Everyone is talking about Shannara this week, so I will too

With the 35th anniversary annotated Sword of Shannara coming out next week, there is a lot of buzz about the book that may have ruined fantasy. Brooks did not set out to ruin fantasy in much the same way that the Gracchi did not set out to cause the fall of the Roman Republic, but the aftermath is undeniable. Following Shannara’s commercial success, the demand for Tolkienian high fantasy was met with a new wave of Brick Fantasy. While most spec-fic had enjoyed popularity in shorter novella formats, publishers saw that the market for multi-inch thick sprawling fantasy trilogies was ripe. Though D&D was not birthed by this maelstrom, it certainly fed into it; by the 80s, spec-fic shelves were filled with trilogies, quadrologies and even sextets of books featuring some combination of guy-with-sword, dwarf, elf, and mythic creature (usually, but not always, a dragon) in some wooded/mountainous/pastoral tableau; by the 90s, everybody was reading Wheel of Time, Dragonlance, Shannara, or Drizzt, and though I saw his name in my friend’s AD&D Deities & Demigods, I never heard anyone actually talk about Fritz Leiber until my late 20s and Vance was just the name that people blamed D&D’s magic system on.

I can’t remember how old I was exactly, but I was fairly young when I was first exposed to Lord of the Rings. It was somewhere between kindergarten and second grade, but on a really long road-trip, after an “Are we there yet?” I was kept entertained by my parents for the duration of the car ride with a rather impressive retelling from memory of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Not long after that, the Hobbit was read to me as a bedtime story, and my father was both proud and disappointed when mid-way through Fellowship I announced that I had started reading it all on my own and was almost finished.

Fast-forward a few years (maybe 5th grade?), having finished LotR, the Silmarillion, the Prydain Chronicles, the Singreale Chronicles, and at least the first Dragonlance trilogy or so, I got the Shannara Trilogy from a relative for Christmas. Interestingly enough, I found Sword of Shannara to be a remarkable plod but felt slighted that the story wrapped up in a single (albeit 3-inch thick) volume; I mean, I was promised a trilogy! But the remarkable dullness of the characters, obvious knock-offery of the Nazguls Skullbearers looking for the ring sword, painful attention to tactical minutia, and awful twist ending weighed upon my little kid heart like an anvil! What do you mean that the next book in the series is about the first characters’ grandkids? Those first characters weren’t great, but I was already familiar with them, who are these new guys? But they were fantasy books and christmas presents, so I continued trudging on. I made it 3/4s of the way into Elfstones, but when it became obvious that the second book’s twist was that the whiny cleric girl was gonna turn into a tree, 11 year old me was all “FTS!” and went back to Dragonlance, because at the time it seemed so much better in comparison.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Shannara! Ya lousy bum…

One Year Anniversary & More Thoughts on Cirsova

(Maybe I shouldn’t have started this blog on 9-11.  It was a coincidence, but it might make these posts seem callous. Maybe next year  I’ll act like the Polaris post was the first one.)

As it becomes fleshed out, it becomes more & more apparent that Cirsova is not a flourishing and stable kingdom, but rather one that reached its zenith through conquests a few hundred years ago and is now rife with decay, poor governance, and in a state of denial about its decline.  Seemingly unable to look beyond its shores, the Akhirs can no longer expand, and the Heartlands’ influence is waning as its days of conquest sink further and further into the past.  Gatlia could stand as an independent state, at least until the cooling world makes farming untenable and starvation sets in.  Ungoza is left alone, mostly for its unimportance outside of producing raw materials for a relatively useless luxury good.  And though Karkuras may have fared better as vassals of Cirsova than as subjects of the Sabrians, today the people may do better out from under the hegemony of Athdaelda & the Emperors.  I have som ideas about Paelnor and Ortia.  Of Ortia, one might look and say “there it began (proto-Akhir migration) and there it will end” if the ice pushes far enough south.  Only the Ortians of Solaris seem to travel beyond the narrow world of the Cirsovan Peninsula.

Which raises some questions, I know!  How big is the Empire really?  How much of the continent has already been subsumed by ice (lots)?  Is Cirsova ripe for invasion from an outside power?  Its poorly organized, poorly ruled, and poorly defended. Will it collapse and break into smaller states again?  Or will the ice that destroyed the Northern Folk destroy the Cirsovans?

This has been my first serious attempt at world building (not counting the crappy 9 book fantasy cycle I wrote when I was in highschool), mostly as an exercise to force myself to do it.  My strengths, as they are, have primarily been in dialogue & banter (i’ve done some comic scripts & such; don’t look for them, though, none have been published, since they’ve usually fallen apart at the art stage), so this is very new to me.  And I’m still not very good at it.  I don’t know why you’re reading this!  Oh, wait, you’re hear because you googled for an image and landed here because I had a Monet or something.  That’s cool.  Well, I hope you have been enjoying it, and I hope I get better.  Keeping myself on a schedule disciplines me, but may also detract from the quality of some pieces as I force myself to keep things regular.  I’m rambling again.

There are lots of people I ought to thank, but most of them you can find in my links to the right (or, if you’ve been reading, should be pretty obvious from my linkbacks).

There’s really not a whole heck of a lot left to go, location-wise, with Cirsova, so I’m going to have to figure out what I want to do with it.  I can eke maybe another year out of encyclopedia content, but then I have to decide where to go from there.  Anyway, a long time ago, I promised maps.  Good maps done in Campaign Cartographer.  Those maps never happened.  But I ought to give you something, loyal readers.  This is the 7 year old map of CIrsova I made in paint back when I was going to run it for a gaming group.  It lacks most geographic details outside of the two northern provinces where the campaign took place, but it might help give you a more concrete idea of the world of Cirsova.

world map in progress deliniated

As you can see, most of the locations have already been covered.