December 12, 2019, 11:38:14 PM

Author Topic: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding  (Read 28719 times)

Offline Nora

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Hello all!

I'm starting this thread hoping it could evolve in a sort of experience and source sharing. I hope this isn't a thing already...

My idea here is that Fantasy, and fiction in most its genres, is a type of story that strongly benefits from solid and realistic world building (as we all know and thrive to achieve) and the best example for us all is our real world.
While we all benefit from reading other fantasy writers and see how they managed to hook us with their worlds or with the underlying themes they chose, I personally think that my own world and ideas benefit from a lot of my non-fiction reading.
After all, good sourcing and research is how we avoid cliche and weak themes. But maybe by sharing more personal discoveries we could help each other out?
After all some of the greatest stories and movies out there were picked out of philosophy problems for example.

Well, i guess I'll make more sense if I just give my own examples. Worse come to worse it'll just be me throwing out a bunch of links and yaking my face off! :D

I apologize for the length of this post, but believe passion about reading or writing ought to be taken seriously and I shall fart in your general direction.

In the personal experience area :

Spoiler for Hiden:
I'm too lazy to make any researches concerning english speaking countries laws, but let me share mine.
In France, for centuries every citizen has benefited from a right, which is called "Glanage". It is still valid today, and allows anyone to walk on a farmer's land after the harvest and pick up whatever was left behind. It is also legal in orchads, where you can pick up fruits off the ground.
A famous painting is dedicated solely to that concept, called "Les glaneuses", by Jean Francois Millet :


Contrarily to what first comes to mind these women are not harvesting, this is probably not their field, and it won't go to the farmer. They are picking left over for themselves.
If you search around you'll find more paintings showing how popular a thing that was :


The laws surrounding the propriety of goods is a very useful knowledge. We have two types of "goods without owners". All "immobile" goods (buildings) without owners pertain to the state (which would lead to fascinating discussions about squats), so only "mobile" goods are detailed:

> Res Derelictae : objects voluntarily abandoned by former proprietors, the first person to put their hands on it becomes the new owner. This applies from objects left on the street to the content of bins (and is why I've got such a hard time with aussie and nz laws regarding bags left at charity's doorsteps. To me those are anyone's stuff until the shop takes them in).
The only nuance is that it does not include lost objects. So you're not technically the legal owner of a watch you found on the street!

> Res Nullius : Fish, game, and wild animals.

In France a "glaneuse" is what I called myself, while you would call me a dumpster diver or a freegan.
I was forced to learn more about the law, as you can be yelled at by people thinking themselves righteous in annoying you (this can apply to policemen who can be fairly pushy until you show that you explicitly know your rights).

I think anyone wishing to write about medieval times, or characters evolving in rural areas should know about this. More modern settings are worse. While older times had very organized recycling systems where little was wasted, we've got the stark opposite nowadays.

Take my word as a real-life bum for it : you need to try REALLY hard to go hungry in a city.
I'm attaching here a handful of pictures I've taken while dumpster-diving in Australia or France:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/rj7qaq9107f8pwn/AAACcm9fFlDN26SY4zZ6GECha?dl=0

(note the mental haul in the last picture? It's one trip, all I could carry by myself in a cardboard, off a Melbourne's Coles back alley)
I've spent months of my life buying no food but the rare essential I would miss.
I've also never, ever been sick due to eating food taken off the bins. Bakeries dump fresh food every night. Markets are insane, with the smallest defect on a produce leading to it been binned.
The gold mines are in large supermarket bins.
A can with a scratched paper? Bin. Boxes of goon cracked open but perfectly fine inner bag? Bin. 12 pack of glass bottled beer, one broken? 11 in the bin. Products didn't sell on the last discount but is still perfectly fine? Bin. This includes new clothing, candles, beach chairs, but also consoles, watches, shoes, good bike parts and house keeping products.
In Adelaide I lived several weeks with only 20$ in my pocket.

End of the line, any type of character struggling through a city to find food will earn my immediate disbelief. A great depiction of the "underworld" of a large city would also widely benefit from research on that. Most people who shop for their food every day don't really realize how wasteful most systems are.
Every french speaker will have a funny time reading "Le guide du zonard" on the internet, where people filled a wiki with tips on "traveling by train for free", "fixing the soles of your shoes", "getting the coins out of a parking machine", "get free toilet paper off Mac Donalds", "having 87 postal addresses", "screwing a punk chick without getting a hepatitis" or "Still passing for an artist".
I wish there was an english equivalent!
Check out trash wiki for a peak in the freeman life. Some places have google maps with bins located and notes about staff attitude and common hauls.


