Religion in Vajhoros, I

[For clarity: this is not compatible with the previous attempt I made on the same subject, although some features have been retained or expanded upon]

The Eastern Worldview

The eastern sphere, even in periods of political and religious disunion, has nonetheless had a shared metaphysical worldview common to the religions it has produced. This worldview may be summed up with five principles:

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1. Dualism

The principle of dualism is the belief in a duality of body and spirit. It is a characteristic of Vajhoran religions over the last two thousand years that ‘spirit’ is identified with will or desire.

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2. Verticalism

The world is composed of multiple layers, all habitable, stacked on top of one another, and in theory if not in practice physically accessible from one another. This is all there is to the world – there are no other planes, other dimensions, no inaccessible worlds.

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3. Reincarnation and Vrtaikă

The spirit can survive death and be incarnated in a new (human) body. However, as there are more spirits than bodies there will be a lengthy period between each incarnation, which is a period of immense existential suffering. This period of waiting is called vrtaikă.

—-

4. Sorcerers

Certain spirits can have a material effect on the world without needing their own bodies. These spirits, called shojkam, or ‘sorcerers’, are usually, perhaps always, malign, and can wreak havoc on the world. They can be blamed for most bad luck.

——

5. Saints

Certain spirits can have a power over other spirits. These spirits, called tulmnam, or ‘saints’/’demigods’ are particularly associated with dead heroes, and deserve veneration.

From these principles emerge four directions in which an individual may strive: to attain sainthood; to become a sorcerer; to minimise the duration of vrtaikă; and to minimise the pain of vrtaikă. These four general directions are referred to as proagmam, ‘Kingdoms’. Certain schools address a single proagmă; others address multiple proagmam in varying degrees of depth. “Meta-schools” place differing theoretical constructions on the Four Kingdoms, each compatible with multiple practical schools.

The religious meta-school that is orthodoxy in the Vajhoran Empire is known as Vamagmrjioka, “Imperial School”, both because it is imperially sanctioned and because it addresses all four Kingdoms.

“Practitioners” of Vamagmrjioka may follow schools or cults relating to any of the Four Kingdoms. The orthodox school, accounting for the vast majority of Vamagmrjiokatham, is known as Tajhuônănjioka, “Six Caravans School”, and is devoted to minimising the pain of vrtaikă. Six Caravans followers may also follow other schools devoted to other kingdoms, but may not follow any alternative school devoted to the same kingdom – the religion is pluralist, but not relativist.

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[Plan of action: further posts will follow, probably one per day, which will deal with Vamagmrjioka’s view of each of the three minor proagmam in turn – saints, sorcerors, and incarnation. Next, there will be three posts on the three main schools of Vamagmrjioka, followed by three or four posts on the main schools of Uaijioka, which is closely related, and later some posts on more distantly-connected vrtaika-based beliefs.]

A Morsel of Chiba – Index

On and off, I play with a little romlang of mine called Chiba. It’s gone through endless revisions, but I think they’re beginning to reach stability. I’m probably happier with this version that I’ve been with any in a long while. Hence, I thought I’d write something up about it.

Here are some introductory posts about Chiba:

Phonology/Orthography

Noun Declension

Verb Conjugation, I

Verb Conjugation, II

Verb Syntax, I

Verb Syntax, II

There’ll hopefully be more to follow eventually, but that’s all for now. And how good it feels to dump all that onto the blog…

Anyway, all feedback welcome. Plausible? Implausible? Incomprehensible? Conventional? Original? Any questions or comments welcome.

Un Mosièl de se Chinzie rRyetaniezi – IV. sŞintax pen so Tempu, iii-viii

iii. Use of the Subjunctives

The primis praisemz is used for commands, exhortations, requests, suggestions and optatives; it is also used for concessions and hypotheticals:

Te vagna il accandor…

You should speak to her

Go on, speak to her

Perhaps you should speak to her

If only you were to speak to her

Yes, you spoke to her, but…

Let us say that you were to speak to her… in that case…

It is also used for clauses of purpose or fear:

…vai te vagna lam accandor

…lest you were to speak to her

… vai te vane lam accandor

…or else you are speaking to her

… pue te vagna lam accandor

… so that you might speak to her

… pue te vane lam accandor

… because you are speaking to her

The şikundis, by contrast, is the typical tense for verb phrases that are the object of another verb, such as intentions, perceptions, and indirect speech. It is also used for plain conditions, and the consequences of hypotheticals and conditional:

T’ave accámd pue te seza lam amár

You have told her that you love her

T’ave accámd pue te sede lam amár

You have spoken to her because you will love her

T’ave accámd pue te vagna lam amár

You have spoken to her so that you might love her

Si te seza lam amár, si te sede lam accagndre

If you love her, you will speak to her

Si te seza lam amár, si te vagna lam accandor

If you love her, you should speak to her

Si te vagna lam amator, si te seza lam accagndre

If you really were to love her, you would surely speak to her

Si te seza lam amár, si te seza lam accagndre

If you were to love her, you would speak to her

The distinction between the concessive hypothetical and the conditional is not clear-cut; in general, the concessive construction has a greater degree of doubt implied, or more explicitly takes the word of the interlocutor, and assumes the condition to be true while expressing doubt about it, while the plain conditional can be used far more widely.

The other two subjunctive tenses are of rather less significance. The primis praisemz is used to denote possibility, particularly possibilities occurring before the reference time of a narration, and often evidential possibilities. The trétejis is used to bemoan counterfactuals: “if only…”.

V’avero se kkani pořát…

If only I were carrying a dog / If only I had carried a dog

Ve vanero se kkani pořator…

I could have been carrying a dog / I could be carrying a dog / I might be carrying a dog

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iv. The Present Tenses

Three present tenses occur. Most common is the atátevis, which is used for all present habits and ongoing intermittent tasks. The narátevis is used only with actions that are taking place at the very moment of speaking. The preféktevis can be used with verbs of opinion, desire and the like, where it is more polite than the atátevis.

V’aio aputtát pue il siémd formosa

I thought she was beautiful (i.e. I think she is beautiful but do not wish to argue)

Ve leppo l’iphètilie

I am reading the letters (right now, as we speak)

Ve vagno l’iphètilie leppator

I am reading the letters (one at a time – I have read some, I have yet to read others)

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v. The Narátevis

Aside from its present tense uses, the narátevis can also be found in the past or the present. Broadly, it ‘fixes’ preceding events: once the narátevis occurs, previous events are deemed complete, or their continuance is no longer relevant. Unlike the preféktevis, it has no connotations of completion or relevance – it denotes that completion, duration, relevance and the like are all irrelevant. In a narration, the narátevis will generally become the default tense once tense has been established, with the other tenses used only for passages where more detail is desired.

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vi. Tempa Modala

The modal verbs, deure, poire, goire, ecír and segér, have the meanings ‘to have to’, ‘to have the power to, ‘to want to’, ‘to know how to’ and ‘to be able to’, respectively. Their tenses are absolute tenses.

Deure can be used for any necessity, but is most common with necessities of obligation, duty, and morality. Goire is used for volition, not necessarily for desire. Poire, ecír and segér all denote possibilities, but of different sorts: poire denotes an ability or capability; ecír, a skill, knowledge or aptitude; segér, a logical possibility:

Il ech toccár kolpiján

She knows how to play the piano

Il pos toccár kolpiján

She is able to play the piano (she has a piano, she has fingers, she has all the requisites)

Il seg toccár kolpiján

It’s possible for her to play the piano (if she took certain steps, it might happen)

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vii. Copulas

Chiba has not one but three copulas: vanér, senzér and otár. Vanér, the auxiliary, is used with nominal predicates that are not predicates of identity; senzér is used with adjectival predicates; otár is used with prepositional predicates and predicates of nominal identity.

Il vagn mhyesarya

She is a banker

Il sémd formosa

She is beautiful

Il otá in una mhyesarye

She is in the bank

Il otá sa myesarya

She is the banker

One exception to this principle is that comparative and superlative adjectives, and ordinal numbers, take vanér, not senzér.

