As part of my author guest blog series I am proud to present another guest blog spot. Shattered Dreams I am very excited andthe author of
Is out NOW!!
So go get your copy!
Through Thinking — Things
by Ulff Lehmann
I believe I touched upon the idea on my blog (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15399169.Ulff_Lehmann/blog) but I believe there is more to it than what I did there, especially since I can now indulge myself and actually give examples from the world I created for my novels.
Let’s start with a fact some might disagree with but a fact nonetheless (if I piss some of you religious types off, maybe I can also get you thinking). Our home, the Earth, was not created by one deity or a group of deities; we as a species did not stem from one man and his female clone created from his rib. Ours is a world of migration and evolution/natural selection, with parallel developments and all that stuff. Because of that we have variations of the same species, none of us creatures has a special destiny and when it’s over it’s over. We have hundreds of languages, thousands of dialects, and a myriad of tales, some of which have common ancestors which spread through migration and were adapted by those with whom the migrating people mingled.
Religious types might disagree, but I’m not going to argue the perceived merits of one religion or the other, I’ve decided to talk about fantastic worlds and the necessity of internal logic.
The typical fantasy world has a bunch of deities, a pantheon, that have created the world or taken the world from its creators, their progenitors. Think Greek mythology. I could mention more but this bit of madness is not a study of mythology either.
So, we have a pantheon of gods. We can assume they communicate with each other in the same language. Once again I point to mythology where Zeus and gang sit in Olympus and argue. It is only logical that when they toss the first hundred people on the world that they will speak the same language as the gods. It’s also logical that the rest of the humans, if they decide to add some color to the skin palette, also speaks that language. Why? It’s logical, they want to hear what their followers are saying. One might argue that they are gods and can understand every language, but that is circular logic. First off, why should there be another language, the gods’ language is there? Second, what would be the motivation for another language? Having one bureaucracy is bad enough, without having the forms be in multiple languages just for the kick of it.
Even if there was color variety in the humans of the world, the language would be the same, or based on the same, depending on population order.
In my world (no, I have no fancy name for it, yet) the elves preceded humanity, thus humanity learned the language of those who at first enslaved them: the elves. Sure, there are dialects in the way elves and humans talk, depending on the region, and a person from a northern realms might have trouble understanding someone from the southernmost realm, but all in all it is the same language. Imagine someone from the backwaters of Mississippi with a stereotypical, almost brutal accent, talking to their Scottish counterpart — fun stuff. Given a few more centuries and the adequate isolation those two dialects might change into their own languages but the common root would still be discernible.
It’s a nice thought to have adventures in foreign lands, but the fact of the matter is, being stranded in a strange land where nobody understands you makes buying a cup of tea an adventure — and not the one we want to read about in a novel. Tolkien had the Common Tongue, but that language was not the only language in the hood. Same goes for DragonLance and other D&D worlds. In Tolkien’s case, I’m actually surprised that there wasn’t one tongue to bind them all. Sure, it made for nicer visuals, but the script used on the Ring itself was also elven though the language was the Dark Tongue, ominous and a little childish to my eyes, but okay. The elves came from the west, so came the men of Numenor, but apparently not the same west… The good professor didn’t really bother with internal logic, and why should he, he invented the sodding genre.
The fact remains that if the world was created by one pantheon, the language spoken should be that of the pantheon. Let’s not open the can of worms of invading pantheons and people onto that world, it’s hard enough to keep track of one group of gods.
Assuming the gods tossed their creation, in my case elves, into an area and let it spread we need to also assume that either the gene-pool was large enough to make second and third and following generations incest a minor problem, or we toss genetics overboard, or we say that over the millennia the problem occurred more often because the pool was saturated and inbreeding began to have an effect on the elves.
