Thursday, January 24, 2013

Similarities with Dragon Age


As I play through Dragon Age, I keep finding parallels between it and Weeds Among Stone, my first novel. My wife asked me if they stole my ideas, which really has two answers. First, Weeds Among Stone began in 2008 and didn't see publication until 2010. Bioware would have had to steal from me before I had finished my draft in order to be successful. So no, no stealing. Likewise, there was no Dragon Age before late 2009 for me to steal from, and I did not actually play the game until this year. So, no stealing.

The second issue in stealing is that I was already stealing from many other sources, usually shamelessly. So for me to get too uppity would be hypocrisy at its best. I paged through many bits of history to assemble the novel. Can someone steal from someone who stole?

So, if there’s no cross-stealing going on, then what’s happening? I contend that we are both taking our construction materials from a common pile and using common techniques. Naturally, we come up with similar results, and I take this synchronicity as a huge compliment to myself. This means that my self-published work is coming up to the same standards as a professionally created work. That is COOL. I worked hard to bring my writing up to professional standard, and this tells me that I’m close, if not there.

I would like to say that I’m original with magic, but the simple truth is that I either stole magic outright from traditional societies, or just glossed over the whole mechanism. I made a decision early on that magic would be non-systematical. Any understanding of magic in one area did not inform you at all about magic in another.

Where my novels might seem original is my focus of magic in the everyday, especially where magic does not seem like magic. I stole these things, too. The Ironmongers are a good example of this phenomena. The Ironmongers make steel by a puddling process. To the Ironmonger guild, there is no difference between this process and magic. If you do the proper rituals and the correct actions at the correct time, you get steel. Impiety or uncleanliness can easily ruin the batch. The steel process is a gift of knowledge from a god, the Iron Duke, and learning this knowledge is exactly the same as advancing in a mystery religion, down to paying for the privilege of knowing more. They are one part Masons, and one part technology.

The one place where Endhaven really does diverge from everyone and everything is in the nature of the dream world or the spirit realm. Call it what you will, mine is like no other, and not my accident. I kept coming up with a “standard modern” dream world and I didn't like it. In the end, I decided to model the dream world on 1940’s America cities, as that is the kind of heaven that a dwarf would dream of. What dwarf wouldn't like a world of steel and non-stop industry?  That gave me an under-used construction pile to steal from, and as far as I know, no one else has developed fantasy in the same way. I can’t even think of anyone coming close, but I’m sure that you can.

The great advantage of pulling from 1940’s America is that I am very familiar with it, having first hand familiarity with its physical artifacts, yet I am also greatly ignorant of it. That collision of fact and information helps get me that dream feel, where some aspects are incredibly specific, yet others are quite glossed over.

The only other area where I seem to be original, or at least not-redundant, is that my primary characters each prefer nonviolence as a means to an end. I can’t think of any other fantasy where this is a major theme in the work. That really ought to be the focus of this post. I think that non-violence is a huge achievement, but I really don't know what to do with it.