“Indeed, though she had shown cause that evening for this particular loyalty [to her work], she had never felt it necessary to show cause to herself. She had written what she felt herself called upon to write; and though shew as beginning to feel that she might perhaps do this thing better, she had no doubt that the thing itself was the right thing for her.”—Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night.
I’ve been building Ihyel, a multi-cultural world, for the past 30 years. There are times it feels nutty, even to myself. Why am I doing this?
So far there are few book that are part of a series. While there are characters and cultures that are interesting, there’s something new each book. Different cultures that are slowly becoming intertwined. I’m not doing this in a way that feels easy, or grabs readers in a way that’s common. People like long, ongoing series apparently. I rarely do that.
I feel as if I need to show cause to myself for this odd loyalty, but not only to myself, but to my readers. Why am I doing this crazy thing? Each book is valuable in itself—even without a series. But why stick to building a multi-cultural planet book by book? What is the point of that?
For a long time I’ve said how much I love the world we live in. The life I’ve lived has introduced me to different cultures and countries, and I won’t ever claim to be anything but a first generation American. I certainly don’t think I can write a direct cultural experience of any culture. I do borrow from various interesting and wonderful cultures to create something new, to explore new thoughts. And I think we need that.
Maybe more than ever I think we need that. To ask questions from foreign cultures and what they bring to us, share with us. Maybe it is safer to do it from an alien planet. We do not risk offending the Yezgini, or the Pyranian, or those horse clans of the Tashihyel, and more cultures that are forthcoming as the world becomes more connected. I think it’s valuable even where the books do not show interconnectedness, because it’s still set on this planet, and still has place there.
If my books lead readers to explore our own wonderful planet’s cultures, all the better! If my readers slowly see this building world as a bonus, that’s wonderful as well. Hopefully they enjoy the books for their own sake, and like seeing the growing world connections as sea faring trade builds and grows. If the stone age peoples could have such long distance commerce as having Italian glass in Britain, and more… then let’s celebrate connections and cultures.
Let us all explore, and if we can’t travel: Read.