Monthly Archives: August 2008

Terra – An Alternate History, Part 2: The World War

Previously: The Great War and the Invasion of Manchuria

The second part of the history of Terra deals with the second extended war in the 20th Century.

The “World War” began as a war in Europe, which quickly spread around the world. It was, at first, called “The Russian War” by everybody except the Russians, who called it “The War of Restoration” if they called it something at all. It was this global conflict that cemented the League of Nation’s Role as a “world government”.

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Terra – An Alternate History, Part 1: The Great War and the Invasion of Manchuria

And now for something completely different.

Terra is an alternate history version of Earth. It forms a “meta-setting” that connects several of my worlds because the Terrans eventually discover a way to travel between parallel universes, but it’s easy to just consider it as an alternate history and to use it as a setting for more traditional “modern” stories or role-playing adventures if you want to use something a little less like our mundane world.

The history consists of a lot of text, so I’ll split the setting up into several postings.

Point of Divergence

Napolean’s war against Russia didn’t occur until 1813. The outcome was the same – Napoleon’s Grande Armée was decimated in Russia, but it delayed the fall of the French Empire to 1815 instead of a year earlier.

Summary of Subsequent Developments

As the British continued to be occupied by the war against Napoleon, the war of 1812 ended with an American victory and in partial annexation of Canada by the US. The enmity arising from this strained US-British relations and led to greater confidence in Germany that the Americans would not enter the war on the allied side. The Zimmermann Telegram was never sent, removing an important justification for war for Woodrow Wilson.

The US finally did enter the war, as a victory of the central powers was seen as undesirable, but later and more cautiously; the Great War ground on until the Spanish Flu ravaged the world. The post-war situation was radically altered, the League of Nations was strengthened and eventually became a de-facto world government after a brutal war against Communist Russia and Imperial Japan.

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Theme Change

Sorry about the change in wordpress themes… again. I actually liked Librio better. However, the author did update it to fix some bugs… and messed up some of the layouts. So I’ll be using devart by the same author. It does look a little more mellow and less “technological”, so I dunno, maybe it’s not a bad choice. (Devart looks to be inspired by DeviantArt.)

I promise to stick with this one for a while… unless there are serious problems with it, of course.

Relics and Ruins

Arnâron is littered with leftovers from the past. Abandoned, ruined cities dot the ancient continents and the former coastlines. A network of canals criss-crosses the world, most of them still functional after many centuries. And everywhere signs of ancient battles and wars can be found.

Canals

The most notable remnant of Arnâron’s ultra high technological past is the global network of canals. Their construction was a feat of engineering unrivaled in all of Arnâron’s history. The canals bring water from the poles towards the equator, and from the remaining seas towards the ancient continents.

The major canals are a kilometer wide and fifty meters deep. They are lined by earthen levees that protect the surrounding lands in the event from flooding. Water seeping through the canals’ sides form an aquafier in the immediate surrounding, which makes a wide stretch of land along the canals arable – sometimes several kilometers wide. Not all of this land is claimed, or even usable for agriculture, and consists mostly of steppes.

A network of minor canals – not shown on the above map – branches off of the major canals, transporting the water further inland.

The canals are not always “simple” trenches through which water flows. In several locations, extensive aqueducts were built to cross a canyon or valley – or former ocean trench. Pumping stations forced water uphill, towards the interior of the ancient continents. Locks helped ships and barges to travel canals at different heights.

The most amazing thing about the canals is not only the fact that many are still operational after many centuries – Locals do their best to clear out debris and sand during low flow – but that many of the locks and pumping stations are still in working order. Not all of them, but enough that the majority of the canal network remains usable. The engineers who built them anticipated that their descendants would not be able to maintain the machinery properly, and designed for it.

City Ruins

Before the planet began to die, the people of Arnâron were a mostly urban society. Centuries of urbanization had all but eliminated rural communities. The result were huge cities that covered vast areas. These cities had grown over long times, and were chaotic accumulations of buildings – most of which were high rises or even skyscrapers. They consisted of modern, lightweight construction materials, and many were covered in blueish solar cells. Buildings in the outlaying areas were smaller and lower, usually housing one or a few families instead of thousands of people. Many buildings and properties had hexagonal or octagonal features or layouts. Transportation was mostly public, and electrical, but some individual transportation was used as well.

