Post-Apocalyptic Urban Fantasy

Hmm, I’m thinking about this again, as I write a story for the Tower setting. Or maybe it’s for a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy setting. Or is it?


 Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this style of setting recently, specifically what I like about it. In context, I’ve been developing the Tower setting (straight urban fantasy) and mucking about with a couple others—secondary fantasy and Earth-urban fantasy—and not really finding what I’m looking for in the others. Then I began to mess around with post-apocalyptic fantasy.

A lot of what I’m thinking about is somewhat similar to Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series, her post-apocalyptic Atlanta, GA. Basically, in that setting magic has returned to the Earth after several thousand years. However, this didn’t happen all at once but rather has been happening in ebbing waves over 30+ years and is still on-going. Eventually, magic will completely take over and return, causing technology to completely stop. In the meantime, there are tech times and magic times.

 Most of these settings that I can recall are similar, in that the action takes place relatively soon after the magic causes apocalyptic-style events. The Shadowrun RPG-verse comes to mind as well, also about 30-40 years post-magic (according to the 2nd edition version at least).

I like this sort of setting for a few reasons. First, it allows for whatever tech level the writer desires from stone age to advanced, depending on how magic interacts with technology. Second, it can allow the creation of what amounts to a secondary world that can still reference Earth cultures and backgrounds. Third, for an open magic world (versus hidden magic), history doesn’t have to be rewritten. Only the events after the magic event need to be recorded because all the prior history is the same as our world (or can be), we don’t have to worry about how viable, working magic affected WWII or the Cold War. Those just happened as is, though we do need to figure out what happened between, say, 2016, when the event occurred, and today. That might only be a couple generations, a couple years, or even a couple centuries.

For what I’m playing with right now, I’ve set the Event as occurring about 150 years prior to the present. So, things have more or less settled down, multiple generations have been raised with magic and non-humans, new governments have formed, and all that stuff. Sort of like turning Earth into a secondary fantasy world, with random tech levels and magi-tech.

 I’m hoping it will work out well and prove interesting for me, possible readers, and the characters who just arrived there.

Multiverse: Door Between Worlds

Because I’m somewhat masochistic, I’m thinking of the urban fantasy world that I’m currently writing in as part of a larger multiverse. In this multiverse, the great majority of worlds are variations on Earth. Currently, in my development process, there are:

Earth-000: Our world, baseline.

Earth-001: the world I’m writing in at the moment (unnamed)

Earth-002: Immortalis Mundi

Earth-003: Veiled Earth

Earth-004: Magipocalypse Earth

Earth-xxx: any future developments

Other worlds include:

Aethoth: a secondary, high-low fantasy world I’m placing in development

Ethirach: a secondary, high-ish fantasy world inspired loosely by Earth’s “lost lands” legends, ex. Atlantis, Mu, Ys, Shambhala (development on hold)

At the moment, travel between worlds in the multiverse is impossible because all the “doorways” were closed roughly 40,000 years ago (Earth-000 time). Time doesn’t necessarily pass at the same rate on each world. I think the ur-gate is located on either Aethoth or Ethirach (haven’t decided which). Reopening/activating that gate reopens the multiverse.

 However, even with the “doors” open, direct travel between Earths will be impossible. Probably due to similarity. Therefore, all travel between Earths needs to go through Aethoth or Ethirach, ex. Earth-001 to Earth-004 can’t work, but Earth-001 to Aethoth to Earth-004 works just fine.

 It’s something I’m playing with. I’m not entirely certain that will be the final form, yet.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (with apologies to David Bowie)

I recently started reading Verlyn Flieger’s A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie and it got me thinking.  Flieger discusses the changes that were occurring in the world during Tolkien’s life, particularly during his late-teens and early-20s.  In many ways, this begins as a New Historicist read, noting the major movements and such that were part of Tolkien’s socio-historical context, beyond the old references to WWI.  Flieger examines the movements and countermovements that occurred in the early-20th century in science, art, and philosophy, thoughts and knowledge that changed worldviews.  The work of Freud, Jung, Einstein, Planck, Pound, Joyce, and Picasso.  Each of whom essentially changed how we view the world, or responded to such changes.

 This got me thinking about my grandparents’ lives.  They went from radios and public phones to four channel black & white TV and rotary dial to cable, smartphones, and streaming TV.  Even in my own, relatively short, life, the technological changes from VHS to Blu-ray, landlines to pocket size cell phones, green screen dial-up computers to tablets.  Not to mention all the scientific advances, medical advances, changes in psychology, and philosophies of the last three decades.

