This issue is entitled “ekphrasis” and features stories, poems and essays inspired by works of art. The Turtle on the Lily-pad is a sapphic Beauty and the Beast retelling based on this lovely little amethyst turtle:
You can visit it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Because I remembered it from an older catalogue where I seemed to recall it had been dated to the Predynastic (Early Neolithic) Period of Egyptian history (it’s not), that’s what shaped the world of this story, though the landscape is Paleolithic Nile Valley (lectures have to be good for something!) A lot of snippets from Ancient Egyptian culture influenced the world of Na-apia and Grandmother, to create a magical world – or two.
Hello everyone! An important aspect of worldbuilding in a fantasy or sci-fi setting is often the planet itself. We’ve collected a few resources to help you out.
Create Your Solar System
Depending on your genre and story, you might want to start big – with a whole solar system. Roll for Fantasy’s solar system creator lets you generate random solar systems or create your own. You can choose the star type, planet type and place your planets where you like. The advantage to the randomizer is that is generates planetary day and orbit time automatically; you will have to decide and calculate yourself in custom mode. The model doesn’t show relative orbits, though.
Donjon has a generator with nice visuals of the individual stellar bodies, but no “map”. This one on Mr. Nussbaum has an orbital view and lets you pick and choose your planets.
StarGen requires a download but seems to be quite variable.
If you have some time on your hands, you can try out Starchitect. It lets you set some base parameters and watch as your solar system evolves at a rate of a million years a minute.
Create Your Planet
Now that you know what your solar system looks like, you can get started on your planet. Assuming it’s earth-like, you’ll want to generate some planetary maps.
Donjon is a fractal map generator that will give you a whole planet. You can change some of the settings, but not define individual countries. It’s really pretty!
If you’re looking for a political map, try Azgaar Fantasy Map Generator. You can define countries, but also military, economic and religious factors. It’s less pretty but amazingly variable.
Finally, if you already know what your world looks like and want to make a nice visual of it, try Inkarnate. You can place elements such as mountains and forests yourself, set towns and cities… There is a free and a paying version.
What does this mean for your writing?
When working with sci-fi, the solar system generators can be a fun tool for figuring out (or letting a randomizer figure out) what kind of star our heroes are orbiting, how many planets are in a system, how many moons they have and how long it takes them to orbit their sun.
In a fantasy setting, the type of sun is not usually quite as important, though if you know the science behind them they can affect your world and society in interesting ways. But orbital length (how long is a year?), spin (how long is a day?),axis tilt (what are the seasons?), number of moons can add interest to your story.
That doesn’t mean you need to do all that. Unless you describe it otherwise, readers will assume an earthlike planet: yellow sun, one moon, 365 day year and 24-hour day, with climatic conditions similar to our planet. You can still have fun making or generating maps and deciding what the ecology of each region will look like and how it influenced the borders of the various countries.
Or just set everything in one little provincial town… But urban worldbuilding is for another post!
Check out more resources on space travel, clothing, food and more at the Library of Eclectic Knowledge on this site!
Do you have more resources you would like to share with other writers! Contact us through the Contact page or write to fockesonia(a)gmail(dot)com!
Whether in a historical or fantasy setting, you might find yourself with characters wearing clothing similar to what was worn in the 18th century. This can be fraught with pitfalls, including:
dressing lower-class characters in impractical clothes only high-class people wore
giving false information on how something was put on
giving false information on the relative comfort of the garments
Forgetting garments! Knee-length breeches were worn with stockings and there are certain accessoires necessary for getting everything to stay in place!
Fortunately, YouTube has a number of informational videos to help you with just that!
For women’s clothing, you can find out what a working woman wore, and how a middle- or upper-class woman would get dressed. The same resource exists for men.
And more importantly, there is also this wonderful testimonial of a young woman who wore 18th-century clothing every day for several years to dispel any misinformation about stays, petticoats and how warm everything actually was.
USING THIS RESOURCE IN YOUR WRITING
Pay attention not only to the various garments, but also the material they were made in. In SpecFic settings, make sure you have some sort of equivalent to light/heavy materials. Don’t forget: linen is really great in hot weather, but it doesn’t grow everywhere! In the 18th-century, though, it was fairly widely distributed, whereas cotton was a fairly new material. Someone wearing homespun clothes wouldn’t be wearing cotton except in the Colonies, but middle-class people would have had ready access to it. We associate wool exclusively with winter garments, but very fine, light wool breathes well and doesn’t smell when you perspire.
