Warning: This might contain some spoilers, but they're going to be vague at best.
This idea I shelved the other day must have some resonance because I haven't stopped thinking about it since I decided to shelve it. You might view this as positive, but it's actually been something of a post mortem and I think far more interesting than everything else I haven't been doing.
The working title for the idea was Ten Million and the title kinda explains everything. But the origin of the idea is quite convoluted and as a result I'm going to flit back and forth, so you'll have to keep up.
There's this world see and it's inhabited by a few million people distributed throughout the land. Six 'mages' are sent to take a child from arbitrary places because these kids are special. The mages need to do this before the world is plunged into a crazy and bloody war that will destroy most life on the planet.
Sounds simple enough although you could argue that the title, Ten Million, has no obvious connections. Are there 10 million people living on this planet? No. Well there might be but that isn't it.
The simple story hid many layers; the mages were not magicians, shamen or superior beings, but they did have a secret and they were self proclaimed protectors of this planet. There was also a lot more than 6 of them, but the entire story hung on these 6 guys, not the kids they were trying to protect, because the mages were the characters who had the entire history of the story and its world in them.
The six mages would lead their wards to a safe haven, but each of them would encounter an obstacle or a test; this would be character building and would bond the reader with each of these kids. Over the course of the story one of the mage's dies leaving his ward to fend for herself; one gets to his destination with barely any trouble; two encounter adventures, one is captured by the forces that seem intent on starting a world war and the last one, trying to cut corners, encounters creatures he might be ultimately responsible for in a frozen wasteland. All the time this is happening, the kids the mages are protecting can't help but comment on the strange ways the mages talk and the magic they seemed to possess in their bags; while the world they lived in was primitive, agrarian and had limited resources. The bits I did write had the mages' sounding like they grew up in 2012 and that was for a reason; they had (relatively).
Ten Million represents the calendar. We think of our planet as being something like 6 billion years old (or a couple of thousand if you're 50% of the USA), but try and picture what 6 billion years looks or feels like; try and get your average three score and ten years around billions of years; you can't and it isn't a fault. Something triggered this thought and I will get to that, but if fossil fuels are likely to run out in the next couple of hundred years the chances are that in 1000 years mankind either has to use an alternative fuel source or has reverted back to using wind, horsepower and regressed to a more primitive set up. I'm thinking that if man is still around in a million years, life is going to be completely different. A million years isn't really enough to change humans evolutionarily, but the topography of the planet may have changed slightly; we might have had a couple of extinction events and, intriguingly, just what that exists today would exist in 1 million years? Then how about 10 million years? Man has a calendar that covers 2012 years, but 10 million is an awful lot of two thousands.
The world of Ten Million was set in the future, but really really far in the future. Everything was called something different; familiar places didn't exist any longer; the American continent had virtually disappeared and had been replaced by a 10,000 island archipelago (as a result of Yellowstone Park being hit by a meteor) and Antarctica has become the new Australia and Australia has become the new South Pole. The Mediterranean has narrowed and become a deadly salt plain with the remnants of Europe to its north and Africa in the south. Because of the shift in the planet's axis, due to a couple of meteor strikes, the North Pole is now over where most of Canada was. Cape Town would be more like Svalbard and if we're being particular; what's left of the UK is now where sat Portugal used to be.
However, the story was going to be seemingly set on a fictitious world until I eventually revealed the origin of the world. I saw a group of a few thousand people setting up a base on the South Pole, utilising all manner of modern technology to protect a section of the human race against an impending extinction event and them subsequently living for millions of years because of suspended animation technology and hand picking the best of the remainder of the world's inhabitants to keep the gene pool on Antarctica vibrant. There's other little sub-plots to do with genetic engineering, mad scientists who created monsters, the rise of a fascist dictatorship feudal society and the success it has and an impending extinction event that has been manufactured by the mages of Antarctica that is them playing God just a bit too much.
You are probably wondering what my spoiler warning was all about, well, wonder no more.
I've just finished reading A Feast For Crows, the fifth book in The Song of Fire and Ice books by George RR Martin and I have developed a radar for something. I believe that every single book in this series has a clue in it to the origins of Westeros, the Seven Kingdoms and all the other colourful and strange places we've been introduced to. I also believe these clues are unbelievably subtle, could easily be missed or might just be my interpreting the language of the book (the way it is written) as having the odd anachronism or unfortunate use of example.
I believe the clue in the latest instalment is just three words: The Good Shepherd. Previous clues have included a zebra and other animals/oblique references, mainly geographical or perhaps just by the use of words.
Trust me, this is vague and we'll probably all be dead by the time anyone finds out the truth about Martin's books, if indeed there is any, but I think its set millions of years in the future, when the continents have shifted around, creating new lands; in a time when there are no fossil fuels or ways to maintain a technological life. The magic in the Game of Thrones books all seems to be sort of based on science; perhaps the dragons might be slightly difficult to place, but if this is set millions of years in the future, who's to say that geneticists haven't created anything our imagination desires. If there is no fuel to create machines, then powers could be turned to create genetically-modified weapons of mass destruction - just because the world will run out of fossil fuels doesn't mean it will run out of ideas just as quickly. The Seven Kingdoms and all the surrounding places, have many things, but there doesn't appear to be any fossil fuels or machines in any of these worlds and one would think at least one of these things would exist (probably the former).
It's tenuous at best, but the good shepherd reference (Christianity) was one of those 'reality' moments. These books have horses, cows, aurochs, goats and pigs just like our world; they also have zebras, which are talked about like some rare thing from lands where the men are brown... I just think GOT is going to have a twist in the dragon's tail.
You could say that all the characters in GoT have got either western names or variations on them. A lot of the names used in the books have roots in our culture. A lot of the philosophy of the Wildlings seems to be more rooted in the way westernised man has conducted himself. In fact, here's a weird tangent, one that I'd like to think is mine: could the GoT stories be set in the future after a zombie apocalypse and the Others are the evolution of the zombies?
Anyhow, Ten Million was going to be an adventure story, sort of aimed at teenagers and while I had a kind of definite story, like GoT I could see it running and running. The problem is the idea is better than the execution. I looked at the few thousand words I had written and reached the conclusion I often have at times, my imagination is considerably more... flexible than my ability.
I've been considering writing another short story.