What does it take to make your fantasy world come alive on paper? Scott Drakeford, author of the upcoming debut Rise of the Mages, joined us on the blog to talk about his book and the worldbuilding that came with writing it. Check out his post below!
By Scott Drakeford
Fantasy worlds give life to nearly infinite possibilities. For many, including myself, they are places of escape. But fantasy and genre fiction are so much deeper than that: for both authors and readers, these fictional worlds are the perfect medium in which to work through your fears, your hopes, your traumas, your triumphs.
This was certainly the case for me as I built the world in which Rise of the Mages, the first book of the Age of Ire series, takes place.RiseOfTheMages-world2-REV-sig
I’m not a natural worldbuilder. I can’t close my eyes and conjure worlds. I can’t draw for shit. Geography by itself doesn’t particularly interest me.
Luckily, stories – even fantasy stories – are more than just make-believe settings. The people, cultures, relationships, governments, even the animals that inhabit any given geography are far more interesting to me than the landscape itself. I build my world around my characters and my story, and I build my characters and story around meaningful ideas or events that have left a mark on me. In other words, it’s okay to work backward! This isn’t math class, there is no such thing as cheating. Uh… other than copyright infringement, I guess. Don’t do that.
Behold, the primary catalysts that shaped the world of Rise of the Mages:
Technology, Magic, and Power Sources
Writing Rise of the Mages in 2012 began as something of an attempt to understand an experienced reality that was very different from the strict religious world-view I had been raised with. A fantasy world was the perfect sandbox to play in and safely ask such questions as, “If miraculous power – magic, if you will – such as that claimed in various religious texts was real, what might it look like?”
As I put words on pages, it became clear to me that the entire belief system of my early life did not meet my definition of truth. Such a huge swing in core beliefs does not happen easily or quickly, however, and my fantasy world was the perfect place to mentally come to grips with the facts.
From there, the engineer and science amateur in me took over. I find it curious that most of the processes that comprise life are chemical in nature. Yes, there is a physics component to that chemistry in that our brain and central nervous system use electrical signals to control the chemically-powered meat puppet that is the human body. Even most of the external processes that humanity has used to survive for millennia are chemical in nature, however. Harnessing the power of electromagnetic energy is a relatively recent phenomenon (thanks, Nikola Tesla!).
What if, and here’s where the nerdery begins, humans could harness natural electromagnetic energy, similar to how our bodies utilize chemical processes? Electromagnetism is inherently less contained than chemical processes – even the relatively minuscule activity in the brain can be read by Electroencephalography devices. What if that ability to harness electromechanical energy similarly extended to a person’s immediate surroundings? That might look a hell of a lot like magic.
One step of handwavium further, what if the electromechanical energy were, therefore, humanity’s primary source of energy that powered the majority of their technological advances?
And thus, infusori was born. Nothing has shaped the map of Rise of the Mages more than infusori. Because it is such a powerful energy source, and because the world’s most advanced technology depends on it, the sources of this energy, called infusori Wells, are extremely valuable (quite like oil sources have been for the past century or so in our own world). Though much of the current society in Rise of the Mages is on the cusp of an industrial revolution, infusori has been valuable enough throughout history that most major cities are either built next to Wells, act as hubs for infusori and other trade, or both.
It seems silly now, but at the time I started this book, one of my little brothers had just joined the military. Army recruiters had convinced him that he had a good shot at joining the Rangers or other special forces despite having a barely functional achilles tendon. This also happened to be around the time that ISIS was just beginning to emerge in the Middle East. I, like many creatives, have an overactive and severely anxious mind that insisted on conjuring scenarios where I’d have to either let my brother die or rescue him from ISIS myself. To be clear, I’m extremely unfit for anything like that, but that didn’t stop my brain from playing this scenario over and over again.
My brother’s achilles tendon gave out and he was sent home a few months into basic training, but the seed for the story stuck. This first book would be an action-adventure story and a tip of the cap to my love for my own brothers. “They” say you should write what you know. I haven’t stabbed many people, and I, unfortunately, don’t have any magical abilities. But I know what it feels like to be willing to do anything for my family, as I think many of us do.
For this to work, I needed places for my characters to go! My world quickly became densely populated, with plenty of cities and smaller towns within a quick ride of the larger capital and “university town”, Myntar, where the story begins. This meant that the regions immediately surrounding it needed to be relatively fertile to support moderately large populations.
At least in part because I love hunting and fishing, I have a soft spot in my heart for wild places too, however. I also wanted to feature plenty of dense forests, impassable mountains, serene waterscapes, and of course, remnants of long-lost civilizations. This meant that there would have to be viable forms of fast and effective transport: established roads, large navigable rivers, and the like.
Many other real-world interests and events inspired the story, characters, and world of Rise of the Mages. What were they? Read and find out!
SCOTT DRAKEFORD is a longtime lover of the written word, especially fantasy fiction. Rise of the Mages is his debut epic fantasy.
Pre-order Rise of the Mages here: