Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ok, A Scifi Post At Last

Well, actually, a fantasy post. I've come up with an idea for a plotline in a Fantasy Epic ripped, ripped, I say, from today's headlines. See if you can follow me.

The milieu: a Great Empire (of course!). Largely a benevolent empire, fraught, of course, with the usual corruption, political strife, dissent and general malaise that any large empire might succumb to after a long period of existence. It is a gentle master to both its native and subjugated peoples, as often incorporating new lands through shrewd political alliances as through military maneuvers, and acting more as a protector and provider to its inhabitants than as a cruel, greedy overlord. It has no equal among all the Known Lands.

Dramatis Personae: First, the various Great and Minor Factions:

The Aristocracy: The ruling class. Dare I say it: The Deciders. Shades of past glory surround them all, from the well-intentioned but perhaps unpersuasive Emperor and his loyal cadre of advisors, to the Nobles, constantly bickering amongst themselves, desparately crying out for a great leader the likes of which has not been seen for generations.

The Priesthood: The interpreters of the Holy Law, written in an arcane tongue, completely incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Many among the Aristocracy have served their time in the Priesthood, and many among the Priesthood seek the keys to power offered by the Aristocracy. They hold a virtual monopoly on justice, on trade, and even the day-to-day lives of the people. Many among them have twisted the innate goodness of the Holy Law with endless, changing interpretations to suit their own ends, while a few others strive to keep clear the original intentions of the Prophets, the founders of the Holy Law.

The Magisterium: The keepers and dispensers of the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the Empire. Practicioners of occult and mysterious arts. Pale shadows of a formerly great institution, the Magisters have largely forsaken the talents and knowledge of their forebears in pursuit of the trivial and meaningless. The positions of power within the Magisterium are often obtained not by those who merit them, but the political maneuvering of the weak-minded but ambitious. Virtually all of the Priesthood and the Aristocracy have been subject to the tutelage of the Magisterium at some point in their lives, and members from among all the Great Factions retire into the Magisterium to pass on their accumulated experience and knowledge.

The Guildsmen: Members of The Guild, once a group of respected individuals, leaders and merchants from among the general populace, praised for their fairness and objectivity in all things, were granted a great deal of secular authority because of this reputation. The Guildsmen maintain an iron grip, only now beginning to wane, on the free flow of information throughout the Empire. Now a notorious group of partisans, beholden to certain seditious factions both within and without the Empire, they still maintain the pretense of their unbiased past.

The Unguilded: Upstart rivals to the Guildsmen. Initially ignored by The Guild as a passing fancy, a dead-end movement, this Minor Faction has since grown into a loosely affiliated group of loudly vocal reformers, comprising its membership from among all the Great Factions and even the general populace of the Empire itself. Due to persecution by both the Guild and the other Great Factions, many of the Unguilded act only in disguise to protect their identities.

The Agitators: Initially fellow-travellers with the Unguilded, employing many of the same tactics, the Agitators have diverged, often finding itself allied with the very opponents of the Unguilded at all turns. Unlike the largely rational Unguilded, the Agitators are more prone to theatrics and hysterics in the pursuit of their causes.

The Imperial Legion: The Unbreakable Sword and Shield of the Empire. The only Great Faction whose prestige and skill have remain largely undiminsihed over the centuries, the Imperial Legion is unparalleled in might among all the Known Lands. The Imperial Legions are generally divided into two categories: the Imperial Battle-Magi, trained in both the deadly arcane arts and the skills of military tactics by the Magisterium, and the vastly larger and equally lethal, if mundane, Emperor's Legions -- the footsoldiers and front line warriors of the Imperial Legion. While largely independent from the machinations of the other Great Factions, many of the Imperial Legion are granted land and title within the Aristocracy, for better or worse.

The Menacing Horde: Not a Great Faction, or even an entity within the Empire itself, but an outside force, loathesome of all the Empire represents, and bent on ruling the Known Lands through all means at its disposal. Once a great empire in its own right, the Menacing Horde has become a fractious, but no-less-deadly force for great Evil throughout the Known Lands. Many among the Great and Minor Factions seek to dismiss the Menacing Horde as a fantasy, a tool the Empire seeks to use to control the masses, a misunderstood but sympathetic group, or even welcome "saviors" who may at last thwart what they see as the injustices of the Empire. Most of the people of the Empire do not understand the threat posed by the Menacing Horde, but nevertheless expect the Empire to protect them from it. Only a few among the Great Factions truly comprehend the danger to their very way of life and seek to thwart it.

So there you have it, a rough-and-ready sketch of my oh-so-subtle commentary on current-day events in a fantasy milieu. If I feel compelled, I'll actually develop some characters for this world. Being an unseasoned-but-hopeful author, I will of course make the protagonist... oh golly, let's see -- how about a neophyte member of the Magisterium, secretly a member of the Unguilded, who uses his own skills to enhance the Imperial Legion's naval forces through arcane means, and recognizes the Menacing Horde for what it truly is? That way, nobody would suspect me as the author!

I complained already about a lack of Christian science fiction. At least the libertarian trends of many sci-fi authors helps out there from at least a conservative point of view... and there's always Orson Scott Card. But Conservative Fantasy? I think I might have just tapped a gold vein here! Or, dare I say it, a mithril vein!

Update: A couple more Minor Factions:

The Healers: As their name implies, an independent outcropping of the Magisterium who have furthered their intense training to specialize in the art of both natural and supernatural physical restoration. Due to the perilous nature of both their training and their craft, their life-extending services may come at a high cost; however, their numbers are dwindling due to interference from the Hedge Witches, whose charms and wards they are often forced to employ as protection against accusations of Necromancy by the Priesthood.

The Hedge Witches (and Wizards): a very loose-knit association of those who pretend to skill in the eldritch arts, specializing largely in charms, wards, totems, hexes, and curses, whose services are sold to the highest bidder. While the efficacy of these various charms is in doubt, their protection is sought by many factions, willingly and unwillingly, and often at prohibitive prices, to absolve themselves of personal liability should their efforts go awry.

The Cabal: a small, elite association of highly-skilled sorcerors, specializing in conjuration and teleportation. Without the support of the Cabal, many factions both Great and Minor would find their livelihoods greatly diminished. Apart from the conjuration of Magickal Essences, used in the production of many goods throughout the Empire, the Cabal also provides its teleportation services, at high cost both to themselves and their employers, to all the great factions. The Cabal operates under great distrust from outsiders, suspected of forming alliances with unsavory elements outside the Empire to provide them with the raw materials necessary for their rituals and spells, even among the Menacing Horde. The Cabal also stands acused of wielding much more power and influence among the Great Factions than any Minor Faction has a right to. Nevertheless, the services they provide function as the backbone of the might of the Empire.

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Anonymous Marty said...

Could you publish this in a paper format? My eyes get tired reading computer screens.

7:33 PM  

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