Friday, May 28, 2010

Setting evolution

I mentioned this in my last post, but my old description of my setting as a combination of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom, H. P. Lovecraft, Sergio Leone, Charles Dickens and Robert Ludlum isn't really accurate anymore, as my setting has evolved.

Some of the Dickensesque Inudstrial Revoluation urban dystopia has faded. Lovecraft's breed of horror fascinates me in some respects, and makes me shake my head wondering what he was thinking in others; but certainly some kind of supernatural horror vibe is still important. The alien-ness of the world has been an almost complete casualty of my setting evolution; rather than being a bizarre foreign planet with almost all alien lifeforms except human, I now see it as a Pleistocene era planet, albeit one in which advanced civilizations flourish. I've played up the cowboy angle even more overtly, and added a very prominant pirate angle too.

It's still swashbuckling horror, but I think my influences are now better described as:
  • A politically balkanized Mediterranean Sea. This can be similar to Rome in decline with Barbary pirates added in for fun.
  • Arabian Nights
  • H. P. Lovecraft and classic, gothic horror
  • Sergio Leone (especially up in the northern desert areas of Baal Hamazi, which I haven't yet typed up on my wiki.)
  • Rafael Sabatini
  • Robert Ludlum (for plots and conspiracies, mostly)
  • The X-files

An incoherent mess of ideas and conventions? Possibly. But influences does not mean straight borrowing without modification, so there's room for me to make it all seamless.

Also, I'm reminded of something Corey once said about setting design every time I start to worry about coherence. For his Barsoom setting (no relation to ERB's Barsoom, except in vague thematic terms), he just threw in everything that he thought was cool without worrying about how it all worked out. And... well, it did appear to work out brilliantly. And I'm arrogant enough to think that if he can do it, there's no reason I can't too.

And his Barsoom was pretty diverse too---Spanish mafia, dinosaurs, Plains Indians, Red Martians, Hong Kong theater and Glen Cook's The Black Company all were significant and obvious inclusions or inspirations. I don't know that my settings more bizarre than that, really.

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