Rothganar is the playground I go to in my mind. I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s been here for years now. I can point to certain influences, in retrospect, but at the time, it just seemed to grow and flower. I haven’t found out the half of it yet, either. I get so excited when I think of the stories inside it.
It’s hard to discuss Rothganar without discussing the magic. I have two separate series of novels (though the second series only has one book out as yet): Saga of Menyoral, which came first, and Steel for the Prince. In Menyoral magic dies—is killed—pretty much on the first page, and the reason it’s dead, the mechanism behind that, is the big mystery of the series. Most of the principal characters don’t remember magic at all, or only vaguely; the series tells a post-apocalyptic story, or at least has post-apocalyptic elements.
Strangely enough (or maybe not strangely at all), the primary inspiration behind Menyoral was the superhero comics I grew up loving. I wanted to explore the idea of people with superpowers in a fantasy setting, so I had to build a world of my own. For the powers to function magically, and still retain the fantasy trappings I also grew up loving, I decided the only way to work was to kill magic the way it used to be, and set up something new. I just did it very literally.
Another thing I think sets Rothganar apart is the role of magic in the world while the wizards were still a going concern. Especially in human cities, magic replaces electricity and spells or sets of spells replace technology. There are magical factories for things like paper and metal. Streetlights line the larger thoroughfares; there are magical lights in most houses, and in a lot of places indoor plumbing, HVAC capability, refrigeration, and more.
That’s Eagle Eye’s world (Steel for the Prince series). I don’t think it’s accurate to say the world of Menyoral is darker, but it’s certainly grimier. ‘How it used to be’ is the stuff of dreams and the memory of the very old. I’ve tried to make magic the subject of longing, of melancholy, throughout the series, whereas with Eagle I’ve tried to inject both a sense of wonder (because of Eagle’s particular magical nature), and of the mundane. I have to say, from a writing perspective it isn’t easy, because on the one hand I have this Big Magic, these amazing things, but on the other I have the normalcy of everyday life and how magic affects everything people in Rothganar do.
The last thing I want to talk about is that—especially in Saga of Menyoral, because so many of the characters are human—I intended Rothganar as a particularly American fantasy world. Muscoda is the Midwest; Wealaia is intended as the Ozarks; the culture of Windish owes a lot to Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, especially the food. Of course there’s divergence, but I took inspiration from a lot of real sources too. What Dingus eats throughout the series is a direct consequence of where he happens to be geographically. Like North America, Rothganar is huge, a place of wide-open spaces and, as a result of the magical nature of life before the cataclysm, concentrated urban population.
Whether or not things stay that way is a matter for much conjecture on my part. Luckily for me, I spend a lot of time in Rothganar… hope to see you there.