17 April 2013

the Encyclopaedia Elyden

Here's the title page of the Encyclopaedia Elyden, and the start of my new project... though don't expect it to be done anytime soon.

Title Page

I've always had an interest in bookbinding and grimoires and codices, especially prop-books used in movies, like the Ninth Gate book from the eponymous movie, 'the Ninth Gate', the Red Book of Westmarch from 'the Lord of the Rings' lore, or Lovecraft's Necronomicon, amongst others. I've always wanted to craft the Encyclopaedia Elyden to look like an in-world artifact, though until recently I envisaged creating the entire thing on computer and printing it out at a pro-printers or somewhere like createspace or lulu and then re-cover the book myself.

Though recently I've been toying with the idea of making the entire thing myself from scratch. Luckily for me, the mechanical printing press is no stranger to the world of Elyden so i could easily use an appropriate font and craft the book on computer, print signatures and bind the entire thing myself. I have some success crafting small diary-sized books and feel comfortable crafting the book, aging the pages, and binding it myself.

Even though that's the idea, its not something that'll take form anytime soon as i need to finish writing the book first, something that's a vicious circle tied to my other worldbuilding exploits... A life-long project, I imagine.

13 April 2013

Technological Innovations of Elyden

Sorry for the radio-silence, though I’ve been busy on some map commissions (I might post some here once I get permission and they’re released) and some tinkering on broad history strokes of my world.

Over the past few days I’ve been busy thinking about Elyden and what she started out as and where she’s going (as a quick aside, like any good ship captain I always refer to my world in the feminine…). She started out as a word doodle, with no forethought and just evolved over the years (coming up to 8-years now), taking on new aspects as I researched (learning about Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Carceri d'invenzione, the art of Wayne Barlowe, H. R. Giger& Zdzislaw Beksinski, amongst many other influences), grew up and just consolidated what I wanted out of the world. This evolution of the world is still-ongoing and wreaks havoc on my futile attempts at trying to craft a solid history and mythology – new ideas have sometimes created huge shifts in the world’s tone, and added large periods of tumultuous history to nations’ timelines, making me rewrite large parts of history. 

Recently I have been thinking about the world’s technology level. This, like many other things, has evolved over the year, slowly changing from a classical late medieval period (with the Korachani empire having some magical-engines) to what I can only describe now as being a Dystopic victorian dark-magical steampunk setting with para-natural influences and swathes of body-horror. Of course technology bases differ from region to region (imagine things like the battle of ‘Rorke’s Drift’ or the ‘Last Samurai’). That’s a long way to describe the setting, though I like the fact that it cant be summed up by a single word (well, at a stretch, maybe despair or decay). 

I originally envisaged the height of real-world tech in Elyden would be: advanced printing presses, primitive telegraph system (still unsure of this) steam-powered cars with WWI artillery tracks (I’ve attached some pics of early steam-powered tracked vehicles and one of my fave’s, the Alkett VSKFZ 617 minesweeper) and I thought even that was pushing it, given that fantasy techs I decided I wanted (in sparse amounts) would be archaic powered-armour and mechs, magically-operated viewing portals (video-phone), amongst others, though again; used sparingly and not a common part of everyday life.

A couple of things I’ve come across in my research over the years have struck me, and though I’ve resisted using too many archaic real-world sources, I’ve finally relented and have decided to add a few things, some less extreme than others, with some modifications: 

1) Thao Jansen’s e Strandbeest 
2) Charles Babbages’ difference engine 

The Strandbeest 

Amazing feat of engineering and something that has really excited me since I fist found out about it a few years ago, though only something I thought I could incorporate into my world – not as a common invention though an innovation used by a particularly group of people (not even that technologically advanced, or perhaps salvaged from an ancient otherwise forgotten invention). So I decided on a large flat coastal region, sand an wet, going on for many many miles. It’s subjected to near constant coastal-winds and is otherwise not very fertile, but its nomads need a quick way of traversing the expanse – so they use these machines. I imagine a solitary itinerant travelling on such a thing, personalized by his years of scavenging, all his belongings and piles of scrap carried on its back. Ah bliss! 

The Difference Engine 

Most of you are probably familiar with this. In a nutshell Charles Babbage’s difference engine was a prototype analogue computing machine that was never completed, devised between 1823 – 1842, when funding was cut by the british government, Babbage worked slowly (or was a perfectionist…). Had the engine been completed and built upon, the world today would be a very different place indeed. 

I’ve been meaning to add such a thing to my world for some time; perhaps as something the half-dozen largest cities would have as a means of computing knowledge and maintaining contact with one-another. But a video I saw the other day gave me another idea: 

I love Adam Savage: he’s somewhat of an idol, alongside characters like Stan Winston, Nikola Tesla, H.P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert. E. Howard. Anyway… that video and the comparison of old storage sizes and new storage sizes got me thinking… How about a city-sized computer made up of millions of vacuum tubes and a legion of workers to maintain it, constantly replacing burnt bits in an endless cycle. Of course such a machine is unfeasible in the real world, though fits in with the cyclopean sense of wonder I want my world to have and the nature of human life – toiling like ants as part of a greater hole, their individual actions insignificant, though when taken together, creating a whole so much greater than the sum of its parts. 

I envisage a city in the cold north (the climate helping cool the monolithic thing) served by millions of tech slaves overseen by demiurne overlords whose objectives are undisclosed (what the hell is the empire, analogous to the roman empire in Victorian England, doing with a terabyte of computing power?)…

So I think the world is taking place. Another piece of the puzzle fits in place.