Most of these cities were devastated when Arnâron changed. Earthquakes, floods, fires, and riots all did their part – most were seriously damaged. Some were rebuilt, others abandoned. Then the oceans began to recede, and the cities that had been rebuilt were eventually abandoned as it became increasingly difficult to maintain them. Some survived along the canals, but eventually the people migrated towards the new coastlines.

This led to a second generation of cities being built. They had to be built quickly and had to house millions of refugees. They were planned out, usually again along hexagonal or, more commonly, octagonal layouts. The buildings weren’t as tall or beautiful, but there were fewer people – the death toll had been huge. Some of these cities survive until today.

Modern Ruins

The current cities are fairly similar to the second generation – building styles have changed somewhat, as the climate has become more hostile. Many buildings are designed to include natural air conditioning – they are built high to take advantage of the difference in temperature to provide a cooling air flow inside. Cities are also heavily defended, including walls and other defensive installations. All cities are located either on a canal or another body of water.

While most of the “modern” cities are inhabited and kept intact, some have been abandoned. This was usually the result of war – sometimes, when a city was razed by an enemy, it was not rebuilt. The survivors fled to another city, or built a new one in a more defensible location.

Ancient Ruins

There are some ruins that date back to “prehistoric” times – that is, to a more primitive time before the golden age of Arnâron’s high technology civilization. Very little is left of them – even those which were kept in good repair as historic monuments deteriorated quickly when the effort to keep them intact ceased.

There are some monuments that survive pretty much as they have for thousands of years. For example there are ancient pyramids and megalithic sites that have merely eroded a little in the past centuries.

Roads and railways

The ancient continents were covered by extensive road and railway networks. The rails were usually dismantled and the iron used as raw materials when the regions they served were abandoned, but this wasn’t always the case. Both roads and railway lines are now usually covered by the shifting sands of Arnâron, or overgrown where “extensive” vegetation still exists, but in some rocky desert areas the ancient roads are still visible and usable, connecting long destroyed points of interests or the dead cities.

Weapons of War

War has always been a fact of life on Arnâron, even before the catastrophe that transformed the planet into its current sorry state, even if the warfare has never been so widespread as today. No signs of pre-catastrophe battlefields remain; the nations involved always cleaned up after the wars were over. But this has not always been possible since. While scavengers usually moved in on abandoned battlefields, there are many sites which they didn’t find or elected to ignore, for example in places that were too remote or too dangerous to reach. Here, sun-bleached skeletons can be found among the burnt-out shells of armored vehicles and combat walkers.

Working Artifacts

Not all artifacts from Arnâron’s glorious past are ruined. Some are in perfect working order – The canal system, while deteriorating, is a lasting monument to the quality of the work of its designers. Many cities or other ruins may yet hide preserved weapons or machines. Even those cities that have been thoroughly plundered may yet contain hidden basements or sealed vaults that contain valuable devices, books, or other relics.

The largest single surviving piece of machinery, and probably by far the most powerful, is the captured sun, a working fusion power plant in the polar city-state Nation E. It runs largely automatic, but is attended to by a caste of priest-technicians who can conduct minor repairs. It is the source of the wealth and power of that nation – and the envy of all other cities and nations of Arnâron.

Knowing the Past of Arnâron

Arnâron is a dying world, its glorious days long gone. Like life itself, civilization clings on desperately, and has been in a downwards spiral of famines, fatigue, and war related fatalities for centuries. In such a desperate situation, knowledge and technology are of the utmost importance to survival, but on the other hand a lot of “unnecessary” knowledge is lost as other things take priority.

How much, then, do the people of Arnâron know about their own past?

When we try to answer this question, we must distinguish between the learned scholars and the common people. In every remaining civilized society, there are those who know a lot of facts about the planet and the old societies – this knowledge is handed from one generation to the next because it could become useful in the constant wars. These learned men know about a lot of technology – for example about the great war machines that the ancestors used. In many cases they couldn’t build any of it, even if they had the resources – all the technical details have been lost. So for example, a scholar may know about nuclear physics, rockets, atom bombs, combat walkers, ray guns, and so on, but even if he’s given the full support of a nation he won’t be able to send men to the moons unless he rediscovers a lot of basic science and technology first. Likewise, a scholar will know of nuclear weapons as “terrible bombs that harnessed the power of the atom to devastate an entire city”, but he doesn’t know how it was achieved – what the “power of the atom” exactly is.

