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Author Topic: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding  (Read 27753 times)

Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #15 on: March 18, 2015, 03:00:40 PM »
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.
I think Germany is a very interesting nation to look at from this kind of perspective. To some people (thankfully a diminishing number of people), Germany is still closely linked with Nazism and still has all the baggage that comes with that particular era - even though pretty much every single country has committed atrocities in the past. The results of colonialism and the slave trade are perfect examples of that, but are often glossed over by people in the west.

It's startling to see prejudices like that last so long, and that people are so unable to see past the problems of the past and realise that the people alive right now didn't even commit them. Slavery is a good example of that - I've had a number of people rant at me on separate occasions, telling me that I'm racist because I'm white, and therefore my ancestors owned slaves.

Firstly: it's racist to assume something about someone purely based on their race - even if that person is white (something that a lot of people clearly don't understand). Secondly: it's unfair to damn people due to any crimes their ancestors committed. Thirdly: even if you ignore those two points, my ancestors in particularly actually did not own slaves - they were relatively poor farmers - so you're associating me with the taint caused by... my ancestors neighbours.

I see the Germany/Nazism association as basically the same thing as that, and both are stupidly widespread. It'd be interesting to see something like that explored in fantasy novels.



Edit to add: just read an article from 2004 in a major English newspaper, which I will not dignify by posting here, titled "Sorry, but the Germans must never be allowed to forget their evil past". Just... wow. Apparently Germans are evil, and English people are saintly. No mention whatsoever of anything that England has been reponsible for in the past. This kind of thing is exactly why I despise nationalism and patriotism.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2015, 03:10:43 PM by Raptori »
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Offline silvijanus

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2015, 03:19:39 PM »
I'm thinking something similar all week. Knowing history is good thing when writing, but can we get into "the medieval mind" well. Medieval, Roman, Egypt, Greece... same thing. Fantasy is usually set in that time period, but these people were so much different from us today. How well can you cope with their motives? For example, today people don't want to go to war. Can you imagine selfie from the trenches? No, they cant either.  ;)
1000 years ago your King would call to arms and you had to go. Not much question asked. Our fantasy knight would say "I will be honored my King", while our reader goes "no way, you go you foolish old man."
Sorry if I'm slightly off topic with this thought.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2015, 03:24:01 PM »
I'm thinking something similar all week. Knowing history is good thing when writing, but can we get into "the medieval mind" well. Medieval, Roman, Egypt, Greece... same thing. Fantasy is usually set in that time period, but these people were so much different from us today. How well can you cope with their motives? For example, today people don't want to go to war. Can you imagine selfie from the trenches? No, they cant either.  ;)
1000 years ago your King would call to arms and you had to go. Not much question asked. Our fantasy knight would say "I will be honored my King", while our reader goes "no way, you go you foolish old man."
Sorry if I'm slightly off topic with this thought.
I think part of the problem with that is that our perception of that time period has been warped by fiction and skewed reporting of history. For example, from what I've read, knights were actually basically mercenaries, and were not the honour-bound noble warriors they're often pictured as. They were more likely to be involved in kidnapping and ransom than heroic pursuits :D
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2015, 03:27:14 PM »
^ There's a fine line between patriotism and terrorism. Sometimes too thin to see before it's too late.

I think it's funny that when talking about colonialism we never mention the US. One of its first major actions outside isolationism was to take over Cuba and colonize some Pacific Islands and the Philippines.

Quote
No no!! Precisely you don't! It seems like you're setting the base of a rogue/civilian or rogue/policeman dialog.


Good point Nora. Perhaps it's a simple case of Mores/Ethics over in the US and my cultural fixation of private property or trash is trash mindset.