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viii. Negatives

Only the narátevis, copulas, and the tempa modala may be negated. For maximum emphasis, this is done with the circumposition: ne… …non phuma. …non phuma and …phuma are less stressed equivalents. An exception to this is the negation of modals, where the less stressed version is no…

To negate past or future verbs, the narátevis is used where context is clear. Otherwise, an establishing clause with the appropriate conjugation of otár is used, followed by the negating clause:

Il ab otát e tocca phuma kolpiján

She had not played the piano (lit. ‘she had not stood and plays not the piano’)

When the modals are negated, either the modal or the infinitive may be negated:

Il no deure toccár

She does not have to play

Il deure toccár phuma

She must not play

Un Mosièl de se Chinzie rRyetaniezi – IV. sŞintax pen so Tempu, i-ii.

i. Atátevis vai Preféktevis?

The first dilemma of the Chiba verb is which tense to use. Given that an event is past, present or future, when should the atátevis be used, and when the preféktevis?

If the event occurred before the ‘reference time’ of the narration in question, the answer is simple: use the preféktevis praitéretu, which may function as a pluperfect. This tense is also the case with events that occurred ‘a long time ago’, and that can no longer have any present relevance.

If the event is occurring in the present, the question is instead whether to use the atátevis praisemz or the narátevis.

If, however, the event is occurring in the relevant past or in the future, a choice must be made between the atátevis, denoting events with internal constituency, and the preféktevis, denoting completed events. The distinction may be phrased in terms of pairs of events:

– Where both verbs are atátevis, the events occur at the same time, or the second overlaps the first;

Where the first verb is atátevis and the second, preféktevis, the first event is interrupted by the second;

–  Where the first verb is preféktevis and the second is atátevis, the first event occurs, is completed, and the second then begins

– Where both verbs are preféktevis, the two events are both completed

A further connotation of the preféktevis is that the event bears continuing relevance, either for the following events or at the time of the relation. The atátevis, by contrast, has no such connotation. It connotes duration, and sometimes iteration; it can also connote incompletion or insignificance. It is also used to show that a person has had experience of something. The preféktevis connotes brevity, and singularity. It also implies that the event had an inherent natural end that was reached, rather than merely a halt.

A further distinction between the preféktevis praisemz and the atátevis praitéretu is that, as the names suggest, the latter is strictly for past events, while the former can also be used with present semantics.

Ve vami kamchator

I used to sing / I was singing

V’aio kamchát

I sang / I have sung

Ve vami kamchator. Il vami dviendor.

I was singing. She arrived while I was singing. Or: I used to sing. She used to arrive while I was singing.

Ve vami kamchator. Il au dviémd.

I was singing, but she arrived.

When the subject matter is not a narration, but isolated statements, the preféktevis is most commonly used for single past events, while the atátevis is used for past habits or to show experience. In the future, the preféktevis is used for stable plans and objectives, while the preféktevis is used for single incidents without inherent worth.

Ve sezo kamchár.

I am going to be singing / I hope to sing

Ve sezo kamchát

I am going to sing / I will have to sing (so as then to…)

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ii. Tempa Imćépteva and Tempa Fitura

The inceptive tenses are used in the sense of an event that is/was/will be about to happen at a point of the narration. It should be noted that the imćéptevis praisemz¸unlike the preféktevis praisemz is a genuine present tense, with no preterite meaning. Whether or not the even described does then happen depends upon the following tense. Following events in the atátevis are not held to be relevant; events in the relevant (ie not praitéretu) preféktevis interrupt or prevent events in the imćeptevis; these events only occur if the narátevis occurs before the next preféktevis.

V’abo kamchámz. Il vami dviendor. Il dra un khani.

I was going to sing. She arrived. [I sang]. She brought the dog.

V’abo kamchámz. Il vami dviendor. Il au un khani dráp.

I was going to sing. She arrived. She brought the dog. [I did not sing]

N.B. Such sequences of plain sentences without conjunctions are not good style in Chiba, and serve here only for illustrative purposes.

The distinction between the imćéptevis praisemz and either main future tense is theoretically a near/remote distinction, but in practice the imćéptevis is chiefly used either to make commitments or to invite disagreement:

Ve sezo kamchámz

I’m about to sing… (unless you stop me?)

