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Worldbuilding – Last Thoughts On The Block November 1, 2009

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History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstance.

– Donald Creighton

Last Thoughts On

The Block

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert


And so the story of young Tom and Elizabeth Farmer begins.  Swallowed up by the administrative marvel that is the Indenture Service Office of the Empire of Uppsala, their father, Edsil, will be tried by the District Court of New London, Aingland, be found guilty and his children will be sentenced to serve ten years as indentured servants to work off his debt.

Tom and Elizabeth will be transferred to Uppsala where they will be in the custody of the ISO in the infamous Block.  There they will be trained and sold to a wealthy family as servants for the duration of their sentence.

The Block differs in many ways from The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp.  The happenings of the military and their war with the Vigroth natives are hardly a second thought to the ISO and their indentured community.  The inner workings of an Empire the size of Uppsala allows for little contact between differing agencies.  As for the citizens of the Empire, it is doubtful if any have ever heard of Thelra or even the river port of Selga.

Hopefully you can see the differences that these two stories sustain.    One is very much NOT like the other, yet both are set in the same Empire albeit at different times.  This is the advantage of extensive worldbuilding.

Next week we shall enter into a world much closer to home.  A romantic story between two graduating teenagers in the small town of Quaker Valley, Pennsylvania, circa 1966.  You will see how difficult settling characters in a fictitious town created inside an actual state can be.


Worldbuilding – The Block October 5, 2009

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Although volume upon volume is written
to prove slavery a very good thing,
we never hear of the man who wishes to
take the good of it by becoming a slave himself.

– Abraham Lincoln

An Invitation To Experience

The Block

Debt and Indenture in the Empire of Uppsala

© D. Erick Emert


We visited the small village of Thelra just off Rigga Sea and the dangerous lowlands of Kyrrell Swamp where a young girl was birthed to Lobot Cord.  We also joined Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs on his first trip to Uppsala since becoming an OutSider in the great Empire.  Now we travel to New London, the capital city of the Rejoinder of Aingland.

Pretty much the world agrees that slavery is an evil endeavor.  With the exception of the native exterminations, the Empire of Uppsala has not been at war for over a hundred years.  Only a few of the native tribesmen ended up on Uppsala’s infamous block.  The great majority of slaves in Uppsala are people in debt who chose indentured service to repay their debts.

The Indentured Service Office or ISO is located in every major city in every Rejoinder of Uppsala.  It is a huge government bureaucracy with agents and investigators whose tentacles reach into every corner of the Empire.  The purpose is to supply the State (especially the wealthy) with forced labor without the evil ramifications of slavery.

The system starts with a complaint being filed with the ISO of a debt owed.  The ISO tracks down the debtor and explains the situation they’re in and what options if any they can choose from.  If the debt is small, it is handled locally within the Rejoinder that the debt is owed.  If the debt is large, the debtor is charged with a felony and tried in court at the Rejoinder capital.  The trail is basically for show as all deals were cut before the trial ever commenced.  The trail simply makes the conclusion legal.

Once a conclusion at trial is reached, the debtor is sentenced an amount of time it will take for the debt to be worked off.  Someone is then chosen by the debtor to serve the debt.  It might be the debtor himself, his wife or any number of his children.

After the trial, the debtor is transported to the Block in Uppsala.  Now, the Block is not some kind of auction block where the debtors are sold.  It is actually a whole city block in Uppsala.  Administrative offices, schools, barracks, cells, a laundry, a large cafeteria, tailory along with a large interior square where the debtors are arraigned for sale to the public.

If the government requires indentured servants, suitable individuals are not sold, but are selected.  In fact, upon the arrival of the debtor they take a battery of tests to indicate their talents to show where their skills might bring a higher price at sale.  Depending on the needs of the buyer, a debtor might receive intensive training to increase their indicated skill level.  The cost for this is added on to the length of time the debtor must serve.

No debtor is forced into sexual service.  However, they may choose sexual service in order to half the time the debtor must serve.  No children under the age of sixteen may opt for sexual service.  Sexual service can be opted only by the person serving the debt.  No family member may place a charge (such as a wife or older child) into sexual service.

In The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp, you met a few people who were in the charge of the Indentured Service Office.  One was Brigg’s lover, a crib girl chained to her bed in an Inn in Selga.  Later in the novel, one of Ahllie’s Lobot Cord members is sold to Briggs’ friend, Taylor.  She works as a singer/musician at his villa.

