beccaelizabeth (beccaelizabeth) wrote,

Always there is more to learn

So a while back, while reading about European history, I decided that I'd never invent a world with no Jews
because many people across millennia have done their best to make a world with no jews and I do not ever want to be on their side.
(This is part of what is creepy about future worlds like a couple of centuries away without religion. How do they think they get that? Did the world wake up with amnesia?)

Which is a grand declaration, especially given my ongoing lack of actually doing writing, but then I have to do, like, work and thinking and stuff.

And somehow that seems much easier when I'm starting with a blank page and deciding to invent a twelve deity pantheon with a secret thirteenth who all do clerical magic, plus an elemental magic system of five elements but no two neighbouring countries can agree on which five so there's at least seven so far with an option on nine, and a bunch of people who think of themselves as True Mages and look down on the elementalists, but their magic has a regular chance of accidentally summoning demons so a whole lot of people think they're all just making deals with demons the way elementalists do with elementals and clerics do with gods, except deals with demons are also possible and a heck of a lot easier than the other sort of magic, which btw still cannot make magic items unless they also become elementalists... oh, and there's maybe monotheists around, but they don't do noticeable magic so all the other classes just call them Makers, like they're worshipping the one whommade it all in the first place and not the deities who are clearly running the place now, and mostly think they're kind of weird, and don't believe them about the benefits of Blessings and True Faith, at least until they get into a tight corner around one of the undead (and nobody talks about the undead, or necromancers, so they certainly don't point out it's a subset of the powers that only the Healers have access to)...

Because all that is just fiddling around picking settings from GURPS Magic and Thaumatology, and that's just systematising assumptions drawn from the whole Fantasy genre, which I've been reading all my life
I can't hardly get it wrong when I'm making it all up.

... while it is important to consider the possibility of getting things wrong, because misinformation and stereotyping is hurtful to actual real people, it really shouldn't be stopping me.

And if I intend to follow through on my vague don't erase jews idea then just filing them under Makers does not cut it.

Plus reality brings with it a richness of detail that fantasy would have to work real hard to get, and that can be used to make better story. Thanks to fanfic writing initiatives in response to MCU canon erasure, as well as just a couple author's headcanons, I've read more interesting fic about jewish characters lately, stuff that puts their religious/cultural identity front and center in a way that makes me look at TV and the collection of sidekicks who are jews when they mention Hanukkah and just... sigh. Like, they maybe get one star for effort, but it's the wonky one that says You Tried, compared to some fic.

And i don't know enough to write even vaguely like those fics unless i just, er, copy them.

Which is true of me and belief systems that are not Christianity, because even when I tried reading up on stuff like Buddhism and assorted paganisms, that mostly turns into reading wiki and a couple random webpages and a couple books that seemed vaguely interesting and mostly get into the philosophy of things.

Sitting in my flat reading a bunch of books has not been great preparation for depicting multi cultural societies as they're actually lived, is what I'm saying.

And even when a web page can tell me when holidays are and what they're about, they are not usually so much use for what they're like.
I mean no amount of reading about the theoretical birth of Christ would tell me about kids waking everyone at the crack of dawn, wrapping paper, presents, losing the presents in drifts of wrapping paper, food and food and food, that one thing you run out of but can't buy unless the petrol station has it because everywhere has to close, the annual meltdown because Christmas Is Ruined, the post food slump, the queen's speech, the entire tradition of the Christmas Special, and all the family togetherness or stress over lack thereof in its many layered weirdness.
Neither will theory much explain why all that and Easter is a thing but so many people ignore everything else.

As soon as I'm looking at a culture or subculture even slightly different than the one I've experienced then I don't even know what I don't know.

And I have few ways and limited cues to start figuring if what I've seen in fiction is wrong or not.

So I figure the practical fix for real writing is to read a bunch and then get a beta reader of relevant background who knows why you want their specific help.