Non-fiction reading I found very helpful and why :

Spoiler for Hiden:
For people who want to write extensively about war and its consequences, even if the subject is very often mentioned in fantasy and sci-fi, I owe a lot to these :

Guns, germs, and steel : the fates of human societies by Jared M. Diamond
This is proper history focused on war, epic read. Quite the thick book but worth the effort. His style is very easy to follow.

In philosophy, the following texts are short essays you'll find online (your philosophy Ethic classes could have asked you to find and read them) :

Cecile Fabre, Guns, food and liability to attack in war.
Jeff MacMahan, Ethics of Killing in War - where the author works his way toward the concept of "Just war" and "Just war" being the only time where a soldier ought to participate. Such concept is still open to debate, like everything else in philosophy.
But also Torture in Principle and in Practice
Samuel Scheffler, Is Terrorism Morally Distinctive -
Coady, terrorism, Morality, and Supreme Emergency
(a lot are public publications and if you struggle finding them you can PM me, I'll send them to you)

All those are short essays, and though the style is more dense because it's directed at people who enjoy a good mindf***, there is a lot of benefits you can take out of listening to these people.
For one, characters who questions themselves or the general situation in their story in terms other than "good and evil and where do I stand in this" are too rare to my taste.
Reading MacMahan could flesh out dialogs between warriors, reading Coady could add dimension to hostage situations or dialogs in terrorist attacks, whatever the side of the acts your POV follows.


Personally I find my work extremely influenced by a french historian called Philippe Aries who wrote mainly on "daily life" through history, and the evolution of behaviors in societies.

People who want to write about feudal systems, or other historical settings would benefit from reading him.
I found his writings fascinating. The bold is deserved. As you go through his books you realize how incredibly deformed our vision of history is.
While we all go and learn about facts and dates and events, classes never really paint the way life was back then. How ALIEN it could be to us.
Did you know for example that in christian medieval France, when all the family slept in one big bed, it was a rather banal practice to smother an infant to death, because you couldn't well afford this new mouth? Or that romans barely had a concept of "private life" and the entire depended fully on slavery, and how complex it was?
My favorite work of his remains the one he did on the change of attitude of the western world towards death. It's so well written and a topic that is still so strong for us all and since the dawn of times!

The hour of our death or Western attitudes towards death: from the middle ages to the present depending on edition.
Centuries of childhood: a social history of family life
A history of private life - covers in 5 books from the roman times to the modern times. Pick the time you're setting in and read the associated book. Well worth the time, fascinating discoveries.

He wrote more on the history of sexuality in occident and the history of french populations but not sure those got translated.
His works on death I use fully in my own works, as I have a futuristic setting but the mentalities towards death made a big leap backward.

Special mention for people who'd be interested in survival/makeshift medicine. There are two books fully free online you can read called

Where there is no doctor and Where there is no dentist

Besides personal benefits, I learnt some very vivid tricks in there that go beyond the tooth pulled with pliers and the gangrene limb sawed off and cauterized in fire! :D


Alright, I hope I got some of you interested in some stuff… Was well worth trying anyway.
If that makes your bells ring and you do have sources or ideas to share, because you've got a solution for things you find often wanting in fantasy, or just a specific quirky story that could benefit us…
Or just questions and topics you'd like to dig and would like to know if anyone can recommend you anything!

Cheers!
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline Raptori

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Guns, Germs and Steel is great, Diamond's later book Collapse is even better in my opinion. It deals with how civilisations sometimes fail and die, and how other civilisations survived situations that killed others. As a pair those books should be required reading for anyone who wants to write a realistic world  :)
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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These collected pieces of fiction seem really interesting. I love looking at civilization and how, as Raptori said, we could best make our works "realistic" in a sense. But some of those laws look a little iffy when dealing with interpretation, especially Res Derelictae. I can already see a minor infraction getting blown off by a well-versed defense and then that snowballing into semantics later down the road for a bigger case. But I digress.

Coming from a Criminal Justice background, I couldn't begin to list how this degree is helping me when it comes to the stereotype of crime and "the thief/criminal" in fiction. Let alone cop dramas on TV or the famous John Grisham novel. I also have an interest in "prepping" so I've learned little survival tools here and there, like the very beginnings of pine cones (for instance, this time of the year right now) is the perfect thing to eat if lost in the woods. They're packed with protein and a couple could keep you going for a day or two. Helps they taste like mint, too. Or that it's better to drink all your water at once if in fear of dehydration. Body holds it better in the long run.