That’s what the experts know – the historians who deal with such matters regularly. The common people know much less. They know that their people were much more powerful in the past, and roughly what was possible back then. Compare it to what the average person in our time knows about, say, the middle ages. Ask them and they’ll list castles, and knights, and swords, sieges and the crusades, but they couldn’t tell historically accurate details, and they certainly wouldn’t, for example, know how to build a crossbow. The example isn’t the best, but I think it illustrates the principle.

Stupid Mistakes

I was going to post some nice samples of the language of Arnâron… only to discover that I messed up the word order in about a quarter of the sentences. Yes, I suck at linguistics and grammar and stuff.

At least I noticed it before posting it.

Since I really can’t be bothered to re-do the examples right now, especially since I’ll have to re-draw them all with Inkscape, the language update will have to wait and I think I will tackle something else first so I’ll get a few more posts out before World Building Month ends in a few days.

My Genres and Settings

While I was torturing my mind to produce more words, it began to seek an escape route and thus wandered about a little. I thought about the fact that I really don’t want to work on science fiction right now and began to examine my worlds for “genre”. Turns out, science fiction is almost everywhere. Or more correctly, science fiction elements.

These are the worlds I worked on recently, say in the last half year or so:

  • Arnâron is a dying world that used to be ultra-high tech, and some remnants of it will be found here and there. I guess that counts as borderling sci-fi, or doesn’t it?
  • Gaia Ringworld is a world where (most) of mankind lives in tribal structures in harmony with a seemingly sentient natural world. But that world is a giant ring, a Banks Orbtial, and if that isn’t sci-fi then I don’t know what is.
  • Thraeton: An untamed, undeveloped world where much of “native” civilization is in the stone age. Again I included science fiction elements: Over the past centuries, humans from alternate worlds arrived on Thraeton. Most of them involuntarily, whisked away by that old stereotype, the storm that opens gateways between worlds; but others chose this world as a destination and it is they who built high-tech cities with nanotechnology and robots. Sounds Science Fiction to me.
  • Voyagers: My take on a Foundation style galactic society. It doesn’t get more classical than this in science fiction.
  • Terra: An alternate history setting… at first glance this may not sound very science fictional, except that at some the Terrans discover the technology to travel between parallel universes – this is sort of my “meta setting” that connects everything. And I think traveling to other universes is quite sci-fi.

Looking through my other worlds, there’s a lot of stuff there that isn’t science fiction at all. Like Enderra, which is yet another sword and sorcery world. But I guess that there is some kind of science fiction in many of them – I guess I just like to explain things pseudo-scientifically when I can instead of resorting to “magic”.

Mh, I should probably introduce some of my settings in more detail on the blog… but first, I shall return to making up words for the Arnâronian language.

Arnâron Language: Numbers and Plurals

When I said that I don’t have numbers, I wasn’t quite correct – I do have numbers, just no symbols for them.

Numbers

| Number | X-Sampa | Latin characters |
| ————- |:————- |:————-|
| 0 | nuR | nur |
| 1 | ki | ki |
| 2 | do | do |
| 3 | Re | re |
| 4 | so | so |
|5 | at | at |
|6 | mo | mo |
|7 | na | na |
|8 | ge | ge |
|9 | ji | yi |
|10 | ksi | ksi |
|11 | ksi ki | ksi ki |
|12 | ksi do | ksi do |
|20 | doksi | doksi |
|21 | doksi ki |doksi ki |
|22 | doksi do | doksi do |
|23 | doksi Re | doksi re |
|30 | Reksi | reksi |
|40 | soksi | soksi |
|50 | aksi | aksi |
|60 | moksi | moksi |
|70 | naksi | naksi |
|80 | geksi | geksi |
|90 | jaski | jaksi |
|100 | RaJa | ranya |
|200 | do RaJa | do ranya |
|201 | do RaJa ki | do ranya ki |
|1000| zanu | zanu |
|2345| do zanu Re RaJa soski at | do zanu re ranya soski at |
|10000| ksi zanu | ksi zanu |

I originally considered using an octal number system but decided against it for two reasons. First and foremost I wanted to keep it simple, and a base-8 system isn’t the simplest solution, the decimal system is. Secondly, since the inhabitants of Arnâron are biologically humans, and they have ten fingers, they are by far most likely to develop a decimal system.

