And I Rested

 
creating a world.jpg
 

It is God-like to create a world.

One decides everything, even how deeply into the detail to create. If the author doesn't care about the colour of the soil beneath the hero's feet, then that detail is left to the mortals who read it, but if the red sand of Mars lights the elusive spark of imagination and the dry Saharan tan doesn't, then the finger of that world's god stretches down and grazes the surface of the very ground.

Some of my stories are set in Miami, and that's as much a result of laziness - let's call it economy of energy - as it is a strong desire to bring alive fictitious dimensions of the place. I know it. I lived there. It doesn't require nearly the research hours needed to bring to life a lesser-known location, nor the creative exertion necessary to build an entirely new city, to ignite and guide the societal evolution of it, and to let half of my brain build as the other half looks on in wonder and nudges it here and there for the sake of the plot and themes.

But more of my stories, and by far the highest word count, take place in "the Marches." These fantasy regions were pulled from scraps of childhood stories and half-memories and grafted onto carefully-selected aspects of the world I live in now. Robert E. Howard and L. Sprauge de Camp cherry-picked names and features from history, as if ignorant of it but forced to write something down anyway. Hybernia, Picts, the temples of Set - all of these were real, but didn't match the depictions put into the books.

Still, the world of Hyperborea rang true to some deep knowledge I had even as a kid - I think we all have it. Some kind of evolutionary memory. Those men wrote scraps of reality, stitched onto fantasy and anachronism. And it worked. Tolkien too, seems less strange (and in places, downright derivative) when one reads Beowulf, the sagas, and the old poems and writings he loved so much. His skill was in tapping the edge of what is or was, moving it just a little out of place to create something Freud would call "uncanny": both familiar and strange in the same moment.

Creation is the fine art of bending reality, punching holes in it, patching them with our own whimsy, and then dropping in people we know - but giving them new and strange names to safeguard their identities and our own secret.

What is our own secret?

It is something we not only experience, but enact - commit - each time we write. It occurs when I drop a fictitious house onto a fictitious street in a real neighborhood of a real city. It occurs even more intensely when I split Pangaea into strange new forms, or even more when I spin the colossal balls of unformed matter out into the cosmos and gently shape the spheres that then begin to roll and swing around one another in a galaxy of my own.

I write, and it is. I am all-powerful in those worlds - but there is a constant and necessary malevolence in my mind as I fashion each attribute of the world and those who inhabit it: Danger. Conflict. Struggle.

It is in that carefully ordered chaos that a good story germinates and grows. If there is a God, perhaps that's his playbook too, I don't know. But I do know this: Sunday began four minutes ago, six days are passed, and it is time to rest, to cease, to fall still from action. For we who tap the keys or drag the pens are no mere mortals, whose stories enter darkness with them; we are the deities among human kind, and the very breath of the gods - is ours.

Jeff SpenceComment