Anyway, I'll probably add some interesting things later (or answer any questions pertaining to US legal system, the shaping of crime as a whole, or the theories and the little I know on them for now (hah, yeah right)), but I do have three points to make: (namely because they irk me, and I'd like them to stop)

Lye speeds up decomposition on bodies and masks the smell, not lime. Prison is worse than jail, a different place altogether in fact; please keep these words separate when you're breaking out of the county jail. And (for the modern UF writers) a silencer/suppressor on a gun has only about 20 decibels difference. They're made predominately for hunting (ie. outside) or for suppressing the muzzle flash at night. James Bond movies are wrong.

It's also Dissociative Identity Disorder, not Split Personality Disorder. But these are little details.

On the fantasy side, copper turns green when exposed to harsh heat. ....yeah, I got nothing.

But I should probably make this clear before discussion takes a left turn (just a precaution people), but try not to sway too far into this territory. Keep things sane please.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2015, 04:46:18 AM by Doctor Chill »
“It’s a dangerous thing, pretense. A man ought to know who he is, even if he isn’t proud to be it.” - Tomorrow the Killing, Daniel Polansky

Offline Nora

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But some of those laws look a little iffy when dealing with interpretation, especially Res Derelictae. I can already see a minor infraction getting blown off by a well-versed defense and then that snowballing into semantics later down the road for a bigger case. But I digress.

No no!! Precisely you don't! It seems like you're setting the base of a rogue/civilian or rogue/policeman dialog.
Knowledge is the key, anyway. But of course I agree that the Res Derelictae probably isn't the most useful knowledge, but I think that the right of Glanage is, and Res Derilictae or Nulius are close brothers of that law. So mentioned in passing.

I did not know there was a distinction between jail and prison in the Us! To me it's two variants of the same institution. Care to elaborate or link for me please?


Raptori thanks a lot, I knew about Colapse but had fully forgotten about it. I'll put it on my Goodreads to remember and find it!!

"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline Wizard Police

Guns, Germs and Steel is great, Diamond's later book Collapse is even better in my opinion. It deals with how civilisations sometimes fail and die, and how other civilisations survived situations that killed others. As a pair those books should be required reading for anyone who wants to write a realistic world  :)

I haven't read the books but I did watch the documentaries that were up on Netflix based on the books. It really opened my eyes about our world and how it may have been shaped and form. One of the most fascinating parts was how he discussed in length about how African civilization was a thriving land despite the conditions that currently plagues it today, and then Europeans ruined their way of life by "modernizing" their culture. The ancient Africans had a perfect system that had been developed for centuries on how to adapt to the African environment, and all that was forgotten thanks to the Europeans.

Offline Wizard Police

But I should probably make this clear before discussion takes a left turn (just a precaution people), but try not to sway too far into this territory. Keep things sane please.

WTF

Offline Raptori

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They're made predominately for hunting (ie. outside) or for suppressing the muzzle flash at night.
Interestingly they're rarely that bad in most films, thankfully! It's a particularly irritating one when it happens.

But I should probably make this clear before discussion takes a left turn (just a precaution people), but try not to sway too far into this territory. Keep things sane please.
:o

Guns, Germs and Steel is great, Diamond's later book Collapse is even better in my opinion. It deals with how civilisations sometimes fail and die, and how other civilisations survived situations that killed others. As a pair those books should be required reading for anyone who wants to write a realistic world  :)

I haven't read the books but I did watch the documentaries that were up on Netflix based on the books. It really opened my eyes about our world and how it may have been shaped and form. One of the most fascinating parts was how he discussed in length about how African civilization was a thriving land despite the conditions that currently plagues it today, and then Europeans ruined their way of life by "modernizing" their culture. The ancient Africans had a perfect system that had been developed for centuries on how to adapt to the African environment, and all that was forgotten thanks to the Europeans.
I didn't know there were documentaries, will have to hunt those down!

Yeah it's crazy how often the Europeans' attempts at modernising everyone else ended up screwing the other people over. Almost makes you wonder if it was a deliberate attempt to make them dependent, though it'd be a ridiculous amount of effort to go about it that way  ???
 
