Upon my first day entering the world of innovation, I was surprised. Not just because I had expected something small and had instead found something grand. Barely for the fact that the inhabitants of this realm felt, acted and appeared as humanoid. Not because they subverted my expectations, acting happy to see me instead of grim.
All these I recorded, for they were true. But they hardly surprised me. I was equipped to face monsters; I was ready to kill if needed and I was prepared to open the gates of hell itself.
Worldbuilding has always fascinated me. It’s a foundational element of the fantasy genre, and a source of inspiration for many new writers. Today I’ll be sharing one of my own dealings with the concept of worldbuilding, an idea I’ve been playing around with for a while. You can expect to see some stories taking place in Vaean here in the future.
Disclaimer: What follows is strictly fictional and is not meant as a portrayal of real-world beliefs
Vaean is a secondary, parallel world, a fantastical setting that is meant to reflect the physical earth. It is the setting for a series of short stories in the speculative fiction genre, but also a versatile idea for a setting that others may use as a supplement to their own projects. What I am about to present to you is merely a foundational idea, which can be built upon in any number of ways.
Only one thing was I not prepared for.
Very few from our world—the material world—have visited Vaean. It is difficult to enter, even for those with access to special portals, called Spirit Gates. Supposedly, most world leaders have access to these Gates. They are hidden from the public eye, with the majority of the population believing Vaean to be a myth.
Because of this lack of knowledge, humankind’s vision of what Vaean consists of is badly misplaced. Some consider it to be a dark land occupied by monsters while others believe that it is some kind of spirit world, or world of the dead. Neither of these theories are near correct.
Before you ask, this world is not bound to reflect a specific fictional setting. Vaean is a realm intended to stretch between worlds, being a near-infinite land. I have made it so that Vaean could serve either an urban fantasy or second world setting.
The Baseline: Every idea made in our world manifests as a conscious spirit-like person in Vaean. These people are nearly transparent, but have flesh of various colors, the colors depending on the emotions associated with the idea they represent. More goes into the appearance of each being, but that is an area into which we will not go deeper at this time. Something important to remember is that not every thought manifests in Vaean, simply every potential. Vaean acts as a world which cannot be: it is the realm of every possibility not yet made true. A spirit in Vaean will be strongest the moment it is thought of in the material world, and remains strong as long as it remains a possibility. If it is fulfilled in our world, however—if it becomes no longer a potential, but a reality—it will vanish from the world of innovation. In Vaean, this is considered to be the most respectable death.
In the world of innovation, I found not enemy spirits, nor traps or lies, nor kings who killed or men and women who rode tempests. Instead, I found myself.
The people of Vaean, each representing a single idea, or potential, crafted through the consciousness of men and women in the material world, are subconsciously attracted to fellow potentials born of the same human mind. They can think for themselves (on a similar level to humans), but this attraction is one trait they all share. In this way, the mind of one person in the material world might manifest as a city in Vaean. (Not always; as a human grows older, for example, their presence in Vaean weakens. So their mind may be instead represented by a simple town or village. It is the same way upon a human’s birth; since a toddler’s thoughts are limited, the ideas they generate will not be as numerous as those of a middle-aged human.) When someone—a human—from the material world travels to Vaean, they usually come out close to where the majority of their own “ideas” are gathered.
Uniquely, despite being mere demonstrations of thoughts given the ability to think, the people of Vaean have established official trade routes between their cities. While they do not need to eat, drink, or sleep, fashion plays a surprisingly vibrant role in Vaeanian politics. They create silks and stone through a mystical process known as Silvering, which only the larger cities have access to. The process involves seeking out and replicating the manifestation of an idea of human fashion.
In the rare case that a human enters the world of innovation, they are usually driven mad after a time. This is most likely to occur when they come into contact with manifestations of their own thoughts. As a human forgets an idea, that idea’s Vaeanian manifestation slowly fades from existence. When a human dies, their entire city in Vaean will start to fade. Strangely, a human living in Vaean will not produce manifestations as they would when in the material world.
I found myself, replicated a thousandfold. They worshiped me. Who am I in this world? Who am I to them? It would appear that they are all better versions of me, more vibrant variations of my soul. And yet they think me God.
It may come as little surprise that the people of Vaean worship humans. They consider humankind to be their gods; and this religion, as should be obvious by now, is not unfounded. Each of the creatures in Vaean is a thought; each is a piece of a human’s mind. Their cities are hives of human imagination, and their world is a cognitive reflection of our own. Humans create them and, somehow, they seem to know this, despite the lack of human presence in their world. They know humans, they bow before humans, and they sing of their “gods” in the material world. Yes, they can sing.
The stories did not speak of this.
Credit goes where it is due. This world was in part inspired by Brandon Sanderson’s fictional realmatic theory concept. I hope you’ll find it unique all the same. Elements were also inspired by Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, and its usage of parallel universes.
And now I ask: what worlds have you designed?