The gods, having learned from that mistake and the one to have elves grow old enough for a grandfather to, theoretically, marry his granddaughter… so the gods learned from the mistakes and decided to add another species to the mix, short-lived, breeding like rabbits and a hell of a lot more chaotic than the elves, also, they created a shitload more humans to avoid the later generational inbreeding. The humans would be unknowing, like the elves before them, and while some might have developed on their own, the majority fell under elven influence and learned from them…
Even a wider distribution of humans would learn either directly or indirectly from the elves, and while some words might be bastardized, the general means of communication would still be the language of those first elves, or rather an offshoot from it, since language as we know develops. (Gods have no problem adapting)
A world created and peopled by a bunch of gods will have a creation truth which will eventually turn into myth, but unlike the multitude of myths here on Earth, the ones on our pantheon-developed world will all be similar. Why? That should be obvious…
The peoples of the world will worship the same gods, maybe with different names, but still the same ones. Architecture will, at least with the elves who have a common origin civilization, look similar.
When I set out to write what would become Shattered Dreams, I wanted to use a late Dark Ages kind of civilization. But to get that there had to be an enlightened era before. I also dislike the millennia old civilizations of elves which still use the same “tech” as their ancestors. Even Rome had been rebuilt over the course of its reign. Rome, I kept that in mind for the Dark Ages, and went on to consider why a culture would stagnate. One reason was lack of wars, but frankly people are egotistical, even elves, so that option was out before it could become boring. Magic was the logical explanation. If you can wave your hand and get water boiling so you can cook a bunch of eggs, chances are you will never develop the microwave. If you can create a light out of thin air, why bother with electricity? If magic replaces technology and can be adapted to fit every kind of situation, progress virtually stops. The minds that could invent black powder probably developed the magical equivalent.
Enter mankind, a new race. What would any self-serving people do? Right, enslave them, teach them the barest and then let the toil. Only the elves realized that this would not do in the long run, what with the humans outgrowing their population by the decade. So they set them free, with the little knowledge they had. Voila instant Dark Ages, at least for one group.
Of course there is more to it all, but my main point was to demonstrate why internal logic makes or breaks a fantasy world. Logic makes things easier. Sure, first you need to think things through, but in the end, once you have figured “it” out, the rest becomes so much simpler. The protagonists travel east, into unexplored lands, unexplored by humans of their region that is. They come across ruins that look vaguely familiar, it looks like the elven ruins near their village, but these here are not moss covered, rat infested remnants of a bygone age but look recently demolished. And as they still consider that question they mount a hill and look down into valley buzzing with activity. At first they think the people are fellow humans, they can understand the bits of shouts floating through the air, but as they draw closer they see the people working on the strange construct, a fortress maybe, are slender, and they do not use lifts and pulleys to get massive slabs of stone up the wall. No, the stones float up in the air… and so on and so forth… and no, this is not part of Shattered Dreams, but it is something that could happen in my world.
If you look at constructed game worlds, especially those for D&D, the maps are sprinkled with different nations which each represent different technological eras, from Dark Ages to Renaissance, with no rhyme or reason, they might worship the same gods but speak different languages. For the game it makes sense, different languages mean more different language skills and so on, but the internal logic is flawed… trade connected Scandinavia with Egypt five thousand years ago, and it is only logical that these two regions shared more than just the one’s interest in amber and the other digging it out of the ground.
Aside from trade, language, culture, what is the thing that most (male) readers get off on? Riiiight, weapons and armor. And sadly, more often then not in epic fantasy we see the gruff outdoorsman (to avoid the term Ranger) with his twin tulwars (to avoid the term Scimitar) fighting off orcs left, right, and center. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Drizzt, or I can remember liking him, given that it’s been nigh a decade since I last read of the Drow. But as with so many things D&D, realism took a seat so far in the back that they had to buy a horse trailer for the thing to sit in. Anyone who has ever had any slight interest in weapons and armor and their evolution will tell you that weapons were developed to penetrate armor, specific armor, and new armor was invented to counter these weapons.
