So it’s September. World Building Month is over, and, as always, I didn’t post nearly as much as I had intended to. No matter, the important thing is that everybody had a good time, and I think that’s something that can be said about WBM.
While I haven’t managed to keep the initial output rate up, I am quite happy with what I have accomplished. World Building Month made me post 67 times in August. That’s a lot of material, and I finally got this weblog off the ground with some real material.
I fully intend to keep going, probably at a much more relaxed rate (I am back to work). Arnâron will receive its language, and it will be formed into a “world book”. I’ll post more about my other worlds, too, and about world building in general if and when I feel I can contribute to the craft.
Thanks to Eliza for launching World Building Month, I loved it. Thanks also to Kaya, who drew my attention to it, and to all of you who have posted on your own blogs and who have dropped by with your comments. I’m looking forward to seeing you all in the next months. Here, and on the other blogs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When I said that I don’t have numbers, I wasn’t quite correct – I do have numbers, just no symbols for them.
| 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.
| 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 |
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.
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.
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.
Eliza has published the second showcase of world building month entries. Great way to read up on everybody’s projects. I actually try to follow all of them (I activated Google’s RSS reader) but I fear I am not doing too well on that.
There are also some projects that I simply don’t have much to say on – for example the science fiction universe Jan van Hove is creating. I kind of feel bad about it. However, while I’ve built Sci Fi settings in the past, and in general like science fiction, I currently just don’t feel like touching Science Fiction with a ten foot light saber (my Voyagers setting hates me for it).
Spent more time last night to work on the script. Current samples:
The first line simply reads “Arnâron”.
The second line reads “tonyo zu des ka zu” which means “I think therefore I am”.
You may notice that I flipped the “A”-triangles (/a/ and /A/ in X-Sampa) over to make for less eerie similarities. The “u” and “û” (“u” and “y” in X-Sampa) are now the two variations of the circle, while the “o” looks like a “u” – and is one of the glyphs I am really unhappy with. Same for the “ny” consonant (/J/ in X-Sampa).
I resisted the temptation to make the script right-to-left oriented, deciding I didn’t need the added headache.
I spent a goodly amount of time brainstorming on my alphabet today. In the end, I came up with 21 glyphs that will be the characters of the script… Except that I think they don’t really match each other stylistically. So there’s still a lot of work ahead of me. Still, I wanted to post a short sample just so that I have something to show for the many hours spent.
It reads “Arnâron”, of course.
Does it make sense that the “A” and “O” kind of look very similar to what’s in the latin alphabet? Well – the triangle and circle are just too simple to exclude them. And I figured since I’ll include them, it does make sense to use them in this way instead of confusing people by making the o-glyph stand for, say, “e”.
That said, it is very much a work in progress, and I am sure I’ll change a lot of characters around.
Time is always an issue. I have a regular job that takes way too much of my time, and usually leaves me with little energy in the evenings. And then there are other things. But no matter what I do, schedules always seem to be unpredictable. I knew there was a reason why I do not plan more than a few weeks ahead. It turns out that something I had planned to do won’t happen and that will leave me with ample spare time for the rest of August.
So I’ll be world-building.
Since World Building Month is half-over, and I do want to at least have a complete skeleton of a world by the end, I thought about what needs to be done:
Language. Very important.
Religion. We know some basics already, but this needs to be worked out in detail.
Details on the nations – Customs, history, rulers, attitudes.
Money and trade: The economy needs to be designed at least in some detail. What do the nations produce, what do they export, and what do they need to import? Where are the main resources located, and what are they?
Cities of Ârnaron.
Ruins and relics: The shattered past lurks among the dunes.
Astrology and zodiacs.
Heroes and villains: Create at least a few of each as sample characters, so to speak.
Prizes and princesses: What do the heroes and villains fight over, and how?
The hordes: There are uncivilized, regressed barbarians everywhere, as befits a savage, mythical Martian styled world. Need to write about these guys, too.
I think that mostly covers it. I’ll probably deviate here and there and throw some other stuff in, as ideas pop up. But if I forgot something important or if there’s anything you actually want me to work out, do let me know via comments.
I used mostly blues and reds – blue representing water and the red being so strongly associated with Mars.
As the number eight is a “lucky number” for the people of Arnâron, stars used in the design have eight points, and nations G and K even go so far and use octagons in their design.
Flags on Arnâron are usually triangular, and have the ratio 3:10. Nation H is the only exception, and this was a deliberate design choice to distinguish their flag as much as possible from their arch-enemies, nation C, while still containing elements similar to the flag of their most important ally, nation G (triangular shape; basic colors are similar). The use of 9 stars is for symetry reasons – I experimented with using a larger ninth star, but it looked bad.
The two moons – used in the flag design for nation E – are a symbol of the destruction of Arnâron, and are therefore considered “unlucky”. Their use in the flag of nation E will not endear them to other rulers.