Ve sezo kamchát

I’m going to sing (and you can’t stop me)

Un Mosièl de se Chinzie rRyetaniezi – III. Konjigatyejona pen Verbi, iii-vii.

iii. Tempa prefékteva

The tempa prefékteva are the less common three tenses used for remote past, near past and future events . The past and present tenses use the verb avér; the future uses serér; all three employ the pratećípejou preféktevis. For regular verbs, this is formed with –át. For irregulars, it is of course more unpredictable:

Egoure

(to write)

Drare

(to bring)

Kandrye (to say) Dvenyer

(to arrive)

Fasre (to make) Fover (to love)
Participle: egríp dráp kámd dviémd fáp fuót

Avér is formed in a similar manner to vanér:

Avér

Present Past
1st s. aio abi
2nd s. ave abèti
3rd s. au ab
1st pl. avém abím
2nd pl. avét abèt
3rd pl. avie abér

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iv. Tempa imćépteva

The tempa imćépteva are likewise threefold. They are formed as the tempa prefékteva, but with the pratećípejou imćéptevis. This is formed through the suffix –ámz. In the irregulars:

Egoure

(to write)

Drare

(to bring)

Kandrye (to say) Dvenyer

(to arrive)

Fasre (to make) Fover (to love)
Participle: eçevyémz draímz kanémz dvenyémz faćiémz fovémz

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v. Tempa páseva

There are, again, three tempa páseva – past, present and future. They are formed with the auxiliaries of the tempa atáteva, but the preféktevis participle:

Il vam fuót

She was loved

It should be noted that this means that the future pásevis and the future preféktevis are identical in form:

Il sei fuót

She will be loved

Il sei fuót

She will love

This ambiguity can be resolved easily by the addition of a further argument – the pásevis can never take a direct object, and will take its obliques with different prepositions.

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vi. Tempa subyoúkteva

Moving to mood, there are four tempa subyoúkteva, known as subyoúktevis primis praisemz, subyoúktevis primis praitéretu, subyoúktevis şikundis and subyoúktevis trétejis. All have both active and passive forms. In the active voice, the primis tenses are formed with a conjugation of vanér and the atátevis participle; the şikundis, with serér and the future participle; the trétejis, with avér and the perfect participle. The passives are all formed with the perfect participle (rendering the trétejis the same in active and passive, save for the number of arguments).

Vanér

Serér Avér
Present Past
1st s. vagna vanero seza avero
2nd s. vagna vanere seza avere
3rd s. vagn vanér sei avér
1st pl. vagnám vagndrém sezám avrém
2nd pl. vagnát vagndrét sezát avrét
3rd pl. vagná vanerie sezá aver

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vii. Tempa Modala

Finally, the tempa modala are formed with the auxiliary verbs deure, poire, ecír, segér and goire. They are not true independent tenses, in that they can themselves inflect for three tenses: past, non-past and subjunctive.

Deure

Past Non-past Subjunctive
1st s. debi deio deia
2nd s. debeti devi deia
3rd s. deb dei dei
1st pl. debím devím deiám
2nd pl. debét devít deiát
3rd pl. debér devie deiá

Poire

Past Non-past Subjunctive
1st s. poçi poso pósim
2nd s. poçeti pose pósi
3rd s. poc pos pós
1st pl. poçím posoú posím
2nd pl. poçét posèt posít
3rd pl. poçér posue poseí

Ecír

Past Non-past Subjunctive
1st s. ecivi eçó eciri
2nd s. evyeti ecí ecire
3rd s. ecoú ech ecír
1st pl. eceím ecím echrém
2nd pl. evyèt ecít echrét
3rd pl. evyuér eçué echrié

Segér

Past Non-past Subjunctive
1st s. segi sego N/A
2nd s. segeti sega N/A
3rd s. seg seg N/A
1st pl. segím segám N/A
2nd pl. segét segát N/A
3rd pl. segér segie N/A

Goire

Past Non-past Subjunctive
1st s. golvi gelo geli
2nd s. gulveti geli gela
3rd s. goub gei gei
1st pl. gulvím gelím gelám
2nd pl. gulvét gelít gelát
3rd pl. gulvér geleí geleí