Pay attention to the gestures associated with certain garments – these are great descriptors or dialogue beats! Someone with the cuffs from their shirt peeking out from their coat will “shoot” the cuffs or adjust them. A woman will spread her skirts before sitting down so they don’t pull, a man will flip his coattails back.
Definitely watch the testimonial! Stays are actually quite comfortable – not sweatshirt comfy, but I-don’t-realise-I’m-wearing-them comfortable. You can definitely breathe and work in them. At most, stays or corsets for ballgowns or court dress might be stiffer or laced up more tightly (though the wasp waist wasn’t as fashionable as in the later 19th century).
Don’t forget makeup and wigs! (I’ll have to look for nice resources on those).
ORBIS is a wonderful resource that is basically a travel agency/Google Maps for the Roman Empire. With it, you can visualise routes, calculate travel times and cost of travel from most of the great cities in the Roman Empire. Variables include season, means of travel (on foot, by horse, by sea…) and a choice of “fastest”, “cheapest” and “shortest”. If ever you wondered how to get from Carthago to Alexandria in Summer, this is the website for you!
HOW CAN I APPLY IT TO MY WRITING?
Anyone writing in a pre-industrialised society or with characters having to cover large distances on foot or on a sailing ship can use this tool to figure out travel times! Just pick two cities at about the distance you want them to travel, choose your mode of transportation and let the website calculate it for you.
The price is given in denarii, but… here are a few denarius to dollar converters:
Come one, come all! I have long been wondering how to contribute to the writing community. Everyone seems to have a writing blog. So I have started a resources archives instead! I’ve been gathering resources on everything from breakfast foods to cask measurements and thought other authors might enjoy as well!
This one’s for writers of historical novels or specific settings inspired by history. The New York Public Library has an amazing collection of old menus that will help your historical meal feel authentic. They’re in the process of transcribing them all to help users search for specific foods and improve accessibility – and you can help! There is even a map function to help situate the restaurant in New York City.
Little details often add to the immediacy of a scene, but there is nothing worse than anachronisms! For example, a video game recently featured a song several years before it was even written, which broke my poor historian heart. So having authentic menus to choose from can help you set the scene and ensure that your characters are not unwitting time-travellers.
For spec fic authors, it’s less about authenticity and more about flavour. Having meals that fit into the time period your fantasy setting is based upon (or that your sci-fi setting has decided to emulate) can add that little touch of enjoyment for your readers. Even if you change the names of the dishes, their naming conventions can provide inspiration for your on-station greasy spoon or steampunk afternoon tea.
The Magical Theory Professor is officially in Beta testing! But before I continue Part II of the Gramarye series I want to tweak some of my short stories.
Currently, I’m expanding “So You’ve Been Abducted by a Dragon – Now What?” I will then take the expanded story and split it into two, to give myself more options on the market (some publications don’t take stories over 5,000 words and my short stories tend to fall somewhere in the 8,000 to 10,000 range – often too long for short story pitches but too short for novellas. Sigh.)
After that I am going to try and make my story “Coat of Many Feathers” (in the “I (Don’t) Dream of Genie” universe) into something less creepy and more palatable. Right now it’s ugh.
Still working on synchronising the Magical Theory Professor so I can get it out to my beta readers – and finding all sorts of minor tweaks in the process. Which I can’t just leave because I might forget about them in another run-through. Sigh.
Also doing interesting things to my urban fantasy short story Prosperity, which I’m working on in a sort of double-harness. I have one “short” story version (at just under 10,000 words, it’s a bit of an iffy designation) and another I am expanding into a proper novella (currently at about 13,000 words). It’s an urban fantasy featuring an Egyptian sleight-of-hand magician and her trusty Genie.
Genie doesn’t look like this and neither does Salima – I just loved this cover. By Ziff-Davis Publishing / Harold W. McCauley on Wikimedia Commons
This is also the springboard for this year’s NaNoWriMo project. For those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a friendly competition to write 50,000 words in 30 days, making November into National Novel Writing Month. I’ll be “cheating” this year by doing a series of short stories focused on Salima instead of a novel. Don’t know if I’ll make the 50,000 words (I have less make-up time this year if I don’t meet my daily goals on my daily commute than I did in previous years), but we’ll see!