In The Block, you will meet the Farmer family.  The father owes a huge sum of money to a local gambling house.  You will follow the family’s story as two of his children are chosen to work off his debt.

The first two chapters will be given over for your enjoyment.

Worldbuilding – And So It Begins… August 24, 2009

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“There is as much difference
between us and ourselves
as between us and others.”

– Michel de Montaigne

An Invitation To Experience

The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp

This is not the end of my worldbuilding.  Like any planet, Erde changes over time, so competent worldbuilding is never finished.  But I would like you to take some time and experience over the next few months the novels that settled into the world of Erde.


Many lives are lost at sea every year.  Large ships, small boats, sailing ships, war ships, fishing vessels, and aircraft of all types have disappeared over time.  Some had been lost in bad weather, some when the weather appeared perfect, some sank beneath the waves during a war, some left behind the wreckage of their misfortune, some seemingly vanishing into the air or water.  Oftentimes, even when wreckage surfaced, bodies remained unrecovered.  Think of the thousands of souls lost on the HMS Hood when she blew up in 1941.  How about those that sailed with the German mega-battleship, the Bismarck? It is easy to conclude that the dead and missing have simply gone on to a watery grave, leaving behind only the question of what happens to the soul at death.  John Dryden had an interesting observation concerning that question.  He said, “To die is landing on some distant shore.”

If you agree with Larry Kusche, author of The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved, there is little doubt as to the final resting place of the men of Flight 19, or the Cyclops, or any of the other ships or aircraft mentioned in Mr. Kusche’s book.  As one reviewer noted, “This is the only book you can get that has trustworthy information concerning the ships lost in the Bermuda Triangle.  Everything else is soaked with fiction.”

I have to admit that in the last 200 years we’ve gained a more scientific understanding of life. Now we can even clone it.  But what we can’t do is produce life from scratch – from nothing.  Nor do we have any idea of what happens when life ends.  Oh we have theories, many of which are backed up by myths, belief systems and religious testaments.  Yet, we know no more about the afterlife than we did 5,000 years ago.  So if we must bathe ourselves in trustworthy information, I suggest we do so using a keen sense of the absurd.  Even Mr. Kusche admits there are issues concerning the disappearances of ships and aircraft and the people they contained that are still beyond the scope of our knowledge.  Perhaps John Dryden is closer to the truth then many of us realize.

There is one thing I know – water, although quite physical, it has always been considered a spiritual medium. Edgar Cacey, for example, mentioned in one of his readings that he should locate his psychic hospital near water because such a location would enhance his psychic abilities. He chose Virginia Beach, Virginia. Even that most spiritual of events, Christian baptism, takes place in water.

So now I speak with reference to possibilities. The likelihood that somewhere, somehow, there is a planet similar to our own that exists in the Universe that can sustain human life as we know it.  Add to that possibility another.  What if this planet could be reached from Earth through a watery portal?  As Thomas Hardy said, “Though a good deal is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.”

This is the world that a small group of men, one woman and her child entered when they disappeared from their ship, which remained in the Atlantic Ocean in December of 1872.  This is when they became OutSiders and found themselves on a “distant shore.”  What did these people from Earth find after traveling through the water to Erde? The same kind of physical circumstances that they left behind, I imagine. Life can be similar. As year stacked up upon year it became apparent that they did not age.

Is it possible that humans could live for hundreds of years? I would think that the physical laws of Erde must be slightly different from the physical laws here on Earth. Humans birthed in either place are able to live approximately 75 years. But humans who have traveled from one place to the other find themselves living for over 900 years. This must be due to the physical laws that cause the breakdown of cells.  After all, doesn’t the Bible tell us about such people?

What are they like, these OutSiders of Erde who live so long? How does a person with a lifespan of 900 years differ from a person who feels fortunate to live 75 years? Their outlook on life must change dramatically. If they marry a native they must watch their spouse and children exit life well before they themselves, perhaps many times over.  But if they marry another OutSider, such a marriage would last for hundreds of years.  Oh, the possibilities!

What kind of world would such a people craft? Bringing their knowledge of Earthly morals, religion, and technology with them, what would they keep and what might they lose? What elements of this knowledge would they allow other OutSiders who came after them to embrace? What would they force them to discard? What knowledge might they possess that is different from our own? Knowledge that they discovered and we have not, or that they have improved upon and we have not? The possibilities are staggering. The history of the OutSiders of Erde is similar to our own, filled with the ascent of local governments, of conquest, nationalization, the rise and fall of empires, of greed and a lust for power.


