Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Endhaven Rules: A World Without Wizards

I have a simple rule in Endhaven. There are no wizards. There are magic people, of course, because this is a fantasy, but there are no wizards. This goes with never using the words "magic." You see, wizards to magic. They can do any sort of magic in any sort of way. The readers expect this of wizards. To avoid that expectation, I simply don't have them.

What does that leave me with? Quite a lot, actually. At a minimum, I avoid having a cliche, which isn't a bad thing in itself. At best, I have wonderful opportunities, and those opportunities are what makes this rule so much fun.

So, if I don't have wizards, then what do I call my magic people? The answer turned out to be "lots of things." As magic in Endhaven is so fragmented, existing without any sort of overarching system, the practitioners of magic are also fragmented, existing within the context of their race, culture, and time period, and each acting in their own unique way.

Culture has a great impact on what you call something. If I take shamanism and give it to dwarves, what would dwarves do with shamanism? It surely would not remain unchanged. The religious idea would distort and change to serve the needs and circumstances of dwarves. So after all those changes, could you call as dwarf shaman a shaman, or would that magical position now be better called a different word? Even within the dwarves cultures, one type of dwarf some types of dwarf would surely shamanism different than the others. The dwarves who run the iron furnaces would surely have different needs and desires than the dwarves that grow the crops, and these should be different than the dwarves that care for horses and drive the wagons. So even within the same racial groups, should they use the same words or different words?

The great thing about words is that they convey meaning. If grave diggers are the ones who culturally guarantee the passage of the dead to the underworld, then grave digger surely implies something different than shaman even though they do much of the same thing. Where a shaman implies a man or woman of great power, a grave digger implies a dirty person of low station.

Interestingly, early Christians called a grave digger a fosser, a religious position, as the body would be needed in the resurrection of the dead. Laying the body down wrong could result in a good Christian being unable to be resurrected. Same words, two jobs, and such wonderful implications.

As titles are so important, as they are so tied to my stories and themes, I think a great deal about titles before putting them into my books. There's a huge difference between a fossor, a respected member of the community, and a grave digger, among the lowest. Those differences are what makes the story interesting enough to write. In a world full of magic, what is needed from a grave digger? If a grave digger is a religious profession, how does that impact their legal standing in the society? By being religious, what rights does the position confer and what responsibilities does it entail? What happens if those responsibilities are not met? If the grave digger can cross worlds, and so communicate with the spirits, what relationships develop from that?

So simply by not having a wizard, but still having magic, I've given myself a huge amount of material to work with and develop from without falling back to "a wizard by another name who isn't really a wizard but everyone knows that they are a wizard."