the community. There by giving the elders a sense of purpose and a respect from the younger generation. Elder people in some cultures where survival is difficult sometimes may be regarded as a burden. However, in this case they are given a cultural relevance that is unprecedented for the young. Economic relationships would generate with outsiders more over by chance or habit. Either way very limited. The limited access also means that language would change little from outside influence, and more from internal change.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Brainstorming Book Two


Well, I managed to rewrite more of The Dragon  Hunters this week. I'm up to 25% rewritten. I was hoping for 30% this week, but I ran out of energy and time.


The big thing that happened this week was a critical brainstorming session that I had with my writer friend Patrick Tracy. We spoke for two hours about the book. I'm re-dreaming the dream, that is, changing certain parts to make them more exciting. At this point I'm making a certain segment that was fairly tame into a really nasty part that shows a lot about the world and the characters. I had ideas in my mind already, but Pat helped me refine them and just talking about them was really helpful. When you speak out loud about the ideas they become more clear and concrete. You also see where you need to do more work. I highly recommend brainstorming with a writer friend to improve your work.


The overall story arc has not changed, but how events progress, the setting, and the execution is changing big time. The manuscript I have is old and I was doing a lot of point of view shifting in the same chapter when I wrote it over five years ago. I was writing the third person omniscient then and I've abandoned that to write third person limited. The reader only knows what that point of view character knows. It works well, but with this story I'm needing to break away and show a few other POV characters from time to time. Not that much, but often enough.


I will reveal that the big villain, Draglune, King of the Dragons has a point of view chapter in this book. As well as a few other new characters--at least three more. None of them have a lot of POV chapters, just a little to give the reader a taste of what's going on with them. I think it'll work well.


The story is progressing well and the tension is attaining very high levels now. I was worried about a certain character's motivation, but now I have that all figured out. Also, the villains in the book have had their story altered a little as well, making it even nastier.


This is a very complex part of the series and I'm really into showing the reader in small doses what's really happening. There's so much going on behind the scenes and the stakes have really risen now. The fate of the world is at stake and is being influenced by seemingly small events.


Also, writing a sequel is a challenge because you have to recap a little of what has gone before, but you don't want to overdo it. I think that's going well, and I'm bringing up certain information only when necessary or when a character would really think about what happened recently.


I'm going to plow ahead and go for 35-40% rewritten by July 13. My goal is to have the whole book rewritten by the end of August. I'll get the first part of the manuscript to Patrick before that, then after Patrick is done reading it, I'll get it to my writer buddy Brad Beaulieu. Once Brad's comments are done, I'll do another big rewrite, clean up the text, then get it to my editor. I don't have a deadline yet, but I think it'll be late 2008. I hope.

I'm meeting with my editor the second week of August, and hope to have lots of the book done by then.

Good luck with your own writing and don't be afraid to cut scenes that don't work. Just delete them and start over!


Best wishes,


Paul Genesse, Author and Editor

Author of  The Golden Cord

Book One of the Iron Dragon Series

Saturday, July 5, 2008

World Building: Wetlands

Wetlands (a.k.a. Swamps, Fens, Marshes, Bogs, & Bayous)

An anthropological approach by Sabrina Klein

Kinship & Descent: Family life in the wetlands would be one of ever present danger. The swamps are not a safe place to wander. Fauna have an unusual ability to hide and not be seen. Vegetation on all levels here makes it extremely easy for the non-predatory fauna to hide, sometimes next to the predatory flora. This place has enough danger that the plants will eat you too, similarly so does a tropical forest.

Also large civilized populations in this type of ecology would disrupt the environment’s balance in ways that would alter the flora and fauna. People who did live in this ecology would most likely live in smaller groups, non nomadic. Families would be close together, particularly nuclear families. However, they would not be isolated. Matrilineal or patrilineal may reside here. Division of labor would be a pillar of the society, and it would need to be defined. Hunter-gatherer groups would be common because the soil in these areas doesn’t work well for agriculture.

Language: Language here would not necessarily be affected by the environment. The more than likely non-isolationist nature of villages would create a stable language group barring no geographical boundaries between dialects. Most things creating true language barriers are geographical. Boundaries can also physically unique to the life forms; such as a wolf communicating with a human in the same language. Though there may be supernatural or magical means that allow for communication.

Organization & Stratification: The most common way of organizing a group in this type of ecology would be more finite compared to other ecologies. It may include a council of elders. The oldest people may be revered, the dangers of the wetlands are many and to grow old may indicate wisdom apart from the group. This is the way it is in several ecologies. Usually this is more often the case in correlation with the lower levels of technology. The dangers of wetland don’t come from just the flora or the fauna, but they come from the land itself. Age might very well become a way of marking prestige. Therefore leadership may be based on age, with coming of age rituals becoming very important. Whether it is age or sex that sets up the leadership in a group; caste systems simply don’t seem to be the normal idea for a wetland culture. They could interfere with survival of the group in such a harsh environment, particularly if the swamp (insert random a.k.a. for swamp…) is prone to freezing during the winter months if the latitude or elevation permits.

