Last month I read K.S. Villoso’s Jaeth’s Eye and I was amazed by the world building and the diversity of the world. I asked a few questions and wondered if she’d like to write a guest post about the world. And she said yes! Today is also the release day of both part two and three of this story. I cannot wait to start reading them!
Even if you haven’t read Jaeth’s Eye, you’re just interested in world building, I recommend you to read this. You can tell she loves the world she spent so much time creating.
The Role of Agan in The World of The Agartes Epilogues
The world of The Agartes Epilogues is closely connected to another plane, from which a substance called agan (loosely translated to “blood,” “lifestream,” or “life-force,” depending on who you ask) flows through certain channels, including every living thing (though the connection is very weak for most). Large, natural connections to agan can be found all across the world—connections which can allow the agan to be drawn and transported, like oil. There are also certain people born with a distinct affinity to the agan, to which they can tap into at will—“magic,” some will say, although it really is a lot more complicated than the word will suggest.
Agan allows skilled users to manipulate the physical world in all sorts of ways, from the creation of fire to breathing life to the undead. But the substance is volatile—unskilled users can cause damage to themselves and their surroundings—and creating connections can weaken the fabric separating the physical world from the other plane, allowing more instabilities to occur. This has not stopped certain countries from manipulating it to their advantage. The Empire of Dageis, for example, has taken mastery of the agan to an extreme, including the use of slaves and mage-thralls (lower class citizens with a connection to the agan themselves) as resources. Slaves can get tattoos that enhances a mage’s ability to tap into their lifestream, a process that often drains or kills them.
Where agan naturally flows into the world, strange phenomenon have been observed, including creatures that grow to certain sizes or even use the agan themselves. Dragons are a primary example.
The attitude of the different countries towards agan and how they treat natural users gave rise to much of the diversity in the world. As of date, I’ve created several countries in two continents: Vir (where The Agartes Epilogues takes place) and Lier (which is featured primarily in my upcoming series, Annals of the Bitch Queen). There are countries—empires, really, like Dageis and Ziri-nar-Orxiaro, which took full advantage of the agan in order to seize power. Other places, like Gaspar, view it as a holy thing, and assign users as warrior-priests. Still, the use of it in certain other places, such as the Kag kingdoms of Baidh and Hafod, and the city-states of Cael and Kiel, is still in its infancy—little more than witchcraft. Other nations, such as Jin-Sayeng, look down on the practice or have outlawed it completely.
Many of the world’s countries draw on various aspects of culture which I’ve grown up with in the Philippines and then later in Western Canada. The Philippines is a bit of a melting pot when it comes to cultures—the American and Spanish influence is there, but also Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Japanese, and so on. And of course, Canada has a mosaic attitude towards cultures, and I’ve been exposed to little pockets of these through friends, co-workers, restaurants, or even the local ethnic grocery store.
Each country in my world tends to draw on at least two, if not more, real-life cultures, as I wanted to avoid stereotyping as much as possible.
Thus you have Jin-Sayeng, which features a lot of East Asian (Japanese, Chinese, and Korean) influences (the “warlords and royals” caste system is very similar to the samurai, though I’ve also taken a lot of inspiration from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms), but a lot of the attitudes and cultural traits, as well as the food, are Filipino. The majority of the countries in my world are also heavily influenced by Asian cultures (Gaspar’s landscape and people is inspired by West Asia, whereas Herey is more Southeast Asia), but others, such as the Kag countries, are your traditional cut-and-dry medieval European fantasy world. There are also “melting pot” places, such as Dageis (which are also more technologically-advanced, so you get things like airships and revolvers).
I do what I call “organic worldbuilding,” where I allow countries to naturally develop during the course of my narrative—usually because each country will have a “story” that it wants to tell: is it a war-torn country? Are its leaders capable, or inept? Is it thriving, is it struggling, where does it want to go? From these, I follow clues and let the existing world dictate the rest. I particularly don’t like forcing a country’s culture, as this is very unnatural, and the “many colours” approach is a bit more like the real world than anything. One comment a reader has made before is how he liked that many of my border cities tend to have “half-breeds” and an attitude that is more open to the bordering country’s culture.
I don’t have a specific favourite country, although as of this moment, I am extremely fond of Jin-Sayeng and their warlords who can’t seem to agree on anything. I’m currently writing a series, Annals of the Bitch Queen, which revolves around the conflicts of this country.
The Creation of a Fantasy World
I first started this world way back in high school, which would be about 14-15 years ago. I was writing this video game with my boyfriend, and I needed a story and a world to set it in. The story of two warring countries, Dageis and Gaspar, emerged. From then on, worldbuilding was no longer a thing I just did to get it out of the way, but something that became part of my stories.
I’ve gone through a lot of manuscripts for both The Agartes Epilogues and a few other scrapped novels. I don’t like being constrained and I love exploration, so the world just seems to get bigger every time I write something new. There’s always some fantastic new city (with corrupt officials and the seediest underbellies) or palace to walk through, a lost kingdom to learn about, or some strange geographical feature to discover. Being that I write in the epic fantasy genre, which encourages such scope, I think I’m okay with that.