One can assume that a similar development roundabout occurs in any given fantasy world, some bloke comes up with a weapon, his side gain the upper hand in battle, and the opposing side comes up with armor to counter those weapons. Until there is a pinnacle, the sword was the goto weapon on Medieval battlefields, not the scimitar, or kukri, or whatever other exotic weapon you might think is cool and unique to a character. The cool and unique shit is utter nonsense, because in battle only one thing matters: to get rid of your current opponent fast enough to kill the next two, maybe help out your buddy by stabbing another poor sod in the back, and when all is said and done, loot the fuck out of your victims. Let’s repeat after me: in battle the only things that matter are survival and killing, style choices are for games that assign specific die values to weapons thus making them comparable, while they most certainly are not.
If you want your world believable, stop believing the Arms and Equipment Guide is your best friend, it is not. Most likely the book can be compared to the stupid cousin who eats all the cheese and then farts the rest of his time at your place. Do your research, you don’t need to know everything about specific weapons, and you can extrapolate from what you know.
Now, before them pitchforks are coming aflying, a bit more about Ulff the writer, and the stuff I implement my research in, read: my novel(s).
I’ve been writing on and off for some 30 years or so, initially what could now be considered fanfic, and then graduating so to speak to writing within the confines of a shared world, which is also where the story of Shattered Dreams and its sequels was born. I left that shared world behind since I had to ask too many people whether I could do this or that, and even if most of the answers were not necessarily “no,” the wait for a response was too much for my impatience back then. I wanted stuff, and I wanted it now, or then rather. Plus while my prose was actually on a semi-acceptable level, I did not grow as a writer, which had nothing to do with the environment of the shared world and everything to do with my reading habits. I wrote in German, but read 2-5 novels a month in English. In the end I decided to write in English fulltime.
Still it took a bloody long time to get the story out there, and just like the protagonist who faces his demons, I had to face mind in order to make sense of it all.
When I started writing I knew a few things I wanted, or rather a bunch of things I did not want. I didn’t want thousands of years of stagnant technology, need is the mother of all inventions, if stuff is not needed, it does not get created. And despite that I wanted a world filled with myths… I wanted the tech available to humans to be about Dark Ages level, so I figured a shortcut: what if humanity is a young race which has only recently been added to the mix. That would mean at least one race that had come before, the elves, and to get mankind into the Dark Ages, an empire had to fall. So my elves became my Romans, a decision that would come to bit me in the ass eventually, but that is for a different blog.
Also, my initial novel pretty much reflected what I was reading at the time, namely 3rd person omniscient narrator, and far too little personality for the characters. In the end, I shelved that version. However, an acquaintance recommended I should not read fantasy whilst writing fantasy, something that would prove very important when I finally sat down to write the manuscript that now bears the title Shattered Dreams.
The thing about the heroic portion of the fantasy genre is its denial of real trauma, no matter how many people the hero (there is the rare novel out there that actually refers to the heroes as heroes!) kills, and orcs are people too, he never develops any sort of empathy. In a way one could say such protagonists are more psychopaths than many a Hannibal to begin with, at least Dr Lecter is aware of his deficiency.
I wanted real people, real drama, real trauma, and when I had finished reading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, I had found my style, or rather the style that inspired me. Add to that the realism of thrillers and historical fiction, the emotion one can find in romance and horror, different emotions but still… It all meshed together.
When I finally sat down to write Shattered Dreams, as part of my behavior therapy (I needed to finally finish something, and come up with some structure for my life!) the first draft of 160,000 words I finished in 3 months, I think. I have no idea whether that’s fast or not, but to me it was amazing. I had the story, I had the realism, all the things I wanted in the book were in the book. Over the next 6 months or so I took a file, then sandpaper and finally a fine brush to the manuscript, fixing what I could fix, polishing dialogues, that sort of thing, never losing sight of my ultimate goal: to really be done with that part of the story.