Un Mosièl de se Chinzie rRyetaniezi – III. Konjigatyejona pen Verbi, i-ii.

i. Tempis Narátevis

Tempis narátevis is a unique tense, as it is marked through inflection on the verb itself, rather than through auxiliaries. Although there are many conjugations hypothesised, it is easiest to consider there to be only two: regular and irregular. Verbs inflect for person and number. They may do this in two ways: imfliktátyejo şimplex, and imfliktátyejo komplex. [It should be noted that the words konjigátyejo, tempis, narátevis, verbu, şimplex, komplex and imfliktátyejo are all learned medieval borrowings from Latin, which explains their unusual appearance]

For regular verbs, simplex inflexion is straightforward:

Amár (to love) Kandár (to sing sth.) Pořár (to carry sth) Faulár (to tell a story, argue, reason) Fattár (to make)
1st s. amo kando pořo faulo fappo
2nd s. ama kanda pořa faula fappa
3rd s. am kamd poř fau fau
1st pl. amám kandám pořám faulám fattám
2nd pl. amát kandát pořát faulát fattát
3rd pl. amá kandá pořá faulá fattá

The pattern of suffixes should be clear. Fattár is partially irregular, due to stress, and there are sometimes slight alterations in the 3rd person singular form of the verb.

The complex inflexion is more difficult. This incorporates additional object marking. The synthetic suffixes are as follows (subject marking in rows, object marking in columns):

1st s. 2nd s. 3rd s. in. 3rd s. an. 1st pl. 2nd pl. 3rd pl.
1st s. -óz -ót -óc -ou -on -og -olo
2nd s. -ám -áz -ázec -au -an -ac -acho
3rd s. -áte -ác -ai/-az -an -ou -alo
1st pl. -ámme -ámte -ámzec -amzi -amiz -amic -amlo
2nd pl. -aíme -aíte -aízec -azi -atin -atiz -ailo
3rd pl. -ágn -ámd -ándec -andi -amno -amc -anco

Several things should be noted here. The marking of accents is not in accordance with the orthographic rules, as several accents are marked superfluously – this is a form of orthographical analogous levelling. All complex inflections trigger the infinitive root, in the few regular verbs, such as fattár, where this is different from the simple root. Many verbs have no complex inflection, either because they are intransitive (e.g. kamchár, to sing) or because, while semantically transitive, they take objects in the oblique (eg. faulár). The third person subject, third person animate object inflection has two forms – a non-reflexive and a reflexive.

Examples of these inflections:

fattác – they made it

amámme – we love me

pořamc – they carry you

Irregular verbs should probably be learnt individually, although there are some patterns:

Egoure

(to write)

Drare

(to bring)

Kandrye (to say) Dvenyer

(to arrive)

Fasre (to make) Fover (to love)
1st s. egribo dro kano dvenyo faccho foio
2nd s. egribi drai kani dveni facchi fovi
3rd s. egroú dra kagn dviegn fac foi
1st pl. egroúmu dram kagnu dviním facím fovím
2nd pl. egrouti drat kandyi dvinít facét fovét
3rd pl. egrivue drague kanue dvenyue faćie fovie

Complex inflexions of irregular verbs would be so irregular that they are not used. Instead, complex prepositions are used, as with oblique verbs. For these, see a later chapter.

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ii. Tempa Atáteva

The tempa atátiva are three tenses used prototypically with states, habits and statuses. They are the default tenses. The first two are formed with the pratećípejou atátevis and an auxiliary verb, while the third, the future, uses the pratećípejou fituris.

The pratećípejou atátevis is formed in the regular verbs with the suffix –ator; in the irregulars, it is more unpredictable:

Egoure

(to write)

Drare

(to bring)

Kandrye (to say) Dvenyer

(to arrive)

Fasre (to make) Fover (to love)
Participle: egrippor drappor kandor dviendor fappor fotor

The pratećípejou fituris is simply the citation form of the verb.

The two appropriate auxiliary verbs are vanér (past and present) and serér (future). Unlike most verbs, vanér has its own past tense.

