Behind the Scenes with the Author:
Worldbuilding in Book One, Bramah and The Beggar Boy
The world of THOT J BAP started arriving to me in glimpses: usually in response to the question, “what if” …
What if in the future we’ve still not understood and acted upon, the dangers of accelerated climate change and global inequities. Every worldbuilding question in the THOT J BAP series stems from this premise.
I grew up in a household always conscious of the stark divide between those that have (most of us who live ‘over here’ but not all of us) and most of “them over there” (but not all). Despite hardships and loneliness, my parents left India and emigrated here. Many people around the world share this immigrant-citizen-settler experience.
And, as we know, there are many injustices embedded in these diasporic arrival stories: things done to us and things we do.
The layers are deep and complex and somehow fantasy and epic poetry seemed the place my imagination went, to bring out the messages that kept coming, usually in the form of images.
I find it hard to explain other than to call them “arrivals.”
Over the years, I’ve learnt to pay attention to the briefest glimmers of an image: for instance, once, many years ago, about mid way in the ten year cycle of writing THOT J BAP:
I stored that image away and made a few notes in a little notebook, tucked it away in my satchel and over the course of weeks, months, years, that image resonated:
When I finally sat down to write one of the first series of the poems for THOT J BAP, published as the chapbook, After the Battle of Kingsway, a ghost resonance of that horse found its way into one of the poems. And it’s now a key poem in Book 1.
Can you figure out what poem it is in your copy of Bramah and The Beggar Boy? Let me know below, and I’ll send you a chapbook!
Every epic or saga, all speculative fiction and fantasy worlds need their own lexicon or language:
Consortium: an integrated global economic and administrative empire, covering most of the known world and controlling all aspects of industry, agriculture, and food production.
Perimeter: cities and settlements fortified and controlled by Consortium.
Towers and Gates: this is where guards and agents of Consortium, including the INVESTIGATOR, control who can enter and exit Perimeter.
Portals: These are found in different locations outside Perimeter. They function as thresholds to time and locations. Although they are controlled by Consortium, if you happen to know the right spells, as Bramah does, the portals can act as departure points for time travel. Each season has its own Portal Song.
Pacifica: a huge region extending from the western, ocean side, of a continent once known as America.
Cities: These include the Great Cities of Transaction: Toronto-Paris-Baghdad-Ahmedabad.
Poetry became a way for me to use words to create names, places, people, things. And here’s the thing that I find magical: each word creates and transmits its own ecosphere, a habitat of word-associations. Language is a form of world-building!
I wanted to invent a world that was like our world, but tilted to catastrophe, more severe and dystopian, a summation of all the things that could and might go wrong for us. I think of the world of THOT J BAP as happening simultaneously to ours, just a portal or two, removed.
I don’t see our world and the world I’m creating as separate, but two worlds running parallel to each other. Will they diverge or merge? That’s the question! I think of the arrival of the images of this worldbuilding as little rents or tears in the portal fabric, through which one world seeps into another. Here is what I was thinking when I was creating these elements of the world:
Consortium is a truly evil but also banal construct. It’s based on my experience of our current global economic industrial world order with most of the good stuff stripped away.
Perimeter is both a physical construct, the demarcation border, points of control that Consortium uses to control the movement of peoples and things. Also, it’s a mental spiritual state of existence permeating everything: the notion of Inside versus Outside.
Cities: Toronto-Paris-Baghdad-Ahmedabad. The Great Cities of Transaction. Partly these represent cultures and histories, East and West. North America and the rest of the world. They also represent the mixture of culture in my own South Asian-Canadian background. The writer and publisher Peter Quartermain once said that THOT J BAP was like a map history of the world, and so it is, in this very idiosyncratic way.
Some of these influences I’ve noted in the book; but many of them, I realize in writing these notes for you, reader, have been big presences throughout my worldbuilding process:
- The Names by Don DeLillo
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
- Ursula K LeGuin’s Tales from Earthsea
- Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child;
- Shikasta and her Canopus in Argus series
- Dante’s Divine Comedy
- Milton’s Paradise Lost
- The Bible
- The Vedic epic, The Mahabharata
When I’m on the trail of sound and image, I don’t think too much. I just take dictation from whatever is arriving into my consciousness…that’s the life’s work, ultimately, I think: staying open enough to receive…
Thoughts? Comments? Leave a reply below or email me at email@example.com.