i have a genuine problem keeping cooking out of my writing these days, it’s so much a part of who i am that it becomes part of every story i’ve written for the past three years. my connection with cooking is like tolkien’s with linguistics at this point, i am literally worldbuilding around ideas i have for food or cooking tools. it was meant to be about struggling with anxiety and eldritch abominations but look here we are again.
Codex Seraphinianus, originally published in 1981, is an illustrated encyclopedia of an imaginary world, created by the Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978. The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and written in a strange, generally unintelligible alphabet. source
I’d kind of like to draw a map for my story, but I’m not really sure how to tackle it. It’s a city-state, so primarily roadmap sorts of stuff, but the city is kind of… layered? There is the upper district, which is primarily built in the trees with lots of bridges. Then there is the lower district, which is just beneath the trees but often follows a completely different road map based more on where the roots of the trees are and the old road built hundreds of years ago than the bridges above. Some of the buildings - although not all of them - are ‘in’ both districts. The lower district is also a bit larger, extending out to the farmlands.
There is also a factory district much further out, and a mostly abandoned - save for some old holy sites - ‘city’ beneath and surrounding and occasionally mingling with the lower district. It’s all in caves, so there’s a lot of crossover.
It’s basically very stacked without much cohesiveness between the layers so IDK how I’d draw it and keep it consistent. Like, drawing three maps would make the most sense, but I’d like it to be clear that certain points on each map were mean to correspond with points on the other. Maybe a grid? Like it’d be a little awkward with the upper district being so much smaller than the other two, but it could be like… block B6 on map A is the same as map B and map C, just at different altitudes?
I wish I had a great answer for this, but since I’ve never had to do any research on the topic myself, I’m not super helpful.
Joseph Bruchac, an Abenaki storyteller and novelist (everyone should read Skeleton Man), has released several collections of stories from various Native communities — his Iroquois Stories is sitting in my room at home, and I believe he’s done others.
I’m sure other people have more specific recommendations, but the number one criterion in your search should probably be making sure you’re finding sources by Native authors/storytellers.
EDIT: also make sure you’re conscious of the fact that Native communities in North America are diverse and as such have diverse traditions — there’s no such thing as “Native American folklore” per se. EDIT again: as pan-ismyhomeboy points out, also keep in mind always that these are living traditions that belong to living people, not curiosities to spice up a story.
ngl I feel suuuuper uncomfortable with this person’s request. Because what people don’t get is that when they talk about “Native folklore” what they’re talking about a lot of the time is our sacred stories. They might sound like Aesop to you, but they are sacred to us. In my tradition, telling such stories comes with a lot of protocol you have to go through to be respectful—you put down tobacco, you don’t tell them in the summer, etc. Old people are still often afraid to talk about thunderbirds or mishibizhu in a way that might be disrespectful.
I say this as a person who has struggled significantly for a long time with including so-called ‘folklore’ beings from my own culture in my writing. I’m extremely wary of anyone’s ability to include figures from indigenous traditions in their writing unless they have spent a significant amount of time in the community, hearing the stories and their contexts from community members. Coyote is not here for you to ‘use’ in your story. You’re not going to get an understanding out of most “Native folklore” collections, and you can’t just imitate what Native writers do, either, because they have rights to do things with their own traditions that you don’t.
I don’t want to say non-Natives can never, ever write about beings from indigenous traditions, but I frankly do severely discourage it without intense scrutiny on why and how you are doing it.
bc you can never have too much help worldbuilding
yeS THIS SITE INTRODUCED ME TO FRACTAL WORLD GENERATION.
red, the blood of angry (wo)men! blood magic in #pettitoes
Of libations and bindings, blood is the source of nearly all magic in the world of #pettitoes. Mammalian blood, quite specifically. Indeed, the power of blood was how the [earthlings] first discovered that there were classes of animals. That no bird’s nor lizard’s blood had magic was the first step to such progress. But I digress. Blood is both magic and soul, in essence. Blood is life, which is what the majority of its magic consists of. Life, and death by proxy. We’ll get to that eventually.
First off, we have the classic blood contract. It is largely a formality, the actual signing of your name, and indeed it was not done in [starling] culture as they were largely illiterate for many years. Rather, it is the gift of blood that binds them. Blood given willingly is powerful for all the human races, and though it cannot be confirmed as the same among the various beasts, scientists have observed behaviours that suggest everything from the wolves to the bears of the wild recognize the power of blood, as well. Blood given (or taken) unwillingly can be just as powerful, but it cannot bind a person.
All blood is life for the earth. No matter which beast’s blood, dead or alive, given freely or taken by force, it gives the earth life. It helps plants grow. This is why even midst industrialization and the growing populations of the [earthlings] and [starlings], forests dominate the world. Among the images above, take note of the libations vase and the image in the top left. Giving blood to the earth is a ritual. A funerary ritual for some, a ritual of faith for the [earthlings]. It varies, but it is always significant.