The beta reader part feels like asking someone else to do your homework, but no, it's like tutoring, and in fandom we do that for the shiny results so its not like asking for work for no pay.

Translating a religion into a fantasy setting though is like proper complex stuff.
Like you wouldn't get modern British or American versions of a culture, or their historical record of a particular point in real history, you'd get that culture reshaped by the world around it, magic and all. That's not the easy way to excuse any flaws in research, that ought to be some really meaty questions about how culture and religion react to changing circumstance, especially if they got there via Banestorm or Oz whirlwind or whatever so it's like a parallel with a branch point drawing on one specific moment. Or a parallel that keeps getting a trickle of immigrants but otherwise has no news or contact from the old country. The way cultures shift in the new circumstance ought to be the fun bit at the heart of the story. And a diasporic culture would have a lot of history to draw on in coping with such shifts, and would compare contrast with the flailing of a dominant culture set newly adrift in quite interesting ways.

... and then as usual I persuade myself that any given story needs to be written by an expert, and not me...

Even a straight up urban fantasy world with a masquerade or a new minted Magic Comes Back would have plenty of meaty stuff to dig into in the reactions of different religions and how varied they could be. Not just skipping straight to the extremes and the haters, but exploring the ethical perspectives of different backgrounds.

Mostly all this typing today is cause I sat down with a bunny because Captain Cold and Heatwave would fit neatly into one of the fantasy backgrounds I've been noodling out of GURPS rules, where elemental magic means making deals with elementals, and one way to get their attention would be Mick giving himself to the flames. And any magical setting using the Pentagram spell would find the physical plan of STAR labs plenty familiar. But then my plot bunny stumbled over the headcanon from fic writer suggesting Len is a jew on his mother's side same like he's mixed race, and then whatever decisions I make on religion in this 'verse would be front and center, and then i crunch on not knowing what i don't know.

I've got the start of a plot though, because enchanted items require gemstones, and the gems have to be of a particular dollar value rather than size, so anyone that can sell gems directly to mages would be sure of getting a generous price for the things, or the mage would be screwing themselves out of materiel. And STAR labs has Cisco making Fire and Ice element magic weapons, which means he needs rubies and sapphires for sure, but they also have a gigantic Pentagram spell in the making, plus whatever magics they are planning to do inside it that end up summoning so many demons when they go wrong. STAR labs need gems. So a thief might think they're a good score, but they wouldn't think it twice, unless they had the Sight anyway and could know which bits not to touch. But if STAR is naive, desperate or sleazy enough (and we know days they'd be a minimum of two out of three) then they'd be a great place to regularly fence stuff. I mean, think of the Powerstong you could make the Khandaq diamond into. Nothing smaller would do, and nobody with a diamond that big is going to want to risk it on a very long term magical project anyway. And fifteen years of building STAR would be plenty of time to build up a relationship with the local criminal community. And also give Cisco and Barry a layer of problems once they're working together to help the police catch the demon enhanced.

I could take a few features of canon and my selections from RPG rules and get a whole stack of plots out of it, really.

But then I start thinking of the intersection of religion, politics and economics that made medieval history, and how if the craft guilds each have their own religion then Makers would be excluded from crafts, and if only a Lady can own land then a Maker couldn't pass the tests to become magically one with the land and so would be stuck renting even at individual kitchen garden level, and that this sort of thing historically led to moneylending, and moneylenders were not so much popular, and especially would not be if some guy had borrowed for his big building project that blew up... and I see ways to put religion right up there as a plot driver, but, in ways that duplicate the bad bits of history. And that gets complicated.

Odds are I shall once again whine a bit and not really start writing, but I shouldn't give up, it all remains possible.

Also this typing on a touchscreen bit is getting easier once i use more fingers but then i have to put it flat somewhere stable and then i might as well click the sctual keyboard on but this was only going to be a short note.

xposted from Dreamwidth here. comment count unavailable comments. Reply there
Tags: bunnies, religion, writing
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