Thursday, 30 October 2014

"It's been six days since my last confession"

Two days to NaNoWriMo but I've already gone quiet on here for six days.  Some of this is because I've been planning but I've also been busy.  I suppose the thing to do is to post about my NaNo project, so here we go.

I'm rather too keen on world-building, to the extent that some of my stuff consists entirely of it.  I come up with a setting for a story and elaborate and twiddle endlessly, because to be completely honest I am more interested in the world than the plot or the people living in it.  Some people would say I'm on the autistic spectrum because of that kind of thing, something I find hard to handle.  Even so, I am of course twiddling endlessly.

Roughly, my novel is going to be about a situation in the future where English has died out and the reasons for it are secret, as is the English language itself.  My central character, Su, is trying to find out how it happened and the plot basically follows her adventures as she investigates.  It's set about 2000 years in the future, when there is now a steady level of technology which is mainly similar to how things were technologically in the West in about 1950.  A new ice age is also in progress, which has resulted in the sea level falling due to lots of water being locked up in glaciers, some of which now cover the British Isles down to the Thames.  Su has recently moved to a city called Caer Agnis with a population of around 300 000 people situated between Dover and Calais in the English Channel, which has become dry land.  Clearly I need to fill in some details here so I can write with confidence, but equally clearly I shouldn't go too far.  It is important to know more than the reader about the world but not to the extent that I spend all my time on that rather than writing a worthwhile story.

One of the problems I've encountered with this idea is to work out exactly what this new land would be like in terms of climate and terrain, what language they would use there and what the different parts of the country would be called.  As it happens, I have some help with the last bit in the form of this now outdated but famous map:


This is now rather different as Finisterre is now Fitzroy and the eastern part of Viking has become North and South Utsire.  Also there's a large area called Trafalgar which isn't on here.  Some of this is unimportant because the areas in question would either be under ice or water during an ice age, so I'm going to ignore them.  However, some of them won't be.  The continental shelf is the most important thing here:


Here's a third map showing the approximate maximum extent of the ice sheets during a recent ice age:

This is actually not very accurate.  The crucial bit for me is the Channel/Manche area plus the southern bit of the North Sea/German Ocean, which is divided into Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland and Plymouth.  These names are clearly largely English, and whereas I do plan for some placenames to stay derived from English, for instance there will be a village southwest of Dover called Shyxpiya after Shakespeare Cliff, others will be rejected.  Thames and Dover, oddly enough, are fine because they're Celtic in origin.  My plan is for English to have been replaced by a revived Brythonic language as spoken here before the Roman invasion, and for some of the placenames to have reverted to older ones, so for instance Plymouth is Tamar and Wight is Wecta - not sure about Portland.  I may just cheat and have Wecta and Tamar next to each other.

The area of what's left of England includes the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Sussex, Surrey, part of south London and Kent.  London north of the Thames has been swallowed up by the ice, and there is a large swathe of rubble consisting of bits of buildings, roads, human artifacts and the like, referred to as "The Bin" along the edge of the ice.  The ice itself is called Branna and the area of southern England and the Channel/Manche Brogos.  Brogos is tundra with a few trees and is somewhat moor-like.  The onset of the ice age is referred to at the time as the Fimbulwinter and the sweep of the glaciers through the British Isles as the Balai.

So, having covered all that, this is the kind of setting I envisage at the moment.  The story mainly takes place in southern England and the former English Channel.  Although two thousand years have passed since the present day, technology is in most ways less advanced than it is today even though the knowledge exists to make it more advanced, giving things a kind of mid-twentieth century feel to them.  The world is mainly vegan and there is no official government.  Money and countries have ceased to exist.  There has been an ice age for over 1000 years.  Customs such as manners and taboos have replaced laws and most people in the area speak a revived Celtic language resembling Ancient British.  Su, a marine exobiologist born in the Tau Ceti system, has just arrived on the planet and has smuggled Cetian sea horses onto Earth, which she plans to keep secretly as pets.  This would be frowned upon by most people, so she has to be surreptitious.  She has moved into a city called Cair Agnis in the Straits of Dover.  She visits her great-grandfather who lives in Cair Kent, formerly known as Canterbury, now in an area called Hedonia, next to Thanatos.  He reveals something about her ancestry and gives her a sculpture of a pregnant sea horse with an inscription on it in English, which piques her curiosity.  She then tries to find out what it says and realises that for some reason all knowledge of English has been hushed up.  Since she is naturally iconoclastic and breaks taboos, and also very curious, she is driven to find out what the inscription says and the more she is told not to, the more she tries to find out what happened.

I'm not saying any more.  Hope you find it interesting.  I'm raring to go in fact.  Two days until I start and I can't wait.