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Thinking About Other Things

May 31, 2011

Lately I’ve found myself interested in what Wikipedia-aided translation proposes be called “folk religion”; belief in goblins and ghosts and witches and magic etc. Now, when I say I’m interested in this, you might believe that I consumed any and all books I came across. Not so. Laziness still. However I did read a book by the slightly rambly but fully knowledgeable folklorist Ebbe Schön about belief in afterlife and ghosts in old Sweden.

Then I found some books on Norse mythology and was reminded of the complete lack/freedom of consistency and canon it enjoys. Some things I was told in school about it might have been later additions, unintentionally coloured by the fact that while Snorre Sturlason was a historian, he was writing things down some one or two centuries after the North had been fully Christianised.

It is ironically in line with how the myths worked before they were written down; they were constantly in flux and if you had collected all the stories, there would have be little cohesion and even less demand for it. Apparently this is true of many religions and societies, that dogma and heresy only really come into full effect when you have scripture to follow. It also forces internal logic onto religion because then you can check what someone said long ago. Before that stories changed and were allowed to.

I suppose it could be called research since I’ve slipped into this whole thing because the things I’m seeking to write are dealing with post-singularity religions (gross and sort of inaccurate simplification). I read a book about vampires too but that was mostly for fun. Can’t fit vampires into things as it stands. Or a bit. Maybe. But anyways.

So religion became dogmatic when caught by pens. I remember reading somewhere that before the agricultural revolution, religion was mostly about shamanism and local spirits and such. No real, over-arching god to speak of, merely the spirit of the tree or the brook or the cave. And not the idea of these things, but of that specific tree and brook and cave. Moving together into villages gave rise to a hierarchical society and changes in society always reflects in religion.

By this logic, I’ve more than once wondered what would happen to religion in the event of an (secularly) apocalyptical event so strong that civilization breaks down. Would shamanism return? Would folk religion return? Would we quickly forget that nature is run by impersonal laws and start appeasing the now autonomous technology we once ruled?

These things led me to start thinking about an other idea than the one I want to be working on. So far it had only been scenes – a mechanical man with a suitcase; a forest of ghosts; a subterranean funeral; a driver-less, forgotten, still-running train; and so on – but now I wanted to develop the idea more. Two of the scenes had not been connected before, and a concept from a third place even less.

I started to think about it. I would need some sort of voice of reality that would explain to other characters that this was not magic but forgotten mundanities. Because if I didn’t, it would probably read like a sci-fi/fantasy mash-up, which is fine and good, but not the intent. Should I go with the protagonist? Would she be perceived a witch for it? That might be good, since I still didn’t really have anything moving the story forward.

So I kept mulling this sidetrack over since I didn’t feel the same investment as with the other idea/project. While doing so, a problem I had long been wrestling with suddenly solved itself. The problem was: How can something sandboxed become unstoppable with omnipotent (in the context) people around? I had been thinking about different possibilities: a saboteur from either within or without, some sort of system failure, making those omnipotent not omnipotent (this was the dumbest one), or straying from the sandbox concept (something I really didn’t want to).

The answer turned out to be break the sandbox from within. Now this sounds like just the thing I didn’t want to do, and it kind of is. But in this answer, the sandbox really is a sandbox. But in order to have omnipotent people inside it, they would have to be able to control it from the outside. Usurp a sandbox omnipotent, usurp the governing system. Having done so, one can ensure being the only omnipotent around.

That’s the general idea, at least. And it actually spawned an idea I really liked; that this usurper would stand with one foot inside and one foot outside, that it would straddle worlds and thus perceive a duality of worlds so common in religions. A real world and a hell.

Just goes to show that a watched idea never boils.

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One Comment
  1. Okay, now I REALLY wanna read whatever you’re cooking there.

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