Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Inspiration for The Gloom: Children of Time

I recently finished Children of Time by Adrian Tchaijovsky, and below are my brief Goodreads thoughts:

"An incredible work -a future sci-fi classic and absolute must-read. One of the most accomplished pieces of science fiction I have ever read.

Children of Time threads together two narratives: the desperate striving of humanity's last monster-slaying colony ship, the Gilgamesh, and the rapid evolution and expansion of our misbegotten children: a race of hyper-intelligent spiders delivered to sentience by cosmic accident. 

The effect is dizzying, and Tchaikovsky elegantly en-webs the high concepts of speculative fiction with the petty and personal - it is both readable and grand; space-opera and soap opera. 

Tchaikovsky's mastery of perspective will have you rooting for a race of cannibalistic giant spiders to wipe out out the human race.

I cannot give praise superlative enough."

Beyond that, Children of Time has two rich seams to inspiration for The Gloom.

Firstly, The Gloom is a land of perpetual darkness, and Darkvision has been excised from the Player's Handbook. Fear and horror emerge because your hominid, forward-facing eyes and sensory focus on eyesight are wholly inadequate. Darkness abounds, meaning that those things that rely on echolocation, proprioception, vibrations, bioluminescence, the taste of the air - these things have an advantage, an advantage more terrifying in that it is alien. My players have pieced together how some things in The Gloom sense (the Gloomlings - retextured Goblins - hear by echolocation and thus recoil from gunfire and loud noises due to their sensitive hearing...) but much is mystery. Children of Time depicts a society of spiders whose primary senses are based on vibration and texture; whose life is three dimensional. This colours their philosophy and language in intriguing ways, and I'm trying to explore that with the denizens of The Gloom; to craft a tactile, feeling culture of sound and taste and touch and senses no human possesses. Soon I'll be posting posts about the Drau, the Gloomlings, the Pale Kings and the Araneids - some of what passes for the nations of The Gloom, and I'll be trying to work that sensate strangeness into their fibre. An Araneid taster:

"The Parliaments of Silk

Deep in The Gloom they lie: landscapes textured only by the interplay of stillness and vibration. Every tree or protrusion of rock or ancient building wreathed in a veil of near invisible-webbing. Adventurers may pick and cut their way across a silent and ghost-like expanse, brushing the silken threads away or burning them with torches, and believe they walk across an old home; an unloved room; an abandoned tomb.

They would be wrong.

Each vibration of taunt silk is felt; recorded, gestated, analysed. An arachnid mind contemplates in perfect stillness. Wordless silk-talk continues as the Parliament tug at threads and perform a deliberate and slow stepping-dance –in the terrible language of the Araneids, they plan their hunt.

What was once a city of the Precursors is now parcelled in silk: a trap of impossible vastness. With delight the Araneids are rapidly learning that the silver objects, marble sarcophagi and statuary which works so well as web-anchors also draws prey into their domain. "

The second seam is the human experience of Children of Time: one of desperation and in-fighting and the persistent, primal fear of extinction.

The Gloom wasn't always thus: players have already uncovered ruins that hint at what I'm calling Preumbral civilization. Unable to translate or decipher any text they've found, the great history of the Preumbral civilization is at yet guesswork to the players. But soon they'll be uncovering the history of The Gloom. For me, the world-building of The Gloom stems from an event I'm simply calling The Dusk, when a fairly recognisable if fantastic society suddenly loses its congress with the life-giving sun. Crops die; plants yellow as photosynthesis becomes a memory: in the terror, foot-riots and messianic cults obliterate and constrain order; scarcity and murder become a way of life, leading to ghouls and societies of ritual cannibalism.Vampires and horrors from beneath crawl out to prey freely in a world almost granted to them. Magical and technological and religious and cultic coping mechanisms are devised as a self-confident and mighty society suddenly looks the end of things square in the eye.  I extrapolate from this process the sentient foes our Gloomdelvers are likely to face: the last survivors of a teneborous entropy.

For the other side, I've been researching what grows and dwells in a world absent light and blessed of accelerated arcane evolution. A cursory look into the bestiaries of the deep and dark recesses of our own planet gives ample inspiration for such things: an image dump should happen soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment