So today I’m going to talk about the lead-up to the lead-up. That is, the portion where one gets the idea and assembles the basics that let you even start to plot something out. This includes dealing with the distracting other ideas that will inevitably crop up as soon as you settle on something.
I first got the rough idea for the Agarthan Nations months ago, while reading through cryptofiction archives to see if any good ones were out there. (There are, and I heartily recommend North of Reality to anyone looking for excellent short cryptofiction.) The idea of a world with a warm core in the place of a star and an endless maze of tunnels, caves, and carved chambers radiating out was interesting. It brought the idea of the legendary city at the world’s center, Agartha, to mind. Expanding it to multiple cities beneath multiple cores in a world with no surface was a natural enough extension into the weird and fun.
At this point, other ideas began to rear their heads and pester me, serving as distractions from the goal of putting the Chthonic World together sufficiently to be able to write in it. Chief among these are two older story ideas that have never been juxtaposed in my head until now; put them together and they click fantastically. I could write this story pretty easily right now, but that’s how you never finish writing anything, even as a first draft. Letting myself get distracted from the Chthonic World means getting distracted from whatever other shiny things comes to mind later. It’s a terrible precedent to set.
So I have the rough idea for the setting – a world of endless caverns, each one with gravity that pushes out from the star-equivalent. Each major cavern is host to a nation, and each nation claims to be the first and the center of the cosmos. There are conflicts and arguments between them, but the nature of the world makes warfare difficult at best. The biggest conflicts are those between the Agarthan Nations and the settlements of the Below, where people build societies isolated from the influence of the larger nations. Some build in strange places or places with mysteries of the misty past – pictoglyphs on metal plates, sealed cubes of metal that defy opening, and occasionally strange structures embedded in the rocky material of the world.
I also have a rough idea for a few characters; an archaeologist who sees any trinket from the Time Before as a piece of a puzzle in how the world was turned inside-out, a thaumaturge-scientist researching the physics of the world, and a retired military veteran who fought in pacification actions against the strange creatures and weird tribes of the Below before retiring to one of the more stable villages in the depths. Another is a nemesis of the thaumaturge-scientist who just wants to find the secret to making new sun-cores; no one knows if they can be, but both of them are sure it must be possible. The rival is more than willing to use dirty means to coerce the secrets of the universe out of anyone who might know something.
Other threats include a tribe of feral humans who live in one of the broken places where the laws of physics are unreliable; a military pacification squad sent to subdue the village where the veteran has settled because they have an impressive wealth of small sun-cores; and several of the large zero-gravity beasts that haunt the Below, stalking the archaeological efforts in hopes of an easy meal.
That’s all for today (mostly because my battery is getting low)!