21 August 2014

Happy Birthday Howard Phillips Lovecraft!

My greatest literary role-model started his 124th rotation around the sun yesterday. In other words, he would have turned 124 yesterday had he not died to stomach cancer (a likely result of his abysmal impoverished diet).

I am proud to say I have been fascinated by Lovecraft's writing and the Cthulhu mythos for some 20-years, so well before it became a cultural fad with cthulhu plushies and bobble-heads appeared (not to say I don't like those things, though they do sort of go against the whole idea of the mythos stands for!). His verbose writings and plethora of purple prose and archaic words (cyclopean! eldritch! gibbous!) had a big effect on my own writings and though I can safely say I have moved away from the purple prose that once proliferated my own writing, I still have a soft sport for the almost poetic prose (I'm also thinking alliteration, though I'm not sure that's the case).

Though I do not think there is very much in common between his worlds and mine (apart from maybe an underlying theme of despair), I personally owe a lot to him. The development of the Demiurges in particular owe a lot to the old ones and elder gods. Initially the Demiurges were a lot more uncaring of the mortal races. Though that remains in some regards (in some more than others), it is no longer universally true for they draw their strength from mortal worship so, like it or not, they are inextricably shackled to their children in way the elder gods / old ones are not. 

I also adopted a minor theme with dreams - with the languid Demiurge's dreams shaping the landscape as their actions once did in life. Also, dreams and nightmares are commonly interpreted to be the whispers of the Demiurges transcending their thought. No dreamlands, per se, though it's certainly something i think may have been influenced by Lovecraft. 

Coolest Elder God, by far! beats Cthulhu, tentacles down.

Of course, those who have been following my ramblings might remember the name of one of the Demiurges - Nyarloth. A homage, of sorts to Lovecraft. Though Nyarlathotep and Nyarloth share very little in common with one another. Nyarloth is a technologist amongst Demiurges and he was obsessed with beating death. Where his siblings tried to cheat death through esoteric means, he realised that his body was the issue - he tried to transfer his thought into soul-engines (basically metropolis-sized hard drives). Nyarlathotep is much more of a wanker than that!

So here's to celebrating H. P. Lovecraft and his timeless works!

15 August 2014

Classification and Taxonomy of Life

I've been working on the taxonomy of life in Elyden, spending more time coming up with hierarchies than I have actually writing things down. I spent most of yesterday working on the below diagram, showing the creation and subsequent evolution of life in Elyden. It's a mix of creationism and standard evolution, and is a  happy balance that we on Earth find difficult to achieve (of course the in-world verity of this classification is unknown, but it's what people believe at the point in which the encyclopaedia was penned).

Here's an excerpt from the introduction to the section titled 'Classification and Taxonomy of Life':

Life in Elyden is the result of over a billion (1,000,000,000) years change; some conscious and contrived (such as the creation of the Demiurges, or their own creation of most life), and some left to chance and the slow march of time (the slow evolution of moirtal life when left to its own devices). Elyden has ever been the malleable clay atop a great potter’s wheel, and the Demiurges of old were her first craftsmen, lovingly moulding her into shapes that pleased them. Amongst those shapes were the first primordial creatures from which all present life later appeared. Some beings remain in the form first given to them by the Demiurges, walking in skins that are differ little to those of their ancestors millennia past. Others were more mutable and have slowly evolved into the countless differing forms that walk and grow across her skin, glide over her head, and swim through her blood. The Atramenta and Firmament have both played their role in this great act of Shaping, bringing a diversity that aloine could not have been possible.
The diversity of life has always fascinated the mortal tribes. who since their first days observing the world have looked upon the myriad creatures and plants and wondered how they appeared or what forces were responsible for their present shapes. Similarities between creatures gave away the first clues and the rest was a slow process of best-guessing with whatever resources were available at the time. The true breakthrough came in 2993 RM, where the Nártheli polymath and noted genious Suziv first proposed his system of nomenclature. Though it was initially met with criticism, it slowly gained popularity and as scientific advances proved his theories and allowed its system of classification to be fine-tuned, the system was standardised in 3254 RM.
Before trying to classify life one must first ask and understand the fundamental question – what is life? Is it the ability to grow and respond to stimuli, or the ability to reproduce? Is it self-awareness, or an existence that is bounded within the Material Realm? Biologists are concerned with these questions and through the work of Suziv and his descendants we now classify life in five distinct categories, known as the Suzivian Taxonomy – Reghon Arratus (the Created), Reghon Haghorin (Fauna), Reghon Applosae (Flora), Reghon Spungae (Fungi) and Reghon Sulnathin (the Otherborn). There is a degree of overlap and conflict between the Suzivian Taxonomy and passages from the Mythologia Elyden, though it is now understood that the latter is a largely apocryphal text, likely corrupted through millennia of trascriptions and re-interpretations.