Economics: High trafficked trade routes in a swamp may prove to exist most often inside groups that are within the geographical boundaries. Travel with large amounts of goods for anything other than trade might not be well received unless there is a river or lake system within the swamp making transportation of goods and services less of a hardship and less expensive. Wheeled vehicles that are not of a high enough technological advancement to navigate through unstable ground and through often heavy vegetation would not be used to transport goods for trade over long distances. The building of roads in wetlands would, most likely, dictate a higher level of technology than hunter gatherer, or the presence of a previous culture of higher technological advancement. Wheeled vehicles may not be used at all. Animals would more than likely be used over land, or watercrafts on river and lakes present in the area. Canal systems would indicate a large workforce (possible slave labor, forced labor by the hierarchy, and/or the technology to build them with machines. At the very least a canal built without technology would take a long time depending on the distance. Watercrafts may be the mode of transportation if a river or lake system is present, or even if the water table is high enough to create water through most of the area.

Religion & Magick: Religion and magick are often related. Religion would most likely be nature based in a low tech culture, and possibly ancestor worship in a high-tech culture. Civilizations in this ecology see too much of natures precariousness within the land itself to not assign it a supernatural anima. Ancestor worship may also take hold in addition to or independently depending on the social stratification. Religion always has the potential for elaborate rituals in whatever technology level that it creates. Where there is an environment that constantly poses a threat to survival via the flora, fauna, geologic features, or weather conditions cultures are more likely to view that gods must be appeased. Such as virgins being thrown into volcanoes to appease the volcano and keep it from erupting… we all know how well that works. The rituals may or may not be deeply rooted within the culture. However influence of another culture especially with a higher technological understanding of the environment may affect these rituals. The question really is how; do the natives react to the assault on their gods.

World-building in a Wetland: Isolation with in a wetland environment may be a serious issue affecting all cultures within it. So you may have many smaller groups that have language differences. The language difference because of close proximity may not create a barrier constantly. Some languages would be more common than others. Possibly even a common tongue maybe the vernacular of the majority. Economics in such an environment would prove to be interesting. Trade may use a barter system or a system of hard currency. There probably wouldn’t be market places. The swamp itself would have to be cleared. Natives would know that to do that creates more problems that it is worth. However, it does create a hunter gatherer society. That in turn because wetland is never good farm land means no agrigarian set ups. Farming would be difficult. I would be possible to cultivate an area where a grove of say berry bushes already existed. People may take the other invasive plants from strangling out the flora endangering a food source, but nothing more than that is really possible. Eventually the carrying capacity will cause one of two things to happen. The groups will split on its own to find more sustenance, or the groups will stay cohesive and move to find a lesser populated area where their larger numbers will be more easily supported.

The organization for such a group(s) could vary from one to another or there could be one intermittent council of leadership. Whether that is matriarchal or patriarchal is perhaps influential by several factors…religion, how is kinship defined. Is it matrilineal or patrilineal? This often will help define the power structure of a group. Religion may also play a defining role in the way a group is stratified. Hunter-gatherer groups tend to rely on their faith to fix sickness and to keep the environment at bay. Religion in these environments is often used to explain the unexplained particularly where technology is low. A low tech religion will often anthropormorphize something that poses a great danger; For example the Mayan and the Jaguar, the Hawaiian volcanoes and Pele, and the Greek god Zeus as the entity responsible for storms.

Religious specialists are often also caretakers of the sick. Usually only one sex has connection with the supernatural, but it would be fun if it were both. Defined by ability, or perceived ability by the current religious specialist. If it was what rituals surround this choosing, and when does it happen. Are there portents to its coming? Are there taboos? Magick of these religions is often heavily tied to the lands around it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Dimension Next Door


The cover of the book with my newest short story.


Dear Friends,

Good news! Today, I officially sold The Dragon Hunters, Book Two of the Iron Dragon Series. It should come out in late 2009. No exact release date yet, but we even have a cover in mind, painted by the same artist who did book one, The Golden Cord, which is still selling really well and is in its third printing already. Thank you all again for your amazing support! Please keep telling your friends about it and post some reviews online.

The other news is that I just had a story come out July 1, in a collection called The Dimension Next Door edited by Kerrie Hughes and Martin H. Greenberg ($7.99 from DAW Books). It’s available in any bookstore or online.

My story,  titled God Pays, takes place on December 21, 2012, the last day of the ancient Mayan calendar . . . and possibly the end of the world. Professor Nina Carreño, a linguistic archaeologist specializing in ancient Maya pictograms and dialects gets some dire news from her doctor. Nina leaves her fiancé and her entire life behind and travels to the place where she remembered being very happy: Lamanai, an ancient ruined city in the Yucatan. She thinks the end of the world idea is totally ridiculous, but her own personal doomsday brings her to a place she never expected.


I really enjoyed writing this and was inspired by a story from my friend Glenn Lee, who visited the Yucatan some time ago and met a tour guide who had a very interesting experience in the ruins of an ancient Mayan city. I’ll blog about the original story sometime.


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The Dimension Next Door

13 original stories about the realities just around the corner . . .

Movements glimpsed out of the corner of your eye, inexplicable sounds, knowledge for which there is no rational explanation, dreams that seem as real as our own everyday life—products of overactive imaginations, or unexpected glimpses into dimensions beyond our own? Join thirteen intrepid writers as they explore those unknown territories that may be found in any of countless Dimensions Next Door.

From a Celtic knot maze that could trap an unwary archaeologist; to an Internet site that offers to bring karmic balance into one man’s life; to a man bespelled to walk the future in the service of his queen—here are tales of the strange, challenging, and often wondrous worlds just waiting to be discovered by those with the ability to perceive them.