A Crisis in World-Building

19 Mar

As always, I’m horrible at updating this blog, and similarly horrible at updating my wordcount, on which I have fallen miserably short this month. The good news is I actually have written some things, so now the wordcount bar has a little bit of blue in it! The bad news is that total it’s only about 600 words, and it was in my secondary WIP, the steampunk short story collection currently titled Darke, about a gunmage named Fineas Darke.

This woefully low amount of words, and no words added to my main WIP, Dreadship Omnipotence, does not mean I haven’t actually been working on the project! On the contrary, I’ve actually been more active this month so far in thinking about what’s going in to the project than I have for the last three (months)! This work has been primarily in the realm of expanding the world, and recording the political and social development of the universe in more detail. I’ve also done a lot of thinking about the series’ (it will be trilogy) overarching antagonist, the Basilisk, as well as the minor antagonists building up to it. So, the backdrop against which most of the plot takes place is becoming more well-developed, which is a sort of progress, even if not in the form of words contributing to the draft!

Unfortunately, this progress has also somewhat paralyzed me with regards to writing. As I was building the world, it started to actually feel less and less realistic to me, and I began to doubt if it was really a good world. Some things stopped making sense, and I’ve rewritten a lot of earlier background, but I’m not even sure how much of what I have I will keep. I’m fairly certain about the antagonist structure I’ve built up; what I’m unsure about is the political entities of the world of Dreadship Omnipotence, and in particular their discrete nature. Hence, I’m having what I’m thinking of as a confidence crisis in world-building, that I want to resolve before I continue writing more in that world (and I still fully intend to do so).

As it is, there are four polities in the world: one hyper-surveillance state, one loosely bureaucratic theocratic state, one loose political confederation, and then a whole bunch of autonomous communities collectively grouped together. Though these divisions made some sense at first, they seem to me to be increasingly artificial and difficult to work with, especially given the interstellar-cyberpunkesque setting. The borders between polities seem a little bit too strong and real, I think is my issue, especially given the ubiquity of various internets interposed across borders, with real control over it largely impossible (save in the hyper-surveillance state). My issue, I think, is that I am clinging to perhaps an outmoded notion of “state” here; one that is tied to specific territoriality.

I think, then, that what I need to do is rethink what the state, in this world, actually would look like, and blur the boundaries between them far more. Part of the project of the series is now, I think, to reimagine the state and nation in a distant, cyberpunk, interstellar future. Rather than dividing up the universe into discrete polities with clear boundaries, I think it might be more productive – and might flow and fit in with the story better – if the entire universe of mankind was made to more closely match the “Communes” polities (the autonomous collectivities), with the other polities I had envisioned existing more as freeflowing “imagined communities” (to borrow from Benedict Anderson) or maybe some form of digital-political community instead, with the borders being largely social instead of physical. This would also give me room to play with the overlap of spatial borders (through space travel) with the social borders of states, which could be a lot of fun!

So, while I’m working through this crisis, progress will assuredly be slow, and once I’ve finished, I’ll need to rework earlier writing to mesh in with the new world; though I might wait until I’ve finished the first draft to come back to it. Though at the same time, the world is so thoroughly woven into parts of the story, that might not be possible. Whatever happens, we’ll see, and hopefully soon I can actually get writing again (should I be able to find the time)!

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Posted by on March 19, 2016 in Writing


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