A Taxonomical Hierarchy of Life

10 August 2014

Updates from the void.

I’ve been busy formatting the Encyclopaedia Elyden, dividing it up into 4 volumes and editing each to conform to a tone/layout I’ve been working on. I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time figuring out fonts/typefaces I want to use and have been struggling with page breaks for numbering the pages differently (the preface and introduction pages of each volume will be in roman numerals, with the content pages in normal Arabic numerals). It took me a while to get figured out, but I’m, glad I managed as it makes the pages look better.   

I’ve also tracked down a simple java programme to turn the pages into signatures for printing and later hand binding (I’ll be doing that myself, also). For the uninitiated, a hardback book is made up a several smaller booklets, each of which consists of a stack of anything from 4 – 16 pages folded once into a small booklet or signature. Of course when printing such pages on a conventional printer you need to make sure that pages align correctly page 2 is not followed by page 3 when making signatures (the below image might make this clearer)

book signature

It’s next to impossible to copy/paste pages to follow that strange numbering order without losing formatting (like column justification) in the process. Luckily I was able to find a programme that takes a complete pdf document and sorts it out into signatures in a new pdf that’s ready for duplex (2-sided printing). Each sheet will be A4: that’s A5 book size after folding the signatures, which corresponds with the feel I’m aiming for. I might change my mind at a later date, though even if I do I doubt I’ll use anything larger than A4, and probably a customer size that’s a bit shorter than full A4 and perhaps a bit narrower.

Of course I won’t be doing any of this quite yet as none of the 4 volumes are anywhere near close to completion. The closest is the 1st volume, which is the encyclopaedia itself – lots of short entries I 2-column format, similar to classical encyclopedias we all know. Here’s a taster of the first 2 arabic-numbered pages.


The tome currently clocks in at over 400 individual pages though once complete it’s likely to at least increase by half (many entries are little more than place-holders for now) and I’m constantly adding to it. If it becomes too unwieldy for my DIY bookbinding I’ll just divide it into 2 volumes (A-M, N-Z or thereabouts)

The volumes themselves will be divided thusly:

Volume I: glossary of core terms
Volume II: articles detailing geography, taxonomy, regional histories and information etc.
Volume III: Mythologia Elyden, detailing the main nations' 'bible, other religions, myths, Demiurge histories, genealogies of their descendants etc. 
Volume IV: Atlas Elyden including various political and cultural maps

and volume IV is what's giving me trouble. My prototype maps so far have been made at A4 size, assuming that each leaf is to be A4, implying that each signature is A3. I'd like volume IV to be the same size as the other books so as to have them look nicer as a set, though that would mean having to make the maps smaller. I'm thinking of making each map a 2-page spread, effectively keeping each map as an A4 page, though in landscape format with the page crease down the middle, rather than a full portrait-format page. Hopefully that will get me the detail I wish to include. At worst I'll just need to add other pages with more detailed, larger-scaled 'inset' maps - which is no bad thing!