In my last posting, where I defined the Premise of Arnâron, I already touched on the next step in the development of this world: Thematic Subjects. In that posting, I picked “war” and “survival” as the two main thematic subjects of this world.
Defining thematic subjects this early in the creation process seems to be a little tricky, because I am not sure how the world will turn out. But I don’t mind if this is an iterative process, and at least a theme will provide a guideline to work from.
War and survival are two good, powerful choices. Survival is the basic human drive; we survive in a multitude of environments because our evolution gave us the tools to do so. All other basic needs and desires – air, water, food, reproduction, and so on – are directly linked with survival. If you take away one of these things, the affected people will become desperate and do things they may otherwise never consider. They may steal supplies, resort to cannibalism or go so far as to kill or rape. Taking away basic necessities can undermine much of what we consider “humane” or “civilized”.
Now, the overall situation on Arnâron isn’t quite as inhospitable as the peaks of the Andes, but it’s bad enough to result in a global negative population growth, and it scares a lot of people. It will allow us to examine what price is too high for survival, if any; what courses of action are justified, and what solutions could be attempted in such a situation.
War, on the other hand, is not the cause for desires and needs, but the result of the same. There are many possible causes – wars can be fought over resources, over ideals, over differences in opinion, over hatred, it is even conceivable that a decadent king may wage war out of sheer boredom.
War has a very dehumanizing effect on people, and of course a very destructive effect on the societies involved. Different individuals will view the war and the need for it differently. Some may see it as a necessary evil; others may volunteer out of patriotic zeal. Yet others may even oppose a “necessary” war on moral principle.
There are other thematic subjects that the setting implies. For example, there will be the thematic subject of nature, and of the destruction of nature. Honor, loyalty, allegiance, and power are also good thematic subjects for a setting dominated by armed conflict.
Themes are the statements about the exploration of our thematic subjects. They are the approach we take to investigating the thematic subjects. Contrary to thematic subject, theme is a full sentence or phrase.
Arnâron is a basically positive, heroic, romantic setting, and thus our approach to our thematic subjects should reinforce positive solutions. War and battle, for example, may be necessary (and in a heroic fantasy, they are an important part of the excitement and adventure), but they come at a price and should only be a last resort against a greater evil. This works the same with survival: Even in a desperate situation, we must never surrender our humanity or we will not survive as human beings, merely as humanoid creatures.
It’s actually quite amusing. When I set out to write this posting, I thought I’d never be able to settle on some abstract themes so easily. It turnes out they suggested themselves quite automatically. Summarizing it as concisely as I can, I’m left with a single theme:
Even when our fight for survival leads us to desperate deeds, we must never lose our humanity.
That’s good enough for me… until the inevitable revisions.
Next up, I am again going to deviate from Paul’s series of podcasts again. I’ll ignore characters for a moment and I’ll finally start to talk about something tangible: I’ll begin to build the setting – the planet of Arnâron itself.