But as for Prison v. Jail, a prison requires you to commit a felony before you can be transferred there. There are some exceptions with a few Class A Misdemeanors, but on the large put, only big infractions get you there. A jail is usually overseen at a county level (Prisons are state or federal), so anything under 2 years is sent there. If you're looking at laws, assault is the best example. Verbal assault or liquid assault are all misdemeanors, but following through in the case of physical (though there can be some leeway), aggravated, or assault with a deadly weapon (kicking somebody will get you here) will lock you up in a prison. Theft is also interesting, but it's on a scale that varies state from state. I think $500 is the usual minimum for a Misdemeanor.

As for RW knights, yeah, they weren't the best bunch in the crowd. Bullies if you want to get in the nitty gritty of it, though as every profession, there were exceptions.
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Offline silvijanus

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2015, 03:30:06 PM »
It's startling to see prejudices that last so long...
One thing that last so long is Japanese emperor tradition. I'm not sure now, have to check on the net to be precise, but their line lasts more that thousand years. Fascinating, so fantasy like 8)
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Apparently Germans are evil, and English people are saintly. No mention whatsoever of anything that England has been reponsible for in the past. This kind of thing is exactly why I despise nationalism and patriotism.
I despise the thin line making patriotism and nationalism good or bad. Frodo adores Shire, Boromir loves Gondor, elves are loving their forests... are they good patriots? :D

Offline silvijanus

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2015, 03:39:09 PM »
I think part of the problem with that is that our perception of that time period has been warped by fiction and skewed reporting of history. For example, from what I've read, knights were actually basically mercenaries, and were not the honour-bound noble warriors they're often pictured as. They were more likely to be involved in kidnapping and ransom than heroic pursuits :D
Yes, and History channel experts say they had to have manners for ladies, but on the field of battle knights would avoid each other. Huh... knight to knight, chest on chest. Apparently no, "gentlemen" don't fight each other. On the other hand Japanese samurai and ninja tradition would be worth exploring. Great skills, good looking armor, sense for honor... I would love to see good fantasy novel about that.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #21 on: March 18, 2015, 04:07:43 PM »
It's startling to see prejudices that last so long...
One thing that last so long is Japanese emperor tradition. I'm not sure now, have to check on the net to be precise, but their line lasts more that thousand years. Fascinating, so fantasy like 8)
I've always loved oriental cultures, some of it does seem perfect for fantasy settings :D

Quote
Apparently Germans are evil, and English people are saintly. No mention whatsoever of anything that England has been reponsible for in the past. This kind of thing is exactly why I despise nationalism and patriotism.
I despise the thin line making patriotism and nationalism good or bad. Frodo adores Shire, Boromir loves Gondor, elves are loving their forests... are they good patriots? :D
Myeah, I usually don't agree that anything good comes out of it - at best it just helps people feel like they belong to a wider community, but often that directly results in restricting their empathy so that they see foreigners as "the other".  :P

I think part of the problem with that is that our perception of that time period has been warped by fiction and skewed reporting of history. For example, from what I've read, knights were actually basically mercenaries, and were not the honour-bound noble warriors they're often pictured as. They were more likely to be involved in kidnapping and ransom than heroic pursuits :D
Yes, and History channel experts say they had to have manners for ladies, but on the field of battle knights would avoid each other. Huh... knight to knight, chest on chest. Apparently no, "gentlemen" don't fight each other. On the other hand Japanese samurai and ninja tradition would be worth exploring. Great skills, good looking armor, sense for honor... I would love to see good fantasy novel about that.
Sadly, the honourable samurai is largely fictional as well, just like the medieval knights! There are huge similarities there. Same goes for the idea spread around back in medieval times that nobles were honourable, though that one has been emphatically destroyed in our culture :)
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Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #22 on: March 18, 2015, 04:16:57 PM »
I despise the thin line making patriotism and nationalism good or bad. Frodo adores Shire, Boromir loves Gondor, elves are loving their forests... are they good patriots? :D
I think the issue is about ethnocentrism, or exceptionalism, leading to bigotry. My country is better, my country is good, my country is virtuous; your country is...  We associate these things with patriotism and nationalism, perhaps too much.

