"Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past."-Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon
The world of the Age of Reason is one at the peak of civilization. The great powers on the continent of Tosir dominate global trade with their fleets of Men-O-War and struggle for advantage on land with lines of drilled musketeers. The monarchs of the great powers rule as absolutists supported by the majesty of the church. The aristocracy, stripped of much of their power, still enjoy their great wealth, and relieved of the need to rule, patronize the arts. The rate of technological development has opened up new means of production and given rise to a powerful new merchant class.
The world of the Age of Reason is one on the cusp of major change. New ideas about the world are being discussed amongst the literate: rationalism, liberty and progress. New social trends are beginning to alter the age old rhythm of life: capitalism, urbanization and industrialization. Against this backdrop the ancien regimes of the continent are ruled for the personal honour of the monarch and the greater glory of god. Beneath all this, murmurs amongst the great labouring masses suggest that a New Age requires a New Order...
In the last couple of years, I've been working on a fantasy series I would like to write. I've always loved fantasy, but compared to science fiction, I've always found most of it was poorly written, derivative and lacking in the “big” ideas. There are of course, some exceptions to this, which I spend a lot of time seeking out to read; fantasy that pushes boundaries, explores complicated topics and tries new things. So if I have trouble finding fantasy I want to read, sometimes the only solution is to write it myself.
The series is tentatively titled the Age of Reason, and is in short a series that explores what happens when you have the Enlightenment and ultimately a revolution in a fantasy kingdom. Considering the popularity of the premodern in fantasy settings, I've never seen anyone write a fantasy novel about what happens when people begin to question the age old ideas about the world, and the social consequences that follow. These consequences were very big and long lasting in our own world, and would certainly provide lots of drama for a plot and setting.
Anyway, the world I've been building is something like 18th century Europe, with the same level of development and technology. This means battles with muskets rather than swords, early science and industry, the appearance of Enlightenment ideals, early newspapers and popular literature, and of course frock coats and tricorn hats. Magic of course will exist, but there is a debate between religion and science over what it is. Is it divine or natural? Can it be used for secular rather than sacred reasons? Is the world understandable by human reason?
I've got characters and an outline of a plot, but I won't reveal much about them now. The characters include both sexes and range from the lower to upper classes, and all have different views about their world ranging from the status quo to revolutionary change. The plot is mostly centered around a revolution in one of the kingdoms, and the upheaval and change it causes.
Perhaps the most important theme of the book is the transformation of a traditional society to a modern one as historical process (hence the quote from Marx). In other words, I want to use fantasy to explore why this happens, and how it affects the lives of the characters. It's a look at their individual actions in relation to this transformation, and the structural forces of history (economics, technology, class) that make the transformation possible. It's the birth of progress, and all the injustice that appears along with it. It is the movement of history into a new and unprecedented direction.
One thing I would like to do is copy the stylistic elements of 18th century literature in my writing, particularly the styles of the many famous satires of the period. The tone of the books should be lighthearted, even though the content is fairly serious. Voltaire wasn't just a harsh critic of the problems of his day, he was really funny too.
Overall I've got a framework for Age of Reason, but I haven't ironed out all the details of the setting. This requires more work, and especially more reading, and I have a huge reading list I'm working my way down, including books on history, philosophy, culture, politics, theatre, economics, literature and variety of fantasy works that have some overlap.
So I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this idea for a fantasy series. Also, if you are aware of any fantasy works that cover similar ground as me, I'd like to know about those too.
Music: Civilisation - Justice