 Unlike Tolkien, I grew up with theories of uncertainty regarding the world and continual change, from Einstein to Schroedinger, Jung to Freud, and others.  I grew up with the idea that change is the only constant in the universe.  I grew up in a household with science and mythology, both of which essentially teach the same thing via different methods and languages.  I love the “uncertainty” theories, multiverse theory, and all the possibilities that come from them.

 But, I can also understand why some people desire the comfort of perceived solidity often found in conservative religion and revisionist history (the idea that history never changes, therefore our knowledge of history never changes).  The very things that I enjoy, the uncertainty they engender, can be frightening.  The perception of something going on, unchanged, for 1700+ years (as false as that belief is) can be a comfort, I suppose.  Personally, I think that way lies stasis, which is in many ways equivalent to death.  But, that’s me.

 The fear is then fed by our changing technology.  For instance, dissemination of news.  In my grandparents’ day, there was only an hour or so of news a day (on the radio and at the movies) and newspapers came out twice daily.  Reporters had to be good at what they did.  They had to condense the entire day’s news into an hour block.  Even in my lifetime, I recall only having news on TV at 5, 6, and 11, or about three hours of news a day.  Even then, reporters had to keep things condensed and focused.

 Today’s 24 hour broadcasts let reporters get lazy, with ten, twelve hours covering the same story.  The coverage starts with Geraldo, then Van Susteren, then O’Reilly, then Hannity, for instance, all talking about the exact same event.  It is easy to see why fear develops and gets out of hand.  It is easy to see how 10+ hours of coverage of the same event turns into the belief that multiple events occurred, thereby amplifying the reaction.

 While our technological advances have unleashed at era of unprecedented access to information, I’m not sure that it is good for society or the individual psyche, especially when the internet news and mobile update elements are added.

 Thinking about these things, I think it is easy to see why we appear to have increases in mental disorders, people (a shrinking number) clinging to conservative religion (theoretically stable and unchanging), and an inordinate growth of fear among the general public in developed nations, particularly the U.S.


Over the last couple weeks, I’ve dropped some hints about a project I’ve been working on. The first was a post about inspiration, the second a bit more about multiverses. I figured this week, I’ll provide a bit more info about the macro-project and the smaller bit I’ve been working on recently.

The big project, I’m calling OmniTerra (All Earth). This is a multiverse entirely composed of alternate varieties of Earth, and nothing else. Some of those alt Earths are the center of micromultiverses, whether a single extra dimension or many. Basically, the concept gives me some room to play around with a dozen or so ideas I’ve had about magic systems, cultural developments, places, and such.

One aspect of the OmniTerra multiverse that I’ve been working on recently is something I’m calling Crossroads. This one is very loosely inspired by the worldbuilding in Ilona Andrews’ Edge series combined with, initially, archetypes. That evolved from archetypes into something loosely built from Graeco-Roman mythology.

I wanted to work with a site idea that had somewhat changed a section of Earth around it. My first thought was to work with archetypes. But, that led me down a path that could create a nearly infinite number of such places. I wanted to contain that impulse. So, I eventually settled on basing the region on the Olympians, of which there is some debate regarding the membership (I elected to include all fourteen deities that ancient sources name as Olympians). With fourteen sub-dimensions, domains, I did a bit of quick research to link related deities from myriad cultures to the Olympians. The idea being that each of the fourteen deities was known worldwide under a variety of names.

After that, I decided to add in a bit of lost continent lore (Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, Hyperborea, etc.) as pre-history or alternate history. The end result is a hidden magic, urban fantasy Earth linked to fourteen domains by an equal number of sites that act as portals and open Earth to the domains’ influence within a small area.

Something else I’m playing with, partially inspired by Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, is a living magic. That is, magic grows, adapts, and changes itself within certain limits. Thus, there are both branches of magic (type of effect) and methods of performing magic (how the magic is cast), with some paranormal “non-magic” powers included.

I’m in the process of typing up a lot of notes into a coherent form, adding a few more notes, and working out what to expand, detail, and polish right now. If there’s enough interest, I may post a PDF here after I get everything typed up and edited.