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline Nora

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Raptori, as a member of a former great colonial empire I can confirm that though dependency was quite unintended in the beginning, it is shockingly the case today.
Hopelessly it's a bit both ways, with our former colonies often asking us for help, like in Mali, and you could see all those interviewed malians saying they wanted France to take the country back.  :-\
It's not benefiting anyone when things get that bad.

But let's not forget that Egypt was Rome's "grain storage" as we say (blast it I can't find an equivalent in English)
And Muslims conquered most of Northern Africa long before the crusades. It wasn't exactly a party. When the crusaders arrived, the princes there were so divided that they allowed the Franq to take a seat and start the "game of thrones" with them there, making alliances and breaking them...
Amin Maalouf wrote a brilliant book on the crusades, The crusades through Arab eyes
There are some pretty revealing passages. His conclusions also ring very true.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline Henry Dale

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Can confirm Nora. From the perspective of a colonial force. Belgium owned the large african nation known as Congo. (In fact it was a private property of the king and he was forced to sell it to the Belgian state)
It was the start of what was known in Belgium as the siècle d'or (golden age fr.) with a unique and opulent architectural style. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is set during this time period.
Anyway, on one hand there was the idea that it was the right thing to do (the white man must educate the noble savage and bring civilization to them), on the other hand, they did it out of fear for everything that wasn't like them.
Up to this day there are unused train tracks running throughout the jungle of Congo.

Tl;dr Heart of Darkness is a good depiction of colonialism from the colonialist side.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2015, 11:11:26 AM by Henry Dale »

Offline Raptori

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I'm from England so I understand that perspective as well. The fact that the Commonwealth still exists, and that all those nations still put the Union flag in their own flags is really odd to me. I guess that's the same kind of thing as with Mali, once a nation has been influenced by a foreign culture it makes it hard to return to the old path.

For "grain storage", the literal term would be "granaries", but I think your actual meaning is the "bread basket" - a region that provides the food for a larger area.

Yeah it's interesting to look at the horrendous actions that were thought justified in the past - slavery, conquest, etc. There are still things like that going on today even in our most "civilised" nations, justified or excused using the same reasoning that was used for atrocities in the past.  :-\
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2015, 10:57:57 AM »
But let's not forget that Egypt was Rome's "grain storage" as we say (blast it I can't find an equivalent in English)
And Muslims conquered most of Northern Africa long before the crusades. It wasn't exactly a party. When the crusaders arrived, the princes there were so divided that they allowed the Franq to take a seat and start the "game of thrones" with them there, making alliances and breaking them...
Amin Maalouf wrote a brilliant book on the crusades, The crusades through Arab eyes
There are some pretty revealing passages. His conclusions also ring very true.
@Saraband, you should join this part of the discussion given your studies  :)
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Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2015, 11:27:16 AM »
@Nora, lots of valuable and fascinating stuff. Very cool. You get 1 Karma point in the J-MACK unofficial karma system. This is the first point awarded anywhere under this program idiosyncrasy.

 Here are some books I've found useful and interesting for discovering our world and cultures. There aren't many here. I'll try to add more as I thin of them. (I do read! er, fantasy.  But other stuff too!)

Spoiler for Hiden:
Non-Fiction
> John Keegan, A History of Warfare:
> Barabara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: 14th (?) century noble family in France
> Lies My Teacher Told Me: Various deconstructions of U.S. mythology. A fascinating section on how we teach only the parts of our heroes' lives that fit the "uber-culture's" needs. Helen Keller was a famous woman who suffered from deafness, blindness and therefore muteness. Famous movies and every textbook tell how a talented teacher helped her lear to sign, then speak, and Helen became a teacher. They leave out that she became a radical socialist and crusader for many causes not always loved by the center or right.

Fiction
> The Teahouse Fire: Japan during transition from isolation to Western emulation, plus lesbian themes
> Gates of Fire: The Battle of Thermopylae, with fascinating cultural aspects of ancient Greece
On a personal level, what I have some experience with is how organizations work in terms of people and their needs and goals.

Spoiler for Hiden:
>One of the Management gurus said that the purpose of any organization is not profit, or its stated mission, or what-have-you; it's to survive as an organization. A version of this was experienced by my dad when he ran the department of epidemiology ad disease control in a major U.S. city. He was trying to guide AIDS money into programs for black citizens, drug users, prostitutes, etc. (not equating these three, but of course there was some level of overlap) because that was where AIDS was proliferating. He ran into tons of resistance from gay men's AIDS advocates, trying to protect their own cause and their budgets - even though the threat to that population had grown quite small.

