Those Important Days In Our Stories

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I was discussing Serdar’s upcoming worldbuilding-intense novel Unmortal.  It’s a setting with many stories, but his philosophy is one novel a setting, so he told the most important story to tell.  I commented offhandedly, “In a 1000 years find the most important day.”

What story do you tell in a world is a powerful question.

We usually build worlds for a reason because we have some idea of what story to tell.  But if you’re a heavy worldbuilder (like myself), questions arise as you write the first story or plot the next.  You have to ask “what is the story worth telling?”

Without spoiling my plans, my Avenoth novels originally focused on college students and faculty in a techno-mystical world.  Without spoiling my plans, my initial plot was not as interesting as asking how did we get here.  In a way, I ended up writing prequels to a novel that may never be – exploring what kind of people teach in a world of internet-using gods and mystic technology.

The second novel, “A School of Many Futures,” was a similar experience.  Originally the story was a mix of murder mystery and parody of conventions and trade shows.  It would see my collection of hyper-competent but oddball heroes try to shepherd a group of students through rolling chaos at a giant convention.  It was amusing, but the story was just “an idea,” and it didn’t have reason to exist.

As two of the characters are freelance teachers, the notes that became “A School of Many Futures” fit far better.  It fit my themes, fit the characters, and let me further explore the themes mentioned above.  It also fit my greater goals of deconstruction, and it was a pleasure to take on the “magical school adventure” trope.

What about my unused ideas?  My extensive notes have been used in a world guide for readers and may be used in an RPG.  Avenoth is a large setting that plays with tropes – perfect for a game.  Your unused ideas may find similar life in other places.

As writers, we must remember our audience only has so much time, and we have so much time to write.  Asking “what is the story worth telling?” is a question we can’t avoid.

Steven Savage

A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Inspirations For The Twelve Great Cities

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Let’s get to know more about the setting of my upcoming novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.  I’d like to peek behind the curtain and talk about my inspirations for the Twelve Great Cities of Telvaren.

The idea for Twelve Great Cities sprung right into my head when I was messing around with ideas.  Inspired by some lovely visuals in anime (if you ever want amazing cityscapes, many SF/Fantasy anime have jaw-dropping designs) and some past fiction, I came up with the idea of a city dominated by a dozen great city-states.  Each city has its own personality, and these are the inspirations.

The Cities

Allanax – The capital of the Great Cities is somewhat inspired by Washington DC, but as it also acts as a culture center it takes some inspiration from Cincinnati, Ohio and Boston.  Visually it’s inspired by Seattle and the fictional city of Numbani in the game Overwatch – all soaring high-tech skyscrapers.

Brightguard – Brightguard is a massive academic center of magic and knowledge, so Boston was an enormous influence.  As it has a military past, there’s also some influence from San Francisco’s Navy days.  In the setting as of the novel it’s experiencing gentrification, inspired by many sources, and visually based on the way I’ve seen old buildings in Silicon Valley converted to other things.

Grand Ivar – The “little sibling” to Allanax and Brightguard, Grand Ivar’s is a fun city to write about because it’s amazing and diverse, but is always contrasted to others, leading to it trying hard to stand out, while also being insecure.  Culture wise it’s inspired by San Jose and Toronto, though visually I’ve described it as a “well laid-out art deco Hong Kong.”  The insecurity comes from watching rivalries in the Bay Area, and watching competition among various real cities.

Highpoint – The Great City made by various cities allying themselves together, building a bunch of roads, and asking to join the other cities.  Highpoint is inspired by those areas where cities and towns just kind of grew together, including Boston, New York, The Bay Area, and Columbus, Ohio.  Culturally it’s very laid back, taking some hints from smaller cities I’ve visited.

Kalfstaff – Financial center Kalstaff is heavily inspired by New York and London, as well as the cityscapes in the late MMO City of Heroes.  Ut.  It’s extremely neat architecture and well-kept streets are inspired by Toronto.

Mindarion – The great city of manufacturing and fabrication is a strange one.  In some ways it’s inspired by manufacturing cities like Pittsburgh, but the design of the city is well-planed, combining urban architecture, greenery, and massive factories.  It takes definite hints from anime designs combined with Jack Kirby’s imaginative cityscapes.

Nasharex – The high-tech friend/rival to Mindarion, Nasharex has an erratic layout, and is inspired by Silicon Valley, Seattle, and other cities who suddenly found themselves growing, with widing roads and surprising hidden places.  Nasharex is a mix of Eastern and Southern culture, making it a uniquely diverse city.

Olanau-Kau – A coastal city, the last survivor of the South, and a center of Botanomancy and reclaiming the lost lands, this is a complicated city that has many inspirations.  It’s giant walls are inspired by fantasy art and classical art of castles and fortresses, and it’s layered architecture comes from some giant hotels, buildings, and apartment complex I’ve seen.

Triad True – The great theopolis is more of an original idea – asking what if there was a city just dedicated to religion.  It takes some hints from Jack Kirby’s art, art deco, and anime – I visualize it as an embellished place, with shrines and great idols everywhere.

Sabillion – The media capital, Sabillion is obviously inspired by Hollywood and Los Angeles, though it’s more spread out.

Vasikon Zek – The only city upon the Ocean, Vazikon Zek is really made up of islands, artificial islands, magic, and clever architecture.  Visually and layout-wise I see it as organic, like a nautilus shell or a crystal.  It was inspired by SF ideas of oceanbound cities.

Zafrel – The giant transportation hub is clearly inspired by Chicago.


– Steve

A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Demons

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Let’s get to know more about the setting of my upcoming novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.  It’s time to talk Demons.


Demons figure prominently in the history of Avenoth and the human worlds around it for good reason; they’re murderous and dangerous creatures that eat information.

