Muddled Musings

One of the things I resent most about the current round of political correctness and its attendant twitter-mobs and rabid shaming of anyone who does – or more likely, says – something that someone decides is heinously offensive is the way it’s shut down one of the most interesting aspects of writing science fiction and fantasy. Most interesting for me, anyway.

The whole game of taking something that’s familiar and dressing it in fantastical or sfnal clothes then exploring where it goes once it’s out from the limits of our current culture and history can lead to some really interesting places, but I haven’t seen it done much if at all lately (especially in trad pub).

Partly, I think there’s a degree of fear about where such explorations usually go – which is typically not where the politically correct would like them to go. I also think the mind-numbing conformity required to accept the decrees of the politically correct has a tendency to squash the kind of thinking that’s needed to play this game.

Just as an example, a bit of worldbuilding I did a while back that never spawned a sufficiently engaging plot:

I started with the notion of a currency that’s based on blood. Obvious point 1: this is a world/land/whatever that’s ruled by vampires. Point 2: Vampire blood can’t be the same as human blood, so the human blood has to be the currency driver. Conclusion 1: Vampires are very, very interested in limiting their numbers.

Most of the rest just sorted followed.

Then of course for a story driver, there needs to be something unstable or failing in system. Obvious answer: blood is becoming less effective. Reason: Vamps are born, not turned. Vampirism is actually a ridiculously rare and temperamental auto-immune disorder. As generations pass, the markers for said rare, temperamental auto-immune disorder spread themselves through the human population, leading to more vamps and more humans whose blood is too close to vamp for it to work as a way to manage the auto-immune thing.

And there is the driver for any number of potential stories – we’ve got a strong two-class system that’s falling apart because of something nobody in that world really understands, a ruling class that really wants to keep living, an underclass that’s not sure what the heck is going on, and everything needed to set off a nice, toasty-hot civil war.

There’s room there to play some of the vamps as noble critters who would never dream of drinking direct from the source and who are even friendly with the local humans. And humans who’ve got themselves a more symbiotic arrangement with the local vamps rather than outright serfdom.

The local blood banks as a target to destroy the wealth has some fun potential, too.

And as long as you don’t go stomping a message over the whole thing, there’s more than enough room in there to slide in exploration into things like generational bigotry, the fear of the other, and even traditions and roles. It can simply slide in as part of the background.

Maybe one day I’ll find the story that goes with that world.


  1. “There’s room there to play some of the vamps as noble critters who would never dream of drinking direct from the source and who are even friendly with the local humans. And humans who’ve got themselves a more symbiotic arrangement with the local vamps rather than outright serfdom.”

    I needed something horrible for my demon slayer book, so I did something similar to this. The Dark Ones made some promises to a town because they wanted to set a trap for my characters in the future. (Demons have foreknowledge, but the crappy kind where you’re never really sure how things will turn out.) The deal was that the town would be rich and stay rich, if the demons were given a sacrifice every once in a while. This led to circular pits with a demon chained to a pillar in the middle, and the bottom of the pit contained some very small human bones.

    Omelas, really.

    This town with all its well-fed demons gets pulled into our present, their future, when the trap is sprung. The crappy foreknowledge did not anticipate Alice Haddison and her Mobile Infantry jump suit. Ogre with iron studded club meets angry Canadian chick with 30mm high velocity rifle and fusion powered space armor. Alice does not walk away from Omelas, oh no no no.

    I love having medieval terrors meet up with well-armed and pissed off modern humans. I just LOVE it. The looks on their faces when they realize the fight is not going to all go their way like they’re used to, it is priceless.

    I think it might be the same look the Chicoms would have if several thousand shipping containers full of guns and ammunition showed up in Hong Kong this week. Delivered by US Marine hovercraft. Enough for every man, woman and child on the island. I’d pay money to see that.

  2. And if you’re someone with good blood, currency in your veins, the last thing you want is for no one to need it anymore.

  3. There was a semi fantasy/ alt-history book about North African Muslims taking over North America because Rome and the subsequent empires never held together. The author could have gone farther, but focused instead on the black-master-white-slaves idea.

    I think it would have been more fun to use his premise, but add in the twist that Islam never existed (which if you read some researchers, it would not have under his conditions), and then play with the idea of Ethiopian Copts taking over North Africa and then going from there. And colliding with Vikings, and Celtic Christians, and …

      1. The author in question (And drat it if I can’t remember either his name or the book’s title. Something about a Lion,) has Christianity spreading, but more slowly, and ending up concentrated in Ireland, Britain, and the far western fringe of Europe. The time-break, if I recall everything correctly, comes first in classical Greece, but then really splits wide open around AD 300 CE or so.

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