Vanér

Serér
Present Past
1st s. vanyo vami sezo
2nd s. vane vamèti sede
3rd s. van vam sei
1st pl. vaném vamím serém
2nd pl. vanét vamèt serét
3rd pl. vánie vamér sédie

The auxiliary is placed in the second position, with the participle placed after a direct object and before an oblique phrase (though such phrases may be moved forward for emphasis).

Ve vami t’amator

I loved you

Le sei faulár kor’èza

He will argue with her

Tute vane pèz’egrippor!

You’re the one who’s writing it!

Viego sezo l’iphètilie drare.

I’m the one who will bring the letters

———————–

————————–

———————————–


Un Mosièl de so Vokabolarye

It has probably been noticed that several of the examples verbs given are close to one another in meaning.

Amár is the default word for ‘love’, a strong affection. It can stand in place of any of the other words for ‘love’, but is also particularly used with siblings, close friends, former lovers and the like – it is a strong but equal relationship

Fover is the word for the protective love of a parent for a child, or of a husband for a wife – more generally, love of a dependent. It is also the appropriate word for love of a possession, or a pet. With social changes, it may now sometimes be used for the love of a wife for her husband. It is also used for physical actions – literally for stroking, but it can also be used for anything up to making love.

Kaucár is the word for feelings of affection, goodwill and concern toward others, less strong and particular than usually implied by amár. It is also the word for being charitable to those less well off.

Elalzár is the word for passionate, unreasoning romantic love. It is no longer encountered as frequently as once it was.

Adorár is the opposite of fover – it is the love for one greatly respected or looked up to. It is the love of wives for their husbands, children for their parents, and men for their heroes. It is also used for the romantic love of a young man for an older woman.

Tephár is the preparatory stage of love – a feeling of goodwill, excitement, and intellectual or physical attraction. It is commonly used for the emotion between a couple before they become lovers (though it persists afterward).

Worldbuilding – Why?

I posted this in a Tolkien discussion on a forum, but it was at best tangential there, and I thought some of the people who peer in here from time to time might be interested in it, so here’s a copy for wider viewing.

The posts referred to are the Blog of the Fallen posts on Tolkien and worldbuilding, respectively http://ofblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/reflecting-on-tolkien-fellowship-of.html and http://ofblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/deja-vu-why-is-this-worldbuilding-such.html , and Mieville’s comments here: http://www.omnivoracious.com/2009/06/there-and-back-again-five-reasons-tolkien-rocks.html

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It’s good, if surprising, to see Mieville on my side. I’ve not read him yet, and always assumed he was one of the Harrison-type people. In particular, it’s good to see somebody talking about subcreation in a tone other than ridicule.

As it happens, I was just reading one of DF’s blog posts from back in March, where he was rather disparaging of worldbuilding. As a would-be-worldbuilder first and would-be-writer second, I think he entirely missed the point when he worried that worldbuilding could get in the way of character and plot. That is, for certain writers, the objective is not so much to prevent worldbuilding from getting in the way of character and plot, but rather being able to come up with characters and plots that do not get in the way of the worldbuilding. For Tolkien, for instance, it’s missing the point to say that the history gets in the way of your power of imagination; the book exists FOR the history. The worldbuilding comes first, the story second. [Indeed, often the story has to be done away with entirely. I build worlds, and I want to write books, but none of the books I actually intend to write have anything to do with the worlds I’ve built, because the stories would get in the way of the art too much. Likewise, Tolkien published books about peripheral settings (the Hobbit, LotR), not about the core world that really mattered to him, the world of the Silmarillion.]

Perhaps the different opinions of worldbuilding, and hence the different opinions of Tolkien, are ultimately to do with different expectations of fantasy? For some readers, fantasy is ‘meant’ to be an escapist activity, about freedom and imagination and not having to have anything to do with reality – hence when DF says that Tolkien’s rich descriptions left him unable to let his imagination round around by itself.

In the other view, fantasy is not escapist, but only a mirror of the world itself – a testimony to imagination’s power to reshape reality. Those of us who love worldbuilding in our fiction are not, perhaps, so selfish in our reading. I feel no need to let imagination follow fancy when I’m reading a fantasy; I’m content to briefly inhabit the world that’s been shown to me.

