Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bathroom Monologue: Twenty-One Fantasy Countries Made From Scratch

Randall Nichols is a dear friend of mine who's wrapping up work on a card game. He asked me to check the twenty-one one-sentence pitches for Fantasy nations he had to invent – a pretty mean feat for anyone on a deadline. I was happy to help, but because my imagination was obnoxious, I couldn't stop myself from generating my own countries, based on ridiculous Fantasies he couldn't possibly use. Blame it on Calvino and sugar.

I wound up running until I had my own deck of twenty-one uncomfortable neighboring cultures. Like Randall's, mine get one sentence a-piece to sum them up. It is the most fun I've had in a while, writing or otherwise, some pure play that I have to recommend trying at home. Maybe you already do.

If you don't, I figured I'd share my twenty-one Fantasies here.

1 The most technologically advanced culture is dominated by sentient robots that are mostly threatened by advanced models time-traveling from the future to supplant them with infinite hindsight.

2 The country of eight-armed people with no legs, who are renowned for their litigation, and arguments that take days as lawyers constantly argue, "And on the other hand…"

3 The nation where everyone believes their shadows are their true forms, and their bodies of meat are but biologically afterthoughts.

4 A bog in which every human civilization has sunk and failed, but the bacteria is quite evolved and has a bustling culture.

5 A strict theocracy worshiping the gargantuan on whose back they all live, harvesting giant lice for food.

6 A loosely collectivist culture with no central government, and yet everyone is obsessed with constantly building great labyrinthine walls, such that invading armies starve before hitting any homes.

7. A culture like any other, except it lives upside down, gravity reversed, and so mostly excavates tunnels or conquers the undersides of floating slabs of rock.

8. Capitalists who live on the top sides of most floating islands and slabs of rock, whom sell anti-gravity powder and whatever else gets stuck in the treads of their shoes.

9. This culture is unknowable.

10. A democracy where everyone ages backwards, only the middle-aged may vote, and newborn ancients are protected by world-weary infants.

11. A nomadic tribe of beings with no immune systems, but who are carried in individual wads of slime that are toxic to everything they touch.

12. A storied monarchy of underwater creatures, claiming their territories include all the world's seas, and who raise giant squid to defend their borders against sea trade.

13. The only country to ever forge a peace treaty with 12, this is a sentient gestalt reef of coral bordering several countries.

14. Barbarian horde living with domesticated dinosaurs, living the dream of every good Metal album cover.

15. A religious conclave of worm- and human- symbiosis dedicated to finding and digging to the center of the planet.

16. A nation of religious crusader pacifists who have rationalized their dogma such that they only invade the opposite end of their own kingdom, switching sides every year, crusading safely without bloodshed for a record 150 years come this Fall.

17. A nation of werehumans who are quite content for most of the month, until the full moon, when their curse fills them with existential dread and body issues.

18. A vine-covered nation of sages so trapped in nostalgia that they are trying to reverse time and return to the glory days.

19. A culture of mountain-dwelling misotheists who view the lands and seas as the gods' creation and seek to build something better on scaffolds between the peaks of the world.

20. When they say they're a nation of sunlight, they mean that all time stops for anyone and anything in their vicinity if shade or night passes overhead.

21. A nation where every third person takes turns not existing for a year so that everyone can reminisce about how wonderful he/she was, their annual return providing a constant stream of reality checks and disappointment that keep the culture grounded.


  1. Since I'm a comic fantasy writer, these seem perfectly reasonable to me.

    1. And our world is a better place for that.

  2. I could see most of these existing in your "Last House" book, given the world-building you shared last year!

  3. I particularly like this one: "14. Barbarian horde living with domesticated dinosaurs, living the dream of every good Metal album cover." :)

  4. Living the dream of every metal cover - that is awesome!!

  5. Perhaps I am jaundiced, but some of these have distinct charm.
    Today I am particularly drawn to the idea of winking out of existence...


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