fredag 9 april 2021

Reversed archeology


This month I'm participating in no less than four interviews concerning fantasy world building. Gathering my thoughts on the subject, it struck me that I practice archeology of sorts, only it's of a reversed kind.

Let me explain: In archeology proper, scientists make findings, classify them, compare to already sorted out patterns and try to deduce what the new findings imply. When I create fantasy worlds, I litter them with strange details that I often have only vague ideas about: rumours, historical persons, unexplicable artefacts and habits, etc. These details lie around in piles while I build. I contantly rummage around, twisting and turning what I happen to encounter, trying to understand how this particular piece fits in my stories and what on earth it's for. In my experience everything will always fit together in the end, in one way or the other, resulting in complex visions of something strange and fantastic. It's like putting puzzles together – I'm confident that every piece will fit, although everything appears to be a jumble right now. The confidence is key here, for without it you're tempted to give up. You can always leave a particular piece for later.

The reason for doing reversed archeology, as opposed to build in an orderly and planned way (which I also do), is that it keeps me curious and often surprises me. I don't work to explain something I already know everything about, but instead explore the unknown, getting the feeling that there actually is a strange world out there, waiting for me to discover. Hopefully I will pass my enthusiasm on to the players or readers. Strange connections constantly appear, things I wouldn't have thought of with pure intellectual effort. It doesn't matter that some details seem totally off, refusing to participate according to principles or even set natural laws – this is the way the explanations of our own world works, as the paradigm shifts of Thomas Kuhn. Another benefit, is that with the mere amount of strange stuff in my piles, some things will always fit with any new turn my tale takes, readily cascading into unexpected order, only to open up new possibilities.

You should try this! 

Of course, I at the same time work in more structured ways, but strictly rational creativity, or even worse: creativity primarily concerned with attracting money or followers, in my experience makes for contrived and even dead worlds that might entertain for the moment, but often leave a sense of unfullfillment behind. I find this a lot in current streaming services.

The picture shows the Antikythera mechanism, believed to be part of
a more than 2000 year old analog computer found in a shipwreck. Feel free to speculate about its use!