Why yes, it is but the first part of a trilogy, it has no end but a cliff hanger. It doesn’t leave you dangling like I initially planned, you have both hands on the ledge, your toes have firm hold of a crevice. Believe you me, that is a kindness the second part does not share with anyone, including me, and I fucking know how the story continues.
Logic is not only the same positions of houses in a city; it isn’t just the gradual reveal of deeper meanings; it isn’t just the reality, the historicity of a fictional world — logic, to me is the characters. How do they feel and why? How will they react to any given situation? Inserting a character because you thought he is “fun” makes little sense if the rest of the narrative is steeped in realism. People don’t normally drop out of the sky, they have a story, and to a degree you need to be aware of that story in order for the person to become a part of the story’s reality. Even the bad guys. There are few real villains here on Earth, Trump might be one of them, Stalin and Hitler were of them, Giles de Rais and Ersebeth Bathory probably were bad guys too. But a villain is someone with an agenda, a rationale behind his actions that is not based in madness, so de Rais and Bathory might be out, seeing that they were utterly nuts. To just say someone is evil would also imply that someone else is good, and while that is logical, it isn’t very realistic either. Good and evil are concepts that can be changed, from the Crusader’s POV he is doing good by killing Jews and Muslims, from the son of one of his victims POV he is as evil as can be, because dead dad. Logic works both ways, and as such good and evil should, in my opinion, be shut out of any equation.
Who? Where? Why? Who is this person? Where do they come from? Why are they the way they are? There are heroes on both sides of a conflict, because both sides see themselves as the “right” side, on the side of the angels, whereas objectively they are both idiots, the defender less so than the attacker, but which soldier, which people actually get the truth of why a country is invaded?
It all boils down to logic, and the more logical one’s construct, one’s world with all its people, the more believable the story.
I guess I’m supposed to say more about my novel, Shattered Dreams, seeing as this is also a bit of self promotion. Well, if you like your stories shining, with well defined sides of good and evil, Dreams is not for you. If you like youthful innocent protagonists, it is not for you. If you like heroes that stand shining in front of the onrushing darkness… yup, you guessed it, not for you. If you, however, like believable characters, mysteries that keep pace with the characters’ discoveries, fight scenes that don’t pull any punches, slowly developing images that allow you to piece together your vision of the world, and books that require you to think, then I think Shattered Dreams is for you.
See you on the pages!
German born but English writing author, Ulff Lehmann, was raised reading, almost any and everything, from the classic Greek to Roman to Germanic myths to more appropriate fiction for children his age. Initially devouring books in his native language, he switched to reading English books during a year long stay in the USA as a foreign exchange student.
In the years since, he has lost count of the books he has read, unwilling to dig into the depths of his collection. An avid fantasy reader, he grew dissatisfied with the constant lack of technological evolution in many a fantasy world, and finally, when push came to shove, he began to realize not only his potential as a story teller but also his vision of a mythical yet realistic world in which to settle the tale in he had been developing for 20 years.
SHATTERED DREAMS is a deep, rich, layered high fantasy, the beginning of an epic that will be well worth following for years to come. Looming menace, thoughtful worldbuilding; a winner! –Ed Greenwood (NYTimes bestselling fantasy writer)
Friedrich Nietzsche said that if one looks too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Drangar Ralgon has been avoiding the abyss’s gaze for far too long and now turns to face it.
Shattered Dreams is told from multiple viewpoints, with each individual tale eventually intersecting with the others, forming a tapestry. In a land finally at peace, war, like a weaver, pushes lives of warriors every which way until their paths become patterns. There are no shining heroes, no damsels who cannot save themselves, only people trying their damndest to make sense of the chaos they call their lives.
This book retells the first steps as they figure out their roles in the gigantic tapestry the gods have laid out for them. In a world where actions do have consequences, and mistakes are paid for in blood and pain, the lives of a few can make a difference.
Inspired by the vigorous style of George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and in the vein of historical fictioneer Bernard Cornwell, SHATTERED DREAMS brings to life a stark, uncompromising tale of a man’s path to redemption.