Macromultiverse & Micromultiverse: More Multiverse Mayhem

Ok, I apparently love multiverses. Probably because I get more setting inspiration than story inspiration, but have a compulsion to avoid starting something new before I finish the first thing if possible. This seems to lead to mashing settings together, usually with epic levels of failure. Then, I discovered multiverses, or at least decided to start playing with them. Which leads to my title.

In yet another major world build, I’m setting up another multiverse. This time it is a multiverse composed solely of alternate versions of Earth. Time passes at the same rate in every Earth, so if it is 2013 in Earth A, it is also 2013 (or equivalent) in Earth B. Despite this, there are different levels of technological development, social development, magic, lifeforms, etc. So far, most are just Earth, or part of Earth. But, some involve other sub-dimensions or microverses. So, I’m calling them micromultiverses (made up of a limited number of dimensions) within a macromultiverse. Fun.

Actually, this is fun so far. My mind, imagination, and inspiration can run free and go wild. On the other hand, there is definite room for frustration and problems to occur. The idea is certainly complex and potentially problematic in terms of development (just how detailed to go into each Earth or sub-dimension, for instance). Essentially, some of these are simple alternate Earths, others are kind of like nesting dolls where looking beneath one layer opens up dozens of others.

Multiverse, or I’ve Created a Monster!

Due to my current world building project, I’ve been thinking about the question of multiverses lately.  Actually, they seem to crop up in almost every world building project I do, so I guess I’ve been thinking about them for a while.

A little background: My current project started as a cross-dimensional shopping mall and turned into an ultraverse (see below).  Thus, the title of this post.

There are, obviously, pros and cons to the multiverse idea in fiction, too many to really hit here.  I will put a few brief thoughts though.  On the con side, there are potentially lots of worlds to build, but this is not too different from an epic SF/sci-fi novel or series.  It is also easy to get overwhelmed by the scope, or potential scope.  Likewise, there’s potential for concerns regarding continuity that are probably worse than elsewhere.  On the other hand, there is considerable room for variety and exploration.  Both can help the writer maintain interest in the setting (especially if the plan is to produce a considerable volume of work).  It can also be helpful for multi-author concepts and aid in continuity of such projects.

In my recent thinking, I’ve classified five different types of multiverse in fiction:

1) Alternate Universe/Reality Multiverse (AUM/ARM)—Basically a collection of alternate histories/Earths that may or may not allow travel between them.  One important consideration is the effects, or lack thereof, of meeting one’s alternate self.  Examples include: Star Trek’s Mirror Universe, Stargate: SG-1 (a couple AUMs), Terry Pratchett and Steven Barnes’ Long Earth, Sliders, and the Marvelverse.  This is also, pretty much, the modern scientific view of multiverse, based on quantum physics.

“Unless this is the one where K forgot to leave a tip.” –MiB 3

2) Artificial Multiverse (AM): Basically, a multiverse of pocket dimensions, or mini-dimensions.  Often these are man-made (or created by someone).  The shadowrealms in Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series partially fit this type.

3) Infinite Multiverse (IM): This multiverse contains unlimited (or theoretically unlimited) dimensions.  It differs from the AUM/ARM, which can also be infinite, in that each dimension is a different world, not an alternate history.  Examples include: Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series (in many interpretations), Robert Asprin’s MYTH series, John De Chancie’s Castle series.

4) Limited Multiverse (LM): The LM is an IM with a set number of dimensions.  Like the IM, they are distinct worlds rather than alternate histories.  Examples include: the D&D multiverse, Steven Brust’s Dragaera (might be an IM, he’s purposely somewhat unclear here), and, arguably, most real world religions (Heaven, Hell; Nirvana; Valhalla, Hel; Olympus, Hades; the Celestial Court; any other transcendent plane of existence).

5) Ultraverse: I am tentatively defining an Ultraverse as a combination if IM, AUM/ARM, and AM.  That is, an Infinite Multiverse in which there are also pocket dimensions and alternate realities.  Moreover, every one of the infinite dimensions (distinct worlds) has its own, theoretically, infinite number of alternate realities.  (Here’s the “I’ve created a monster!” bit since we have infinity x infinity + Y worlds and mini-worlds.)  Examples include: GURPS Infinite Worlds (3rd and 4th edition) setting and, perhaps, the Marvelverse.

Piers Anthony’s Adept series could be either an AUM or an LM, but it’s been a few years since I last read it so the books aren’t entirely clear in my mind.