But what of the Vigroth peoples of this land, one of the tribes that inhabited Erde before the arrival of the OutSiders? They are so very different from any human culture on Earth.   Can we, who find it difficult to commit for life to one single person, fully understand what it’s like to be committed for life to seven or eight people?

Is it possible that we who disdain the idea of “fixed marriages” can fully appreciate an arrangement that finds one committed to such a relationship for life right from birth?

Is it possible for a people such as our own, whose morals differ from one person to the next, to fully understand a moral system that’s universally accepted by a whole tribe and passed down from generation to generation without question?

Is it possible for us, a people who love youth and for whom survival is rarely questioned, to comprehend life where continued existence is in doubt on a daily basis?  Can we understand what it’s like to have death as our closest neighbor minute by minute?

In understanding the Vigroth of the great Weald, we must see them as Robert Zend sees us – “People have one thing in common: they are all different.”

There you have it.  The Myth of Kyrell Swamp concerns possibilities.  You are in the unique position to experience these possibilities for yourself.  As Einstein said, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment.”  You are entering upon a journey that will allow you to do so.  As the Vigroth say, “tzagrast lur seted krind kynpa ecoy” – “It’s a long ways from anyplace here.”  I truly hope you enjoy the trip.

Worldbuilding 10 – Religion August 22, 2009

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The Empire and Religion


The Empire of Uppsala  has long ago decided that religion, in any form, tended to divide the human family rather than enrich it. They saw that for innumerable eons, both on Earth and in Erde, more wars had been fought over religious principles than for any other reason. They listed countless examples of man’s inhumanity towards man, all in the name of religion. They saw that conflict not only occurred between opposing systems of religious belief, but also within various sects of the same religion. This truth led the political leaders of the Empire to become disillusioned with religion, convincing them that it was both a waste of time and considerably dangerous. Consequently, for more than 3,000 years in the OutSider controlled Empire of Uppsala in Erde religion has been outlawed. It is one of the few laws in which governing rival Proctors have remained in agreement with throughout the Rejoinders. They found it easier to deal with underground religious activities than with open wars prompted by opposing factions trying to force their belief system or the supremacy of their god(s) upon the will of others.

The rehabilitation of newly discovered OutSiders within Erde has been a primary function of the government. A major part of that rehabilitation concerns the removal of religion from the minds and hearts of prospective new citizens. No man or woman who does not swear to recant their religious beliefs or who still shows signs of conformity to religious thought, is allowed to enter into the population at large.

Lach (Circle) – The Religion of the Vigroth Peoples


The basic premise of the Vigroth is that humans are juistid deskes, spiritual beings manifested into al erdid erdol, a physical world by a single creator in conjunction with other spirit beings. They see two sets of laws governing creation, Justid Nelg, Spiritual Law and Erdid Nelg, Physical Law. These laws work hand in hand. Without one or the other, the known world couldn’t exist. They also realize that humanity doesn’t know all the laws. New discoveries and better understanding of them can and are being learned. It is their belief that the blueprint of these two sets of laws can be viewed by studying nature, which they call hac Cogin Velkrar, the Great Teacher.

The Vigroth know nature on a personal basis. They know the Spiritual Law and Physical Law that hold together the Injelacin or Universe are flexible. Through their study of nature they have learned that these Universal Laws can be stroked when they are understood fully. That is, they can be bent in certain ways to alter known results to make an outcome more favorable. They understand there is nothing magical about these processes, they simply use one set of know laws against others to bring about a conclusion.

An example of this would be using the danger signals of bees guarding a hive to entice swarms to attack an enemy. Another example would be using the mind to box a headache into disappearing. In our world, cloud seeding might be one example, as well as Native Americans dancing and singing to bring rain. The cloud seeding brings about the bending of Physical Law through the use of another Physical Law. The rain dances bring about the bending of Physical Law through the use of Spiritual Law. The strength of repeated incantations of shaman and witches bend Physical Law and Spiritual Law in the same manner as repeated prayer. Many examples could be put forth. Magic? Not really. There are physical laws that make cloud seeding work. There are also spiritual laws that make rain dances work as well. They may not be understood as easily because they deal with Spiritual Law rather than Physical Law. We humans are more comfortable studying Physical Law. The study of Spiritual Law is not considered a science.