> People want control and personal recognition, often as much or more as they want the benefits of the organization. I see this in churches, where folks argue and fight over things which, if you stood back from them are petty and ridiculous. But whole organizations get poisonous and die or are weakened terribly.

> CEOs truly are a different breed. (Apply this to leaders in your world.) The only ones I've known who really listened to their staffs weren't all that good. (One exception.) The ones who didn't listen weren't that good either. (One was fired for lying to Congress  ;D)

> Perception is reality, often born out of fear. Again, my father. In retirement, he was hired to engage with a small town in rural U.S. where there'd been a "cancer cluster", that is, a statically anomalous number of brain cancer cases among a small population. They blamed a local wood pulp factory despite no evidence. My father found that a) it was a statistical anomaly and b) the real health problem in the town was obesity and heart disease (something like 6 cancer cases to 20+ heart attacks). No one had any interest in this.

Enough for now. May think of more. But, thought a very angle might be interesting.
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Offline Yora

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2015, 12:17:54 PM »
I am not quite sure when he wrote it, but Poul Andersons "On Thud and Blunder" is a really well written piece on this subject.

I think the most important item is the misconception about horse speed. Horses can run very fast, but not very long. If you need to get somewhere nearby as fast as possible, a horse makes all the difference. If you're traveling for more than a few hours, it's not much faster than going on foot. (Great thing about horses is that they can carry more stuff than you without slowing to a crawl.)
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Offline Saraband

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2015, 12:30:35 PM »
@Saraband, you should join this part of the discussion given your studies  :)

Thanks for 'inviting' me into the discussion @Jmacyk, otherwise I might have missed it  ;)

Your original post was fascinating for me, @Nora - I had never heard of "Glanage" before. Also, you lead a much more interesting life than mine, and I thank you for your honesty in sharing an experience which may hold considerable stigma for many people: living on 'dumpster-diving'. I'm certain experiences such as these have given you a very unique perspective on modern society.

Raptori, as a member of a former great colonial empire I can confirm that though dependency was quite unintended in the beginning, it is shockingly the case today.
Hopelessly it's a bit both ways, with our former colonies often asking us for help, like in Mali, and you could see all those interviewed malians saying they wanted France to take the country back.  :-\
It's not benefiting anyone when things get that bad.

Well, Portugal was the first colonial empire (alongside our Spanish neighbors, of course) and one of the greatest, for a few centuries. And our colonial rule was considerably non-violent towards the indigenous peoples of our colonies, at least until the 1960's, when independent movements in Africa got caught up in the Cold War and our Dictatorship tried to put a stop to them - which only resulted in a decade-long colonial war, with the inevitable independence of all our African colonies at the end. Today, unlike France or the UK, Portugal is actually a weak link on the chain, and is becoming increasingly dependent on our former colonies - particularly Angola, which has invested millions of euros in Portugal in recent years. Brazil has also been very important to us since its independence, a few years before the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. This is just to show that it can go both ways, of course, in terms of the relationship developed by the colonialists and the ex-colonies.

But let's not forget that Egypt was Rome's "grain storage" as we say (blast it I can't find an equivalent in English)
And Muslims conquered most of Northern Africa long before the crusades. It wasn't exactly a party. When the crusaders arrived, the princes there were so divided that they allowed the Franq to take a seat and start the "game of thrones" with them there, making alliances and breaking them...
Amin Maalouf wrote a brilliant book on the crusades, The crusades through Arab eyes
There are some pretty revealing passages. His conclusions also ring very true.

Well, reducing Egypt to Rome's granary was something often done in the 60's / 70's / 80's, but History has changed, has all social sciences do, and so have its many perspectives. Egypt is one of the world's most successful civilizations, having survived from +3000 b.C. to the successors of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Arguably, it still survives in many ways, particularly in the Coptic branch of Christianity and its liturgy. While its identity was almost utterly diluted by the time Rome conquered it, it still lasted in many other forms besides a strap of fertile land.

I should also warn you about Amin Maalouf. He is a journalist, and a brilliant novelist - Samarkand is one of my favourite books - but not a Historian. The Crusades were incredibly complex, and still generate a great deal of debate within the scientific community. The Middle-East was very unstable at the time of the First Crusade, with the Turks pouring in from the Steppes and threatening the established dynasties - but the Firanj (Franks, or how Europeans were called in Arabic) were no less alien than these invaders. In many ways, Saladin was only successful because he rallied Egypt and other neighboring territories to his side, as part of the newly formed Mameluke power, against this common foe. Arabs & Turks even later united to fight the Firanj.

