LAST EDITED ON Jan-22-18 AT 06:52 PM (EST)
The other day I was reminded that some years ago, I tried to write a fantasy novel. No, seriously, I did. I have a notebook, which I recently stumbled across while digging around in a box (unsuccessfully) searching for something else, in which I jotted down a bunch of worldbuilding notes for the setting and main characters, and I have a Word file here with the first 4½ or so chapters in it.
The idea arose one day when I was passing some time in idle contemplation of the various Fantasy Tropes, as one does, and amusing myself by thinking about divers ways of contravening them. For instance: orcs in Standard Fantasy range from Mindless Terror Hordes to Fairly Clever Terror Hordes. Even in settings which stray from that blueprint, like the world of The Elder Scrolls, they're still stereotypically fierce and not known for sophistication. The thing to do there, then, would be to turn that around and give them the role usually given to FRP gnomes: make them the inventor-engineers of the setting, the ones who are forever fooling around with steam and big pieces of metal and making stuff.
(Meanwhile, actual gnomes become something more like gremlins, very rarely seen but customarily blamed for small misfortunes the causes of which nobody witnessed.)
Similarly, Standard Elves are haughty woodsy types; so in this setting they would trade places with Standard Dwarves and become the miners and jewel-hoarders of the world, while the dwarves hang out in the hill country getting high on herbal whatevers and taking spirit voyages, maaan, possibly with a nice sideline in folk textile manufacture. And, so, on, as Carl Sagan once wearily summed up the improbable sequence of events in Immanuel Velikovskiy's Worlds in Collision. :)
As the concept for this setting started to gel in my head, it needed a name, and I decided that it was sufficiently perverse (in the Poeian sense) that my old friend Derek Bacon would have enjoyed it, so I took to calling the world Kered (sometimes spelled "Khered" in the notes, I forget why, probably just to fantasy it up and make it slightly less obviously Derek's name spelled backwards). The conceit that emerged was that whatever works came out of this setting would be labeled as excerpts from a much larger meta-work called The Book of Kered, somewhat after the fashion of the original Star Wars novelization (which is presented as a chapter of something called The Journal of the Whills).
As the Kered setting developed, it picked up skewed details here and there from just about everything else that was rattling around in my brain at the time, whether consciously adapted or just swept up in the giant rolling Katamari that is my creative semiconscious. For instance, the developing world map was more or less the same shape as the real one (à la Earthdawn), and a lot of the place names and cultural broad strokes were tweaked echoes of either real or other-fiction things. The country where most of the action I had in mind took place, for instance, was in the eastern part of the world's north-western continent (i.e., North America), and was called the Kingdom of Ostvia. The other really major polity in the northern hemisphere, over on the eastern continent (i.e., Europe), would have been a pop-culture Late Roman Empire-alike called the Erorian Empire (Imperium Erorianum), where people have cod-Latin names and the soldiers use short swords.
OK, there was also going to be the floating island country somewhere over what would be Utah in the real world, which was probably the corner of my brain that used to play in a Forgotten Realms campaign remembering Netheril more than any reflection of something in the real world, but then, Eroria bears more than a casual resemblance to Cyrodiil from The Elder Scrolls, too, come to that. This would all probably have been smoothed off a little more if I had kept working on the project, but in the early stages you could not only see where the numbers were filed off of things, you could kind of still make out which digits were round numbers and which ones were angular.
No matter, really. The story as I was envisioning it was going to take place entirely in I Can't Believe It's Not North America, mainly in the hinterlands of western Ostvia (ca. the real-world American Southwest). The rest of the world was only going to be important as backstory, e.g., one of the characters I had in mind was an exiled Erorian legionary (who was actually not from Eroria proper but an imperial possession roughly akin to Roman Britannia).
Possibly because of the story's trend toward the southwest, or the image of orcs as steampunk engineers, or both, the era of the Kered setting drifted forward as it developed. It started out as a standard D&D-style faux-medieval fantasy world in my head, but then the orcs were building railroads and it ultimately became sort of Elder Scrolls 1875: an era still largely agrarian, but with significant urban industrialization, the beginnings of widespread electrification even in the countryside, and other concepts alien to pure fantasy settings, like institutionalized standard times (invented, as in the real world, to aid the organization of the railroads) and long-distance (though not yet wireless) telegraphy.
(And early cartridge firearms, anticipating the Gunslinger archetype from the Pathfinder RPG by a few years.)
The draft I mentioned before ends more abruptly than my usual becalmed story files; in those, I usually at least make it to the end of the current thread before losing my way, but this one just stops right in the middle of a scene. This is because that's the point I had reached when I was, quite by chance, made aware of the Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. And... that was pretty much the end of that. The parallels are not exact—the trains in Kered are just normal trains, for instance, not powered by magic, and I hadn't considered anything akin to the Warforged—but overall, it struck me that the concepts were close enough together that Kered was never going to strike anyone already familiar with Eberron as anything other than a knockoff of same.
Largely because of that, and also because of the aforementioned problem with the fact that it really was in part a knockoff of so many other things, I abandoned the whole project. Not without regret; there are some descriptive passages and character moments in the scrapped draft I'm still pretty pleased with, and I'm still rather attached to the characters I was developing for it. Their names live on, in a way, in that I routinely name my characters in fantasy-themed computer games after them.
So that's a random semi-confession of sorts for the day. If anyone out there has wondered why I haven't written an Actual Book at any point, well... I have given it a try. It didn't really work out. Might be worth revisiting one of these days, although I don't think it would work as a for-profit project (that is, after all, why I scrapped it), so... (shrug)
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
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Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.