Merry Christmas for those who celebrate it! I have no idea if I’ll have something better to write for Christmas, as I’m making a bunch of these posts on December 1, so this might seem a little strange for a Christmas post.
The image this time is from a trip to D.C. I took in 2012. It’s a nice city!
Here’s part 4.
Salazarre is at war.
It’s been at war for a long time. I’m not entirely sure how long. I want to say about three thousand years. A big number to be sure, but for fantasy, as in astronomy, years can be surprisingly insignificant. Even a thousand years is a really long time, but the number seems insignificant in some cases. For long stretches of history, not much changed. 1000 A.D. isn’t too different from 0 A.D. Except for the whole ‘Roman Empire fracturing into petty barbarian states’ and all.
Fantasy often throws around a lot of big numbers to seem old, storied. Civilizations lasting for ten thousand years, despite never figuring out how electricity works. You start to wonder just how long a civilization is going to stay at the same general technological level. 2000 A.D. is a heck of a lot different than 0 A.D., and there’s quite a few differences between 1000 B.C. and 1000 A.D. Entirely different civilizations, cultures, writing systems lived and died in that time.
Salazarre is supposed to last that long, it’s supposed to have essentially the same government from when the Archangel myth occurred to the present day. Mostly. But if you have that government lasting for two, three thousand years, even more, then I wonder how they pulled it off.
The only real life culture I know of that did survive for a similar time frame was Ancient Egypt, around three thousand years. There were lots of periods of instability, though, where there was basically no central government, and then a new king/pharaoh rose to essentially reboot the country. Salazarre, in my mind, didn’t have any Egyptian-esque Intermediate Periods, though I don’t expect it to have been stable the entire time, either.
Another example is, of course, the Roman Empire, being a country-spanning government from the times of the Republic, about 500 B.C., to the exile of Romulus Augustulus in I think 476 A.D. Almost a thousand years. And the Roman government was hardly stable, it changed hands countless times, but it still remained, for the most part, Rome. That persisted even when the Byzantines picked up the pieces, and then they lasted another thousand years.
And, you know, I think this could make a really interesting answer. Actually trying to explore how a fantasy culture can remain coherent after thousands of years, beyond just ‘magic.’ Magic helps, it might explain why a civilization seems more medieval/Renaissance, while having more modern social views. But I don’t want to get preachy on how I think a society should evolve, how it works as a utopia despite all the obstacles. I’m not Frank Herbert, and this isn’t God-Emperor of Dune.
Besides, Salazarre is certainly not a utopia.
The original idea that birthed Salazarre was a war story.
It also starred a centaur soldier gone AWOL, though I’ve made her human since then. There’s only so far you can go with monster-people before it gets ridiculous.
I was being driven back from a friend’s house, in rural PA. This was near Amish country, so horse-drawn carriages were an occasional sight. One passed in front of our car while we were stopped at a light.
Cue light bulb. I had the image of a centaur pulling a cart, as she went along a long, empty road on the plains. Her husband was in that cart, and they were escaping from…something. An apocalyptic war, where she was a horse archer (ugh), and she went AWOL.
The story would follow them as they went through a land ravaged by a war that’s lasted centuries, that’s ravaged their lives and their relationship, and it will never end. The only way out is to leave the country, except it’s too big to just leave.
We would see the ways an institutionalized war has warped society, warped the very people that live in it, all told through the eyes of two people that have seen the conflict, first hand, and it very nearly destroyed them before the story even began.
Big ideas for something that’s still theoretical.
But the despair I’m imagining is at the very heart of Salazarre. How can you have a hopeless setting, where you live in a country that fights just to preserve tomorrow, and make it relatable, sympathetic, human? How do you tell the stories of people destroyed by the conflict, who are still people, with feelings, flaws, hopes, dreams? Who just aren’t suicidal maniacs wishing for death that they, for whatever reason, won’t inflict on themselves?
You’ll notice that this isn’t the story I’m writing right now.
The Witch and the Snake originally began as a short story idea, “The Cursed Forest,” which I’ve alluded to before. It was from the POV of this soldier and her husband, which also introduced the witch Relia, and it was a small moment in their lives as the couple kept fleeing. I finished the story, it wasn’t worth doing anything with, but I was interested in Relia. She alluded to having a lamia friend, who eventually became her partner Syrene, and I thought I’d have a cute little story involving them, as well.
Two years and however many hundreds of pages later, I’m still trying to write that cute little story, over the course of about four different attempts, and what was a short story turned into two full-length books. At least.
Relia and Syrene are still here, Relia’s still a witch and Syrene’s still a lamia, though I call them harbani now. They’re the only nonhuman race in the setting, though I’ve lore’d the hell out of them in order to justify it. I’ll probably cover them in a bunch of later posts.
Early on, I decided I wanted The Witch and the Snake to be the last ‘happy’ story in Salazarre, the last legend or fairy tale. The adventures of those two would remain as such, called The Witch and the Harbani in-universe, as a counterpoint to the war story that Salazarre came from. I plan for that to be called The Archangel’s War, and while I’ve only got the barest ideas of what it’ll be, well, it’ll happen eventually.
I want them to have different moods, tones. The Witch and the Snake is more traditional, more focused on adventure and discovery, but with still some moody introspection and Lovecraftian fear and horror. The Archangel’s War will be a grim, morose take on the nature of war and how it warps society, how it destroys the people who fight in it. Yet there’s an overarching melancholy I want these stories to have, a melancholy I want the setting itself to infuse in anything I write within it. That melancholy is Salazarre, and I think it’s the most interesting thing it has going for it.
The problem is bringing that out. But, well, I wouldn’t be a legitimate writer if I didn’t constantly complain about how hard writing was, would I?