Scholars and demonologists have debated over their origins, and older gods have provided what information they could. The conculsons reached about them are as follows:

  • They likely were human or a human sub-species. They may be releated to the uncommon human variants of Vampires, Shifters, or the extinct Changelings.
  • They exist due to magic – they are a magical fields constructing a physical body. This is why they can posess others and in a few rare cases, transmit themselves.
  • They are hierarchical, almost insect-like, and have specialized roles. Most of them are ignorant and manipulated by their leaders or humans.
  • They evolve. Demons consume information from living minds or echoes and ghosts. This can lead them to be conscious, and perhaps even evolve a soul.
  • Demons with souls are very controversial – it’s clear the Royalty who lead them have souls, but do not try to die or reincarnate. There is evidence demons do reincarnate as humans and there’s no records of humans doing the reverse. Why do more demons not simply commit suicide?
  • The Demon leader is the Emperor, formally the Emperor of Three Faces. It is clearly thousands of years old.

Demon History

Demons have been with humanity forever, unfortunately so. Arose around the first civilizations, and achieved prominence roughly a thousand years before current times. They were both dangerous and featred, but also useful as they were easily manipulated or summoned, and many older ones retained knowledge they’d eaten.

As civilization grew, demonology became more and more publicly proscribed. Privately, however, experimentation and summoning continued and was used to this days. Gods have not entirely forbidden demonology for reasons that aren’t apparent.

During The War, demons spawned rapidly, feeding on the echoes of dying minds. Their threat could have been even worse, but the use of weapons of mass destruction ensured that many new demons died quickly. It is often said that the South’s genocidal war against itself may have saved the world, as even demons couldn’t survive the poison-choked cities and bioweaponry that walked.

At the end of The War, the Emperor’s underground legions burst forth in the ruins of the old Dragon Kingdoms, and surged westward towards Allanax, the capital of the new alliance. They tore through towns and armies, growing their numbers, while attempts to kill them poisoned the land and the air.

Several gods incarnated to attack them while humans plotted with science and sorcery to defeat them. In the final battle at Pemmelock Vale, the goddess known as the Swordswoman died attacking the emperor while the Deceiver tried to scramble the minds of the demons. Finally, a great experimental weapon, the Vortex Bomb, was detonated above the demons, casting them to the uninhabitable world of Pandemonium.

The demons leadership had been cut off and banished. It was hoped they would die on that world of fire and ice, but they persisted. Though humanity had avoided corrupting vast swaths of land with demon poison or hunting down royalty, demons were still there, with their knowledge, and portals – and curious humans calling on them.

Common Demons

Demons vary with function and, as Royalty, personal choice. All demons appear as black creatures, usually humanoid past a certain size, with colored eyes. The eye color of a demon often denotes creator or personality.

Seekers: Seekers are some of the oldest and most common demons- single-eyed winged creatures created by Royalty or from eggs to find things. Seekers have preternatural senses as good as any diviners, and it’s theorized they’re more a form of living technology.

Hivers: Hivers are brute force creatures, used for labor or simple killing. Like Seekers, they’re thought of as a kind of technology, and are among the most common demons found as eggs and used by humans. Hivers can also hibernate for centuries.

Rippers: Multi-limbed killing machines, rippers are shock troops that tear into their targets and keep moving on. Rippers are more evolved than Hivers, but also harder to control.

Swoopers: Swoopers resemble large Seekers, and are aerial troops. They swarm enemies and function like a hive mind.

Knights: Knights are the highest of the common demons, and are borderline conscious. Huge, armored figured with bladed bodies and living weapons, they’re fearsome combatants.


Demon Royalty is variable and individual. There is a complex ranking system that use human titles like King, Duke, etc. Curiously, all titles are male, and all appear humanoid.

Royalty can create other, lesser demons. Those demons always have the eye color of their creator and may have similarities in form.

Royalty are strong, posses various abilities, and can posses others. As Royalty progresses up the ranks, possession becomes harder to maintain, so it is often an activity of low-level Royalty. They scheme among each other in various plots, and enjoy backstabbing each other.

At the top of the Demon Royalty is the Emperor of Three Faces. The Emperor is an unknown, but he is said to be some twenty feet tall and wield power equivalent to an incarnated Gods. He is thousands of years old and has a patchwork soul that is cunning and dangerous. His motivations are unclear, but he takes great pleasure in the mass murder of humans and seems driven to exterminate humanity.

Human Use

Humans still employ demons. Most popularly they are used as assassins or consultants, and powerful Royalty are recorded in tomes and grimoires with summoning instructions. Everyone knows demons will betray them, but the power tempts them – and demons do not always get the best of the deal.

Some humans study low-level demons and hatch them from eggs for the sake of safety but also practicality. Hivers or Rippers are excellent killers. Seekers are simple, but easily impressed upon and can become loyal servants and spy-eyes.

There are also experiments done on demons by various orders, guilds, and scientists. It’s an open secret among people in The Military and The Guard that some weaponry is derived from demons. The most common not-discussed item are acidic weaponry based on demon ichor are disintegration rounds, popularly called Dzers.

This is all supposedly forbidden. It goes on anyway.

The Lost Gods

Demons are sometimes associated with the mad deities known as Lost Gods, those who have lost their focus or become monomaniacal. There has been some interaction, but Demons in general despise the gods, and Lost Gods are insane, unpredictable, and often degenerate. Worse, the Lost Gods often have their own minions, and aren’t interested in demons – this is said to have terribly offended The Emperor.

Demon Royalty works with Lost Gods and their followers rarely, but it does happen. For one side, it will always end poorly – for everyone else it will definitely end poorly.

– Steve