Through their understanding of nature the Vigroth can see hac Socloh, the Oneness of all creation. They are aware that all life is dependant on the death of other living things. It is for this reason, like many Native Americans, they refer to their beliefs as Circle. The Vigroth know that they must eat plants, animals, fish, and birds in order to survive. When they die, they will in turn nourish the ground, insects, birds, and animals. They have great respect for this Circle. Their focus is upon the importance of every single living thing to manifest an awareness of the living Juis or Spirit in Erde.

The Vigroth concept of Oneness is not about making all the varieties of life the same. Oneness suggests instead that people have the opportunity to view this rich diversity as an example of the multiple ways in which the Soc Juis, or One Spirit, tries to find expression in life. Whether that life is the life of a fish, bird, animal, insect, plant, or person. Since there is only one Creator, the Universe must be composed of only one Force. Oneness as a force implies that all things are interrelated. Every one of us has a connection to one another, the land, the universe, and to the Maker.

Lach is not a religion that is written in a holy book.  It is memorized and passed down from parents to children through a series of  TilgGutzin or FireSongs  These are repeated from birth until death at public meetings so all know and remember the workings of Circle.


Worldbuilding 9 – If it’s Punresdaeg we must be in Uppsala August 20, 2009

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calendar of Uppsala

Why would anyone want a complicated calendar like this for use in their novel?  First of all, it’s not really that complicated.  Ninety-one day quarters with two holiday dates at the end of each half year makes for a 366 day year.  The first month of each quarter has 31 days with the other two months having 30 each.  Not having months with differing days from 28 to 31 makes scheduling a lot easier for Empire businesses.  Each quarter is the same and each year is the same.  No leap years are involved.  No extra days in one month needed.

The Uppsala calendar places the first year at the founding of the city of Uppsala. This calendar came in use during the first year of the Uppsala Empire.   Dates including that first city year and after it are designated AU (After Uppsala).  Dates before that year are designated BU (Before Uppsala).  Captain Briggs’ story starts in the year 5118AU, which equates to the year 1990 back in the good old USA.  He was picked up in the Rigga Sea during Uppsala’s 5,000th anniversary year or in 1872 according to our way of reckoning time.  Not so difficult is it?  Day, month and season names may change a bit due to local considerations, but you get used to that.  If you’ve ever spent long periods of time in a foreign country you know what I’m saying.

The Vigroth on the other hand use a lunar calendar and the native names are nowhere near our understanding.  There are three moon periods of 28 days in each month, the first of which are named for the Vigroth gods.  A fifth moon period may be added to regulate the seasons and is named for the god Juist.  The Vigroth understanding of years is as follows.  One hundred years is referred to as a ‘times’ or Chetzin.  A single year is referred to as a ‘time’ or Chetz.  So they would say that Captain Briggs came to Erde socnidimya chetz n soc chetzin.  Or, 18 time and 1 times, or 118 years ago.  Time and times are usually counted from an important event which everyone can remember. This makes it difficult for non-Vigroth people to figure out.  But fear not, you needn’t learn the Vigroth calendar to understand what is happening in the book.  ‘When’ is not really important to the Vigroth as long as they get an approximation of it.  But for those of you who like this sort of thing, I’ve included a copy of the Vigroth calendar:

vigroth calendar

There.  Now you can figure out your birthday according to both the Empire and the Vigroth.  Good figuring my friends.

Worldbuilding 8 – Magic August 17, 2009

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Every fantasy reader and writer has their own thoughts about magic.  Make it realistic.  Require a cost to use it.  Develop a system with reasonable laws that make it work.  All good suggestions, I suppose, but for me magic in any world should just be.  That’s all that’s required.  It certainly doesn’t need a long drawn out discussion of how it works or where it came from or whose behind it.  This is my view.  Anyone with a different view is just as justified in what they do as I am.  No fights, no arguments.  If it works for you, that’s all that’s important.

So what kind of magic exists in Erde?  The people of Erde view magic much as the people on Earth do.  The more educated they are, the less they believe in physical magic like disappearing at will and reappearing somewhere else.  They also have trouble with spiritual magic like chanting until a shaman can see through the eyes of a bird as it flies over their enemies.  Others will be mystified by the idea even if they have no proof that it works.  Some will think the whole idea of magic in a world driven by physical law is ridiculous.  Illiterate natives will live in fear of it.  In other words in any world there will be many opinions about magic.