The power of each beast’s blood varies quite a bit, though each relates to life and death. Some prey have poisonous blood, acidic blood. Some predators are immune to poison (the wolves). The foxes - including the flying foxes (a.k.a. bats) - are creatures of fire, which is a symbol of both life and death. Their feet scorch the earth, killing what is there and giving life to what will come. They go through a life-death-rebirth cycle. Fire is seen by the [earthlings] as a sort of metaphor for time, as it is the only thing except time that can truly destroy blood.
Now, humans have a ‘special’ blood trait. There blood has no inherent power but adaptation. While this comes through in various ways, including their very evolution, the most noteworthy power of their blood is that they can become something else, to an extent, through prolonged exposure to its blood. Drink the blood of the wolf and become a half-wolf, in essence. This has its limits, namely that eventually if you begin to take on too much ‘wolf’ (or whatever animal), your blood will shift enough that you can’t adapt any more of the beast’s qualities. You could never go completely from human to wolf, because losing humanity would include losing what lets you become a wolf to begin with.
As such, they never fully adapt the qualities of what they are drinking the blood of. Wolf-humans, for instance, are immune to poisons insofar as it will not kill them, but it can make them violently ill and can scar them, burn them, choke them. It depends on the poison, but they won’t get away unscathed. Just alive.
Now, here’s the tricky part: what happens if you drink another human’s blood? Because the blood does not just give you the blood qualities of the wolf, people grow fur and sometimes tails or ears or wolf-like eyes or wet noses or claws. I keep dancing back and forth with this one, so here’s my current stance… Strictly speaking, this is super forbidden in every culture ever. In practice, it happens all of the time. The [earthlings] and [starlings] exchange blood, leading to strange little toes (the [earthlings] have five toes whereas the [starlings] only have four) and ears that curve too much in the wrong direction and wildly varying skin tones and hair textures and miscellaneous features. But of course, they could theoretically keep drinking and transition completely. There are risks, and the amount of blood one would need would either require multiple donors or killing the ‘donor’ - but don’t think it hasn’t happened before. The results aren’t always pretty, though - you can never be rid of your own blood. Well, there are blood transfusions, but that’s pretty modern and it is currently limited by hospitals to race and the below.
Sex - biological sex, I mean. It is encouraged that one drinks the blood of the same sex beast, since there have been… incidents. When one drinks the blood of another human of the opposite sex, they usually end up intersex. Though again, one could theoretically go the full way through determination and possibly murder. A famous incident of this occurred hundreds of years before on the [starling] continent that left people with hard to shake transphobia, which is part of the reason they maintain transphobic beliefs while the [earthlings] are not as bad (though there are problems there, but that’s a topic for another day).
On the subject of sex, I’ve mentioned recently that the [earthlings] are into the symbolic virgin blood on the sheets thing. Ugh, but it makes sense from a worldbuilding perspective so we’re keeping it (the revolutionary ladies will have words about it, though). We’ve also got everybody’s favourite topic: periods! There are a lot of rituals surrounding menstruation, what to do with things bloodied by that time, letting it run down your legs and onto the earth, the cycles of the moon (which is worshipped by the [starlings]), and all that good stuff. It has led to a lot of odd beliefs about women, some misogynistic and others empowering. And let’s just say that many a gentleman (and a few lovely ladies) have earned their red wings
On a less pleasant note, murder - we’ve touched on this. But in general, murders aren’t clean. Suicides aren’t clean. Life is blood, death is blood. It is very rare for somebody to be drowned, burned, hung, etc. consciously (by their own desire or their murderer’s). The very diseases of the world are built around blood and have effects just as nasty. Coughing up blood, anaemia, it’s all there. And most diseases are transmitted through blood in this world, which has a lot of repercussions (including attitudes towards sex). The air driven ones are the ones that tend to end in the aforementioned coughing up blood, nosebleeds, that sort of thing. For this story, take note of an STD that only affects people with the double X chromosomes - XY are only carriers. That will be a plot point, as the men are kind of ignoring it in favour of researching other diseases.
Various other points: the whole family line-blood thing is super significant, adoption is not common though it isn’t unheard of, accidentally spilling blood (sewing, cooking, whatever) is a bit of an ordeal, some families have tapestries with a drop of all of their ancestor’s blood, many things are made with blood if possible (iron or ash if not), nobody in this world has even heard the words ‘well done’ come on now the culinary arts a theme of this novel like I would let them eat anything but rare steak, and also: golems.
I’m anxious and I haven’t gotten anything to do until dinner, so send me questions. My current project is #pettitoes, but if you’ve been dying to ask about #soundworld or White Moon, feel free to ask. My main characters: Molly, Penelope, Esther, Hannah, Rachel, and Cassandra. Side characters: the President, the two gunsmith dudes, Esther’s husband. Races/cultures: earthlings, halflings, starlings. Settings: “Amegido” (the capital).