Worldbuilding is not, or is not wholly, about supporting a story; worldbuilding is its own art, in its own right, with its own characteristic experience. I think perhaps that the experience is an experience of the sublime – when you read about a world, inhabit it, you are surrounded by an immense vista, alien and inimical; if you lose concentration, you fear, you may be lost in it. If you can see through it, see where the fabric has been torn or not completed, you can see that it’s only an illusion, and it fades and wisps away, because to be sublime a thing must be, above all, convincing enough to be threatening.

And when you leave it behind, and you see that all of it was only constructed from the everyday things lying about in the world, in can imbue those ordinary things with the infantile element of wonder that is so easily lost from our perception of the familiar world.

In fact, perhaps that’s a shorter way of stating the difference: Harrison’s ilk take us into the unfamiliar, and in the process make it familiar. Worldbuilding takes the familiar and makes in alien.

Of course, that’s all after-the-fact justification. It isn’t why I like worldbuilding (either practicing it or experiencing it). That’s just something inherent – maybe not in everyone but in some people. Subcreation is as old an activity as fabulation, only a more private one – only occasionly do we see the ‘Secret Vice’ in public through the ages. Is it a defect that in our century we take the craft of the imagination more seriously than earlier ages have? I don’t believe so. Perhaps it’s useless, but we no longer need be enslaved by the idea of use. Art can be presented for its own sake; and the popularity of writers like Tolkien and Borges (many of whose stories are pure worldbuilding without any real elements of storytelling) shows that it’s an activity that can appeal to others.

Personally, subcreation is probably just how I see the world. When I see something, I think about what I could do with it. That I create worlds is only another way of saying that I have an insatiable curiosity about the world, a constant urge to know how things work. And if you know how things work, you should be able to put together your own versions, and watch them run. If they don’t work, you didn’t understand it in the first place, and you have to go and learn more. As a concrete example: at university I fairly casually (ie mostly in the mind, rather than on paper) created an alternative history of central asia in order to study electoral and party systems for my degree. If you want to know how a political system would work, you make a country for it and you think very careful about what would happen next – and what would be necessary for that situation to have arisen. [As it turns out, it’s a teaching method the university had thought of itself – our class for a term was on writing the constitutions for a range of imaginary countries].

And are there no plots, then? Of course there are plots in worldbuilding. A world is a story on a larger scale – instead of individuals, a world is a story of nations and cultures, species and religions and technologies. To enjoy it, only open your eyes to new protagonists.

Why should anyone want to read this? Well, it doesn’t matter too much to me whether they do, but I think that that art can by itself by worthwhile for an audience. It’s makes art out of the world, and it teaches about the world – we do not see the world so clearly that models do not help us see it better. Models, we can hold in our hands and turn around to different angles to get a better view.

Do people not all find that sort of thing interesting? I’m sure that’s so – but some of us do.

——

Harrison is almost right when he talks of the clomping foot of nerdism. I think he really meant geekism – but that’s a minor point. Yes, we’re geeks. Tolkien, today, would indisputably be called a geek. Borges was a geek, though perhaps he hid it more stylishly. M. John Harrison is not a geek; Harrison is Kool, and Sexy, and Popular, and all the other wonderful things. Except that… [lacuna the result of deletion of psychological metaphors relating the Harrison. He’s a Blogger, and they have a tendency to arrive in unexpected places, and who knows what a person like that might do. Geek-experiences of the education system (even if only a selective school) have honed my protective geek-reflexes, donchakno] …even though they all think he’s a geek.

But even if Harrison weren’t a geek or a nerd or anything – he uses the accusation as though it’s the accusation of something terrible. Well, I can look at geeks, and I can look at popular people, and I know which side I’m on. Going by what I’ve read said by both of them, I consider Papa Tolkien not only more successful and a better writer than Harrison, I also consider him a better, more admirable, more emulandory person. I’m quite happy with the side I’ve been born (or raised) on. What reason does anyone have to pay attention to Harrison’s hegemonic sociopolitical opinions (which is what the geek-hate ultimately is)? Being Super Kool is not by itself a qualification; nor, from my perspective, an objective.