Magic could range from the ultra fantastic, like two magicians throwing fireballs at each other, to the natural magical experience of two people falling in love or the birth of a child.  That’s not magic you say?  Ask the two young parents who’ve just witnessed their first child being born.  What we call magic is individual to each of us.  It’s what the combination of your beliefs and physical senses make it to be.  The people of Erde are much the same in their views of magic.  We all know nature exists but we don’t know everything it can accomplish.  When something happens in nature that goes beyond our understanding, we call it magic.

So does magic exist on Erde?  Of course it does.  For instance there is a hallucinogenic drug called nicroot, which seems to propel people who know how to use it on fantastic mind journeys to different parts of the universe, both physical and spiritual.  Is nicroot real?  Yes, it’s the root of a common flowering plant that grows in the central forests of Erde.  Is it truly able to transport ones spirit all over the universe?  That depends on whom you speak to in Erde.  What are the effects of chewing peyote buds in Arizona?  I’m sure you’ll get an answer from a local Native American that will differ from a professor at Arizona State University.

Then you have medical magic as produced by the physicians of the Empire and the shaman of the native tribes.  Fixing a broken arm or healing an infectious disease may not seem like magic to you, but to uneducated farmers it carries the sense of magic.  Do the spells of the native shaman work?  Well, there again, it’s a matter of how you define ‘work.’  Did the young child survive because of the spells of the shaman or did her own body heal itself?

We’ve already discussed the survival abilities of the Vigroth such as camouflage and Deep Chat.  Without doubt to the Riggrathi the Vigroth make magic that must be confronted with magic of their own.  But the Vigroth know these skills are learned.  They camouflage using plant leaves, moss, furs, skins, dyes, and makeup.  They use animal urine and feces to change their smell.  They practice running until they can do over twenty miles without making a sound.  They can control their breathing and their bodily urges to appear dead.  Magic?  No, all learned skills, just like the Deep Chat.

There are powders that make fires smokeless, berries that make it nearly impossible for a woman to conceive, and a heavy metal that can be honed to a point that will penetrate almost anything yet because of its weight it can’t be used for weapons larger than a small hunting knife.  Magic?  That’s for you, the reader, to say as you experience them.

Erde is a magnificent place full of wonder and awe with many surprises for folk visiting from Earth.  I hope you enjoy its magic.

Worldbuilding 7 – Language August 16, 2009

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Many different languages are spoken in Erde.  The ‘official’ language of the Empire is Court Anglich.  There is a court version and common versions.  The common versions are replete with words specific to the olde languages of each Rejoinder and may or may not be recognized in other  Rejoinders.  Of course the various native tribes all speak their own languages which makes things difficult for the author but the reader needn’t be concerned with translation.  Since the Vigroth tribe is the focus of the story, their language is more the center of attention than the others.

It’s not so much the languages that I want to discuss but how the languages are used in my novels.  What would life be like without poetry, music and the sounds of different languages?  Can you even imagine?  Yet, how many novels (especially fantasy) have you read where these elements of language were excluded?

One of the reasons books such as Lord of the Rings or The Once and Future King are so popular is because they contain these three elements of language.  (To me, music is indeed an element of language.)  Including poetry, song, and language immediately brings the reader into an environment that the reader can relate to.  Music and poetry fill our waking lives.  Why shouldn’t they also fill the lives of our characters?  As for language differences, walk down a street in any New York City neighborhood and listen to the people speaking.  Now try to imagine what the experience would be like if they all spoke one tongue and all with the same accent.  Not nearly as colorful, eh? Yet we do this to our readers all the time.

Tolkien was a linguist so creating new languages both written and spoken wasn’t as difficult for him as it might be for you and I.  But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it should be excluded from our work.  Allow me to give an example.  Here is a poem written by my protagonist.  I’ll give it to you first in her native Vigroth tongue:


Now here it is in the Common Anglich spoken in the village of Selga:


I can translate any English writing into Vigroth.  It is spelled phonetically, the way it is spoken or sung.  Again, it’s just something that adds a bit of color to a story and, perhaps, a bit more enjoyment for the reader.

Music in books presents its own problems.  Face it – books don’t have a soundtrack.  Blend music with poetry and you have a song.  People sing.  They sing when they’re happy, sad, bored – for many reasons.  They sing in concerts, at sporting games, in pubs, or even just in their own shower or car.  People enjoy singing and so should your characters.  It makes for a more life-like work.

The same goes for poetry.  Some form of poetry invades almost every language spoken or written.  This is especially true if you are writing about a time before our age of technology.  Who has never attempted to write so much as one poem in their life?  Few, I should think.  Again, you want your characters to be realistic?  Slip in a bit of poetry or song here or there.