Okay, so in the last installment, I talked a bit about life forms. At the end I said I would discuss overall world technological level in this next post, so I guess that’s what I’d better do.
All right! The world so far isn’t exactly suggesting a particular level of technological advancement–the only thing that suggests a particular level is the fortresses inhabited by some of the humans dwelling on the surface. However, these fortresses could be as primitive as cave systems burrowed into mountainsides, or something as sophisticated as NORAD (which, incidentally, is also a cave system burrowed into a mountainside). My initial vision of these fortresses was that they were more like Medieval castles. Huge, labyrinthine stone structures built on easily defensible areas, like mountains and hilltops. That still doesn’t necessarily suggest anything, because they could be very old castles, which the modern people are still living in out of convenience. I do know, however, that this is going to be a sci-fi/fantasy. That in itself suggests something.
Here’s the idea that just sprang into my mind: the humans, on the surface of the world, are not native to the world. They’re the remnants of a spaceship crew, a crew of interstellar explorers. They still have a goodly amount of the technology from the spaceship, but they don’t understand it anymore. They’re able to replicate some of it, but they don’t comprehend the principles it works on. To them, it’s very much like magic. But a magic that is not understood is dangerous, so I imagine there are only a few people trained and trusted enough to operate this misunderstood technology. These elite people would be the wizards, the sorcerers, the mages. Through long study, they learn to operate and recreate the ancient machines, but they don’t really understand how the machines work. It’s like when you get so used to the routine of doing something that you cease to have a conscious understanding of what you’re actually doing.
So the fortress-dwelling humans have some pretty advanced technology, but it isn’t widespread. Their technological level aside from that is, I’m thinking, about equivalent to 17th century Earth. Fortresses have printing presses, but there still aren’t many books; people have guns, but still fight with swords and plate armor; more advanced machinery and vehicles are beginning to be invented, but have not come far. This level of technology implies a certain organizational structure–absolute monarchy, supported by a strong official church. I’m thinking each fortress is essentially its own kingdom, and maybe there’s whole networks of fortresses who have banded together and elected a high king, for mutual protection. Then there could be an overarching church, or possibly a few different churches. These may follow religions which are twisted versions of ones we know here on earth… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Now, what about the nomadic humans? I doubt these people have the “wizards” of the fortress dwellers. A nomadic lifestyle just isn’t conducive to that sort of thing, too much machinery and too many books involved. However, they probably have all the best weapons, since people look up to them for their bravery in traversing the wastelands. I doubt it would be difficult for them to bargain for quality weaponry. Now, how do they travel? I imagine they might sometimes buy powerful, advanced vehicles from the “wizards” of the fortresses, but for the most part, they’d use animals. Some sort of animal native to the world, I’m thinking… insect life seems to dominate the surface, so giant beetles. So these guys ride beetles, are bristling with weapons, and occasionally have more advanced technology, which is so advanced it seems like magic to them. But other than that, I doubt their level of tech is much different then our Bedouins and Touaregs and such here on Earth. They probably live in tents, or maybe yurts, like the Mongols.
Now we must consider the gnomes. Humans who lived fully underground might need a certain level of technology to maintain their existence. However, gnomes are adapted to the underground. It’s their home territory. The gnomes, living a life sheltered from the elements, able to feed themselves from the abundant fungi and to quench their thirst with vast underground lakes, are probably a lot “softer” than humans. I doubt their tech is as advanced…. I’m seeing a general technological level in line with that of the ancient Egyptians, except obviously a lot less advanced when it comes to building structures–gnomes have their structures pre-built, in the form of caves. Well, somehow, they’ve been able to prevent humans from coming and living underground. Aside from indicating that they have a general isolationist policy and a strong central government–although it could be simply a number of tribes with strong traditions–this implies that they have some sort of power capable of resisting human technology.
My first thought is to make this power some sort of magical ability. But the question is, is this ability a “racial ability” of the gnomes, or a more general thing that is inherent to the world, like the Force? The former would lean the world more towards sci-fi, while the latter would lean it towards fantasy. But I just had a thought. What if it’s both? Here’s how I’m thinking it would work: the gnomes have some sort of special organ, or perhaps a gland in their brain, that allows them to respond to signals sent out by the sentient crystal creatures. The sentient crystals are the source of “magical” power in the world. A gnome who taps into the energy field they project can work “spells” of potentially vast power. Perhaps there are a lot of creatures on this world who can tap into the energy field from the crystals. Humans, since they aren’t native, wouldn’t even know the crystals have this power, much less be able to tap into it. But I can already see a plotline where a mad human tries to graft gnome organs into an unsuspecting kid, thus granting him vast power no human has ever had…
So, humans in general have Renaissance level tech, with a sprinkling of much more advanced technologies which they don’t understand and therefore consider magic; the gnomes have a much lower level of tech, but can access a semi-mystical “power field” to make up for it. I like that, so I’ll go with it. I think I’ll start considering culture in the next post.
I hope this is useful to people! I’m definitely enjoying it.