Since I can make up my own definitions, I think I'll follow @silvijanus here and use "patriotism" as the more positive noun, and "nationalism" as the gateway drug (if you will) to jingoism and all the other -isms.

I'm a patriot about the United States. I'm a lover of humanity (most of the time  ;)).
I try not to be a nationalist.
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Offline Yora

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #23 on: March 18, 2015, 04:46:57 PM »
I think Germany is a very interesting nation to look at from this kind of perspective. To some people (thankfully a diminishing number of people), Germany is still closely linked with Nazism and still has all the baggage that comes with that particular era.
It's mostly England.  ;)

Well, actually, it's only England. The one country that got the least affected by German war crimes and never got invaded or occupied  ::)

I am always very amazed how quickly Germany was able to make peace with all the other neighboring countries in Europe, especially France and Poland. France and Germany had been fierce enemies for over a thousand years, and then all of a sudden they became best friends in a matter of two or three decades. And even in Poland, the country that probably suffered the most from centuries of German military agression, people seem to have made peace with the current population of Germany. Even while some of the occupaying soldiers are still alive. I can only remember one single case of anti-German polemic in Poland in the past 20 years, and that was a mud slinging contest between a German and a Polish tabloid paper, which I believe actually have the same owner.

Quote
Edit to add: just read an article from 2004 in a major English newspaper, which I will not dignify by posting here, titled "Sorry, but the Germans must never be allowed to forget their evil past". Just... wow. Apparently Germans are evil, and English people are saintly. No mention whatsoever of anything that England has been reponsible for in the past. This kind of thing is exactly why I despise nationalism and patriotism.
Yeah, England is really the only place in the world I am aware of where Nazi polemics are still en vogue. And even that is changing. I think during the football world cup five years ago (which was in Germany) I've read a couple of articles on English news sites where lots of interviewed people from England were saying that it's really quite embarassing when people still do that and that it makes England look terrible. So I am not really that concerned about it.

Which again, can be an interesting element of worldbuilding. A recent example I've come across is in the Mass Effect games, where the humans and the Turians had a really violent and costly war 30 years ago before the allies of the Turians negotiated a peace, and now the humans are even joining that alliance. Many older soldiers still have reservations about the other species, but mostly the two groups are now their closest allies with which they actually have the most in common. (Though of course, neither side did invade the enemy homeworlds and occupied them or engaged in any genocidal activities.)

Strangely enough, the Americans are sometimes really good at that. Germany and Japan both became very important allies very quickly after having been bombed to rubble by the American forces. (The fact that Germany and Japan both started the fighting and were clearly to blame for it probably was an important factor, though.)

Dealing with a terrible past and post-war national identity in Germany is a pretty unique case, as far as I can tell. We don't need English newspapers to tell us that not to sweep it under the rug and forgett about it. It's a huge part of modern german identity which actually borders on self-flagellation. There is a certain sense of superiority coming from the fact that we are pretty much the only nation in world history that does not in any way attempt to downplay crimes in the past (which of course pretty much none of the currently living people had any part in). We can point at the Japanese, Americans, and Russians and berate them about admiting their past, as we now have the moral high ground, having done even worse things and fully admiting to them.
But at the same time, there is also the widespread view that Germans have a certain responsibility: The German people made a terrible mistake and after decades of debating and reconsidering, we now have an understanding what happened and why and that it could happen to anyone at any time, with which comes a duty to speak up any time someone else might start to go down that same terrible road. Which of course can come off as quite obnoxious, especially to people in other countries who don't actually know how much time German society still spends on educating following generations and trying to repair some of the damage.
Of course, Germans are now extremely anti-patriotic. Anything that has even a hint of patriotism is automatically suspicious. Black-Red-Gold flags during football tournaments don't count. Black-Red-Gold are out team colors, they do not represent and identification with the state.  :D
However, this topic is so incredibly complex that I don't recommend to anyone to try to go there with fictional nations.  ;)

Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #24 on: March 18, 2015, 05:01:32 PM »
I think Germany is a very interesting nation to look at from this kind of perspective. To some people (thankfully a diminishing number of people), Germany is still closely linked with Nazism and still has all the baggage that comes with that particular era.
It's mostly England.  ;)

Well, actually, it's only England. The one country that got the least affected by German war crimes and never got invaded or occupied  ::)
And the U.S. Lots of feeling here (among my 50s-ish generation) that Germans are great folks, but we can't forget WW2. And, yes, we're another country that wasn't invaded  ;)

Just finished reading your post. Wrote too soon.  No, I agree.  There are no "anti-Nazi" polemics in the U.S. Just a sense the events and the atrocities not be forgotten. While we conveniently forget the firebombings. And the atom bomb.
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Offline silvijanus

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #25 on: March 18, 2015, 05:15:03 PM »
A-bombs are not forgotten. Otherwise they would throw them again. I think we are just not talking about it, aware of things they can do.

My granddad got through ww2 and some big fights. Later in time of peace, working in the factory few miles outside a town, he had to walk home through a forest. Not very big one. I remember people talking how they would get scared walking in the woods back home cause of the witches and ghosts. Which don't exists of course. Think about that for a moment.

Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #26 on: March 18, 2015, 05:21:00 PM »
A-bombs are not forgotten. Otherwise they would throw them again. I think we are just not talking about it, aware of things they can do.

My granddad got through ww2 and some big fights. Later in time of peace, working in the factory few miles outside a town, he had to walk home through a forest. Not very big one. I remember people talking how they would get scared walking in the woods back home cause of the witches and ghosts. Which don't exists of course. Think about that for a moment.
My math teacher wife doesn't like the idea of going to Salem, Massachusetts or some town in New Jersey that also advertises it's witchy history.  ;D
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #27 on: March 18, 2015, 05:59:32 PM »
I think Germany is a very interesting nation to look at from this kind of perspective. To some people (thankfully a diminishing number of people), Germany is still closely linked with Nazism and still has all the baggage that comes with that particular era.
It's mostly England.  ;)

Well, actually, it's only England. The one country that got the least affected by German war crimes and never got invaded or occupied  ::)
I agree that England is traditionally the most vocal about it, but it's still there in other countries to some extent. Just look at the crazy demands Greece are making at the moment - they clearly still resent Germany because of the invasion, though admittedly in their case it's made worse by their perception of more recent history.  :-\

I am always very amazed how quickly Germany was able to make peace with all the other neighboring countries in Europe, especially France and Poland. France and Germany had been fierce enemies for over a thousand years, and then all of a sudden they became best friends in a matter of two or three decades. And even in Poland, the country that probably suffered the most from centuries of German military agression, people seem to have made peace with the current population of Germany. Even while some of the occupaying soldiers are still alive. I can only remember one single case of anti-German polemic in Poland in the past 20 years, and that was a mud slinging contest between a German and a Polish tabloid paper, which I believe actually have the same owner.
Yeah it's great how quickly everyone moved on from it and started anew.

Quote
Edit to add: just read an article from 2004 in a major English newspaper, which I will not dignify by posting here, titled "Sorry, but the Germans must never be allowed to forget their evil past". Just... wow. Apparently Germans are evil, and English people are saintly. No mention whatsoever of anything that England has been reponsible for in the past. This kind of thing is exactly why I despise nationalism and patriotism.
Yeah, England is really the only place in the world I am aware of where Nazi polemics are still en vogue. And even that is changing. I think during the football world cup five years ago (which was in Germany) I've read a couple of articles on English news sites where lots of interviewed people from England were saying that it's really quite embarassing when people still do that and that it makes England look terrible. So I am not really that concerned about it.
They're only really in vogue in certain circles though, the problem is that they're quite vocal. Like you say, the majority of people find those idiots an utter embarrassment, and wish they'd shut the hell up :D