Uncountables

| X-Sampa | Latin characters | Translation |
| ————- |:————- |:————-|
| nuR | nur | none, no-one |
| kidoRe | kidore | few |
| teRat | terat | some |
| namaR | namar | enough |
| geJa | genya | many, a lot |
| Ruj | ruy | everything, everybody, all |

Plurals

The language uses measure words to form plural or to specify the number or amount of anything. There are five measure words:

| X-Sampa | Latin characters | Used for |
| ————- |:————- |:————-|
| duJa | dunya | humans |
| uRu | uru | living things |
| tai | tai | unliving things |
| Ri | ri | uncountable things |
| wo | wo |abstract ideas |

“Uncountable things” takes precedence over “living things” and “unliving things”, but not over humans or abstract ideas. For example, a crowd of humans always uses the special humans measure word, even if the number of individuals is unknown or even unknowable. On the other hand, grass is uncountable – even though you could in theory count the individual blades of grass. However, if you actually have a defined number of blades of grass, they would become countable living things. This isn’t very different from how English handles it (“grass” versus “blades of grass”).

Another example is land: Land itself is uncountable (“He owns a lot of land”), but it can be countable (“He owns two acres of land”) or even an abstract idea (“Lands of plenty.”)

The use of different measure words may also change the meaning – compare everything: Ruj Ri (“everything uncountable-things-measure-word”) and everybody: Ruj duJa (“everything humans-measure-word”).

To complicate matters further, it is possible to use the measure words in ways other than their literal meaning. For example, one could use the “living things” measure word to quantify one’s enemies. The idea expressed, of course, is that they are “less than human”; a grave insult. It is even possible to go one step further. Referring to enemy soldiers as “unliving things” even further degrades them and implies that they already lost the battle – they are as good as dead.

Context makes a lot of difference as well. For example, one could refer to oneself as a “living thing” as a means to humble oneself, or when one wants to explain that one’s life is unhappy and depressing. A soldier may describe himself as an “unliving thing”, meaning that he is a servant of his master, a tool, a weapon of war, and will serve faithfully without questioning his orders. Or he could use it to show that it is only a matter of time before he will fall in battle.

Some examples

The following are in X-Sampa and native script:

Everything
: Ruj Ri (“everything uncountable-things-measure-word”)

Everybody
: Ruj duJa (“everything humans-measure-word”)

Everywhere
: Ruj Ri doR (“everything uncountable-things-measure-word place”)

Everything – The Universe
: Ruj wo doR (“everything abstract-concepts-measure-word place”)

Two women
: do duJa jina (“Two humans-measureword woman”).

A lot of water
: geJa Ri du (“Many uncountable-things-measureword water”)

I really need more words…

Über-Geek

So over the past few days many of my co-workers found out about my world-building hobby. They asked me what I am doing on my week off, and so I just told them.

“What did you do on your vacations so far?”

“Nothing special, built a world, designed a script and a language…”

Some at first thought that I was talking about computer scripts and programming languages until I clarified it. I think I am now classified as a supreme geek forever and ever by them. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing… I hope.

Either way, welcome to my colleagues!

Alphabet of Arnâron – Final Draft

After way too many hours spent working on it, I proudly present: the alphabet of Arnâron. I’ll call it a “final draft” because I am sure I’ll still change some things around… But I think it’s roughly in its “final” form.

As a reminder, I covered the phonemes in an earlier post.

Alphabet - Final Draft
Alphabet - Final Draft

A quick sample, “Arnâron”:

Script Sample.
Script Sample.

Unfortunately, the vocabulary of the language doesn’t suffice for a much longer text, yet. I have the basic grammar down, and I can form plurals, but I am missing numbers, future/past tense, imperative, and so on, as well as quite simply a large number of even basic words.

I’ll get there… the main issue right now is that I really want to work on culture and nations, but to do so I need the language!

Designing a language is quite hard, if you’re going at it from a complete lack of any kind of linguistic knowledge. It’s easy to throw something random together, but I find it hard to make it not suck.

In the meantime, it looks like at least two other World Building Month participantsCirellio and LeLoOr – have discovered the joy of designing languages, and I’ll follow their designs with great interest. Hey, maybe we can make week 3 of WBM “language week”? 😉