(Sorry if I came across as pedantic in any way, is just that an awful lot is written about these subjects, many time without full knowledge of the facts, adding to the perpetuation of a stereotyped historical discourse. Particularly when Islam is involved.)

Can confirm Nora. From the perspective of a colonial force. Belgium owned the large african nation known as Congo. (In fact it was a private property of the king and he was forced to sell it to the Belgian state)
It was the start of what was known in Belgium as the siècle d'or (golden age fr.) with a unique and opulent architectural style. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is set during this time period.
Anyway, on one hand there was the idea that it was the right thing to do (the white man must educate the noble savage and bring civilization to them), on the other hand, they did it out of fear for everything that wasn't like them.

Unfortunately, Belgium also set the grounds for one of the most awful genocides in History - the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Belgium practically invented the difference in ethnicity between the Tutsi and the Hutu. And it was a fairly small colonial empire when compared to others, so we can imagine in how many ways, and at what depth, has colonialism completely changed the nature of the relationship between countries, and even entire continents.

I always draw from History to write. I don't mind reading about the typical Medievalish-Feudalish setting in Fantasy, but it does tire me, and I enjoy reading about cultures inspired by other historical settings, particularly Islam. Does doesn't mean it's always great, of course. Peter V. Brett's depiction of a somewhat Islamic culture is offensive and verging on complete bigotry, and I say this as a gay atheist with no personal interest in the matter.

There are also great examples, such the series I am currently reading, Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet. It brings together elements of various Asian civilizations, particularly China, Korea and Japan, but there's also a Middle-Eastern flavor punctuating some of its world-building. The cotton trade is a fundamental part of the first novel, for example, and is explored in an interesting, fantastical way - it is important not to forget the importance of the cotton trade for the aforementioned colonialist empires, mainly the UK.

Terry Pratchett was (it is so strange to refer to him in the past...  :'( ) was a master at bringing philosophical, historical, religious, and many other things, to a Fantasy setting, clearly inspired by sources outside literature and fiction.

In my own writing, I am very interested in making sure the things I have learned from History - and still keep learning, and hope to keep (re)learning until I die - are present. Particularly how easy it is for revolutions to get romanticized in fiction, to the point of making them utterly unbelievable (Hunger Games immediately springs to mind...). I do have a particular interest in Medieval Islamic & Middle-Eastern History, and so I often draw on these settings / sources for my writing. Having learned some Arabic and coming into contact with practically unexplored sources, such as the one I used for my master's thesis, I often become amazed at the lack of originality in some authors of fiction, since there are still so many new things to draw from in our own, collective past.

[That was a long post, sorry for the embuggerance  ;) ]

[Edited typos - many still survive, I'm certain]
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Offline Yora

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2015, 02:01:04 PM »
On the subject of colonialism and post-colonial relationships: Germany is an interesting case, because Germany never really got into the whole colony business. (Not for any ulterior reasons, they really wanted to, but were so terrible at it that everything was already taken by the time they figured out how it worked.) There was Tanzania, Cameroon, and Namibia (the least densly populated country in the world), but that was pretty much it. Cameroon went to France after World War I and so the entire decoloniation process and post-colonial relationship is a thing between Cameroon and France with Germany not really being involved.
An interesting result from this situation is that Germany has a very good reputation throughout Asia. The countries of Asia all have difficult pasts and complicated relationships with all the major European powers, except for Germany. (Don't really know about Africa, but I believe it's simlar there.) This put Germany into the unique position of being able to provide all the modern European know-how and technology but without the difficult historical baggage that comes with the other European countries. Within Europe, Germany in the first half of the 20th century is clearly the bad guy. But to the people outside of Europe none of that really mattered and Germany was pretty much the nicest European power to have business with. That Germany did not participate in any military opperations outside of Europe until 2002 also helped a lot (and even since then, the German presence in Afghanistan is limited to the region that predominantly welcomed the western troops as allies against their internal enemies, so they are not seen as invaders).

I think this is a very interesting option to consider in geo-political worldbuilding. A "villainous" country is mostly a country that does bad things to you. If they help you against the people who are doing bad things to you, it usually doesn't matter much what they are doing to their enemies. Especially in a fantasy setting, where people get few first-hand accounts of things that happen in other parts of the world.
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