Saturday, February 7, 2009


How to recapture the feel of golden age science fiction without having to either (a) ignore the many changes in scientific knowledge or (b) ignore the limitations imposed by science altogether? In my case, by looking at the elements of classic science fiction space opera through the lens of fantasy rather than science.

The Goal

I wanted a setting with all the stuff I first enjoyed reading about as a kid:
  • strange yet familiar creatures (weird aliens, robots, humanoids, vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and mysterious gods)
  • societies ripe for adventure (rival city-states, competing guilds, clever merchants, odd religions, empires spanning multiple worlds, murky criminal underworlds, and ahistorical egalitarianism between the sexes)
So I’ve tried to create a fictional place where all those things can coexist, albeit often in an altered form, with some internal consistency.

My current name for this setting is Illyria. Though this was a historical kingdom in the Balkans, I use it in the sense of the allegorical, half-imaginary location from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: a place that is partly real and partly dream.

Underlying Premises

  • Magic exists and is more highly developed than technology, playing a similar but distinctive role in the economies and societies of the setting. Science as we know it is not a common method of acquiring knowledge. There is always a price for magic.
  • People and goods travel between alternate Earths through the use of magic, allowing the existence of several major, world-spanning civilizations. There are limitations on the scope and frequency of this travel.
  • There are a variety of intelligent species interacting on these various worlds, most of them variants of hominid species. Some of the intelligent species are so ancient, alien, and powerful that they are commonly worshipped as gods by other intelligent species.

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