Which again, can be an interesting element of worldbuilding. A recent example I've come across is in the Mass Effect games, where the humans and the Turians had a really violent and costly war 30 years ago before the allies of the Turians negotiated a peace, and now the humans are even joining that alliance. Many older soldiers still have reservations about the other species, but mostly the two groups are now their closest allies with which they actually have the most in common. (Though of course, neither side did invade the enemy homeworlds and occupied them or engaged in any genocidal activities.)
Yeah I think I remember you mentioning it somewhere else, it's a really interesting detail that makes it sound like the relationship they've thought up is pretty nuanced and realistic.

Strangely enough, the Americans are sometimes really good at that. Germany and Japan both became very important allies very quickly after having been bombed to rubble by the American forces. (The fact that Germany and Japan both started the fighting and were clearly to blame for it probably was an important factor, though.)

Dealing with a terrible past and post-war national identity in Germany is a pretty unique case, as far as I can tell. We don't need English newspapers to tell us that not to sweep it under the rug and forgett about it. It's a huge part of modern german identity which actually borders on self-flagellation. There is a certain sense of superiority coming from the fact that we are pretty much the only nation in world history that does not in any way attempt to downplay crimes in the past (which of course pretty much none of the currently living people had any part in). We can point at the Japanese, Americans, and Russians and berate them about admiting their past, as we now have the moral high ground, having done even worse things and fully admiting to them.
I was reading a blog post written by someone who travels for a living, staying in places for three months to a year and immersing himself in their culture - he mentioned that one of the cultural quirks of Germany is that everyone is very honest to each other, which could be a part of why as a country you've faced up to the past while others like to pretend it didn't happen. It's one of the things that makes Germany appeal to us should we ever want to move country again (which is quite likely) :P

But at the same time, there is also the widespread view that Germans have a certain responsibility: The German people made a terrible mistake and after decades of debating and reconsidering, we now have an understanding what happened and why and that it could happen to anyone at any time, with which comes a duty to speak up any time someone else might start to go down that same terrible road. Which of course can come off as quite obnoxious, especially to people in other countries who don't actually know how much time German society still spends on educating following generations and trying to repair some of the damage.
Of course, Germans are now extremely anti-patriotic. Anything that has even a hint of patriotism is automatically suspicious. Black-Red-Gold flags during football tournaments don't count. Black-Red-Gold are out team colors, they do not represent and identification with the state.  :D
However, this topic is so incredibly complex that I don't recommend to anyone to try to go there with fictional nations.  ;)
Yeah, but the key is that the potential for that kind of mistake is not unique to German culture, and could happen elsewhere  (and has). In fact, due to the cultural norm of honesty and frankness I wouldn't be surprised if it's far less likely to happen again in Germany than somewhere else.


This kinda reminds me of A Canticle For Leibowitz, such a brilliant story. I won't say why though, since it'd spoil it for people.  ;)
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Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #28 on: March 18, 2015, 06:11:32 PM »
At which juncture, dear friends, we may want to start a "national identities" thread and go back to the OP, which was to share our personal experiences and influential books in unique areas that may help with world building.  Sorry, yes, I'm being bossy.  :-[

Now you're all wishing the karma button was back.  ;)
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #29 on: March 18, 2015, 06:14:23 PM »
At which juncture, dear friends, we may want to start a "national identities" thread and go back to the OP, which was to share our personal experiences and influential books in unique areas that may help with world building.  Sorry, yes, I'm being bossy.  :-[

Now you're all wishing the karma button was back.  ;)
Sooo tempted to start calling you "boss" now.  :-X

I do agree though, it's a really interesting topic and well worth its own thread. I've noticed that happen many times recently, loads of interesting discussions that could deserve their own threads. I have an aversion to creating threads though, always assume that other people might be less interested in it than me  :-\
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