My ‘earthlings’ and ‘starlings’ need a diet. So I’m brainstorming some cuisine options for my cultures. The ‘earthlings’ worship the earth, the soil, stone, and would probably be much better farmers than hunters. That isn’t to say they wouldn’t have meat in their diet, simply that they’d have a preference for plants. In particular, plants that grow underground. Root vegetables, peanuts, that sort of thing. Molly, the main character, earns a bit of cash on the side as a truffle hunter. They would eat plenty of above-ground plants, but perhaps they would find it difficult to resist a bit of mashed potatoes as a side for everything, you know?
They definitely have a tradition of domesticating animals. A fantastic repertoire of cheese - I am definitely looking into having the ash that plays a part in the climax being integrated into a rind or something - and perhaps eating pig, goats, perhaps cow or buffalo (I need to do more worldbuilding to decide on that), and sheep. No non-mammals in their diet, nor the diet of the ‘starlings’ we’ll get to in a moment.
In general? I am seeing a lot of spices and herbs and colour, on top of more tender red meats, a healthy serving of potatoes and carrots, and likely a full integration of dairy products, particularly cheese and possibly a yoghurt. Might use less actually milk and cream, however, and it will likely turn out more Indian than it will - say - British or French in terms of its application. Grains will likely be limited to bread - no pasta or rice, but they may have something similar to porridge. And ‘bread’ here is going to mean a relatively wide variety, so it won’t be boring.
Now, the ‘starlings’ come from across the ocean, and while they brought some of their crops with them, they are learning to rework the local crops into their own cuisine. They are, however, hunters, so they are more keen on deer and rabbit than a pig, though they do keep goats (and only goats) for their dairy. They hadn’t encountered cheese until they crossed the ocean, and many of them find it quite disgusting, though a few have found a taste for it. They are more likely to drink milk, though they may also have something akin to yoghurt in their diet. They might also have ice cream.
Because of their lifestyles and locations, they haven’t had a great history of farming… but they’ve certainly managed to do some. These people eat their greens. Leafy plants and gourds are the standard, here. And they love anything that can be pickled, which is basically everything. One of the biggest things they’ve done with the local food is just start pickling it. As with the ‘starlings’ and cheese’, the ‘earthlings’ are generally less than fond of the taste, though a handful like it (pickles and a plain yoghurt is the favourite snack of my general characters).
They are notoriously excellent sailors, and they do a fair bit of whaling while out at sea, which is often brought back to shore. Cured meats are common, and crackers and hard biscuits are far more common than the softer breads the ‘earthlings’ would make. Cookies over cakes, too. They brine most of their hunted meat, too, which is one thing the ‘earthlings’ do take a liking to.
Overall, we’re talking a sailor’s diet with way too much salt for a bit of the population, with green veggies and pickled non-greens and game for the rest, still with a bit too much salt. They add salt to fucking everything, even if they cooked it in the stuff. Other than salt, though, they aren’t too diverse in their seasoning. Citrus, plain yoghurt or cream, salt, and vinegar is about the extent of it. For the most part, they adore the local herbs and spices, though their chefs tend to overuse them and kill the flavour of whatever they were cooking in the first place.
#pettitoes is coming along well, but it really needs more fantasy elements. I have been working on the religious aspects of the world, which are going to play significantly into the primary conflict, but nothing about it is really lending itself to having magic or monsters roaming around. The primary religion is the worship of the night sky, with a lunar goddess as the ‘head’ of the pantheon and a thousand minor gods and goddesses. Star and moon-based puns and idioms in the language, a lunar calendar, and I want the climax of the novel to take place on the winter solstice.
The secondary religion is an ‘earth’ religion of sorts. The main goddess is a typical ‘mother earth’ archetype, life-death-rebirth sorts of things going on. Fertility and death rites. I think most of the other gods will be underworld gods. Cthonic gods, if you will. Not necessarily evil, of course. More of a Hades and Persephone vibe.
I don’t regard either of them as ‘real’ within the context of the world, however. No war of the deities between them, no magic as a ‘gift from the gods’. Nor do I want this to be a story of science. Not just in the ‘no magic’ sense, but also in the ‘magic is a rigid science in and of itself’ sense. It’s a more technologically advanced world than most fantasy worlds, but it’s not as technologically advanced as our own. I’m leaning towards America, early-mid 1900s. More due to the rise of the modern subculture than the technology, specifically, but the two are tied together. Factories, radio and telegrams and maybe telephones, and probably automobiles.
I mean, I guess I want the human races to be vaguely fantasy races, too, but aside from some varying ears and heights, it’s hardly anything truly fantastical.
It doesn’t have to be. The plot, as of right now, doesn’t necessitate it. But dammit, as much as I love low fantasy, part of me really wants to get some magic going on in this world. Maybe I’ll get out of that mindset as I work more on the story, but right now I’m looking for a place to weave it in. Looking through Greek and Judeo-Christian mythology for some spark of magic to add to the setting. And there’s a lot of interesting things, but nothing that’s working itself in like I’m looking for. It’s turning out to be a gorgeous setting, but lord, I just can’t justify putting in a dragon and it’s making me a little sad.