Sunday, September 9, 2012

Terra Ultima, Once Again

As I worked on the Black Blood of the Earth setting, I kept running into the problem that the themes of the setting interfered with the things I really wanted to do. For instance, I love a gonzo, multiversal setting with portals and skyships sailing to distant worlds. Those things are precisely antithetical to the Black Blood setting's theme that this world is all we have. So, I am thinking about returning to the Terra Ultima setting as my mainstay. In that setting, there are spaceships, albeit limited to slower-than-light and so only to the worlds of the solar system (or to nearby stars with years-, decades-, or centuries-long journeys), and portals to distant worlds around other stars. The spaceships are nearly superceded by the portals, since there are portalways to the worlds of the solar system, as well. It's a science fantasy setting with enclaves of alien beings from other worlds, a pseudo-astral plane (the medium through which the portals travel their strange highways) which is home to still more alien entities, and human cousins, drifted from the human norm over the aeons. Monsters from across the galaxies have made their way to the wildernesses of the future Earth and its "final" supercontinent.

Click for make bigger

Civilization has fallen and risen thousands of times over the millions of years. Resources have been exhausted, regenerated, and exhausted again. Apocalyptic wars have been fought and seen all traces eroded into nothingness. Science has changed beyond imagining (which I will simulate by using the magic and alchemy of a fantasy world, rather than trying to shoehorn it all into some science-fictiony buzzword like "nanotech" or whatever). The remains of civilizations from the distant past have been worn away into oblivion, and the remains of more recent civilizations (ones that will arise millions of years from now) provide ruins to be explored and artifacts of terrible power to recover. Even today, "magic" items created by the alien science of the distant future are constructed by magicians and alchemists. Some can be had for nothing more than ready cash, such as ray guns and water breathing masks. Others can only be found or stolen, or perhaps received as a reward, because a magician cannot be induced to construct them for mere pay.

There can be no question that this will ever be published, however, as it draws on "product identity" items from WotC, such as the githyanki and illithid, as well as such wonderful (and open source) alien beings as the kzaddich and tsalakians designed by John Turcotte (editor of Footprints e-zine) and published in the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book.

Oh, and I've been working on the Terra Ultima setting since long before that upstart Cook announced his science-fantasy offering.


  1. Your setting reminds me a little of the "Dancers at the End of Time" cycle by Michael Moorcock, which was part of his Eternal Champion meta-cycle.

    With things like the githyanki, can you rewrite them for your setting so that they diverge from the original sufficiently to become your own creation, while retaining the elements that inspired you in the original?

  2. I never did read the "Dancers at the End of Time" stories. Doesn't surprise me, though, as a gonzo, anything goes type of setting is almost certainly going to resemble Moorcockian fiction to some degree! My actual proximate inspirations are Clark Ashton Smith (especially Zothique), Lovecraft, and Barsoom.

    I probably could rewrite them as such (after all, there are no less than two versions of Mind Flayers in the S&W Monster Book, either one of which could serve as the basis of the hate triangle that is the two* gith tribes and the illithid). It hardly seems worthwhile, though, unless I were to suddenly become James M. and have the whole OSR chasing me down to demand I publish my notes. So, I mean, if it were to pay actual money or something, then yeah, I suppose that I would. Until then, though, Charlie Stross's names and the details he wrote work very, very well.

    *three, if you count the Pirates of Gith. Which I sometimes do, because Spelljammer is spiffy, but that would make it a hate rectangle, and that isn't as spiffy to say.

    1. Another source of inspiration was Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" stuff. My fingers apparently didn't want to type that at first. The rebellious appendages have been summarily dealt with.