Thursday, November 6, 2014

Endhaven Rules: No Absolutes

One of the rules that drives my editor crazy about Endhaven is my blatantly contradictory cosmology. Those contradictions are on purpose. They are supposed to be there. Endhaven is not a neat and tidy place where everything makes sense and the reader, or even the gods, can know everything that there is to know. If there is anything resembling a system, it's a system built from the wreckage of seventeen different cars, taking the motor from car but the radio from another, until you have something that isn't anything at all. It's sorta like that Johnny Cash song where some autoworkers steal a car one piece at a time.

Why do I do this? Why do I contradict my own world building? Because in human history, this situation was not only prevalent, but normal. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Germans, and Persians all disagreed on their religion and the nature of the universe. They tried to draw equivalences where they could, but the system was still a mess. Even inside Greece, the worship of a god and the stories that surrounded the cult differed. The more that you dig your head into those stories, the more that you learn that there are no definitives in the pagan world. Not only is there no answer in the back of the book, there is no book. Paganism is dominated by revalation, intuition, history, reason. revelation, and happenstance. It's a mess. There is no one single person who gets to say what is true and what is false.

For me as a writer, and you as a reader, I think that uncertainty and messiness makes for a better read. So in Endhaven, we know that all souls go to Endhaven. We also know that souls go to the appropriate gods. Which is it? Which is true? Well, I'm not telling you which is true. That's the point. There is no true. There is no absolute. To learn the absolute truth is create certainty, and despite what you might think, certainty does not make for a good story. A story dwells in uncertainty. To know the gods absolutely is impossible.

In the Jura City series, we see Maran visit the gods in the Steel City. This is the heavenly place associated with the dwarves. Is it really there? No, I think not. The Steel City is just a vision that the dwarves understand. It is no more real than any other sort of heaven. I like to think that the elves and the humans have places quite different than the Steel City, but that those places also contain the same characters. Jack still guards a bridge, Rem still dishes out unwanted advice, and the White Lady still sleeps, all recognizable, yet all quite different in their expression.

The only place that is always what it is is Endhaven itself. That place is always a caldera in a placid sea,  holding the Lake of Souls, and on an island in that lake, the Ancient One in whatever form that she takes for you.