World Building: Pangaia, Right or Wrong Choice?
Hey, I thought the fictional supercontinent on which my characters live and breathe (and die) was an inspired choice. There were several well-considered reasons for choosing it. So much so, it almost served as the book’s title.
When I first conceived the idea for Sword & Fire, I thought of two plotlines: the first concerned an escaped convict; the second, a giantman who betrays his vile warlord. The former would play out on one side of the world; the latter, on the other side. And the two would meet somewhere in the middle. Not difficult, I know. But it would give me the chance to explore the expanse of an entire world. After some careful thought, I chose Pangaia as my setting.
Pangaia is the Greek word meaning “all land” (Pan meaning “all or entire” and Gaia meaning Mother Earth, “land”). The Latinised form, Pangaea or Pangea is the name given to our primordial planet, which was one massive landmass, or so it is proposed, before the supercontinent broke up, began to separate and became the distinct continents we know today. Continental drift and all that. In fact, my initial manuscript was entitled, Pangaia, Sword & Fire.
Why did I chose Pangaia? After researching the concept, I found a proposed map of this supercontinent that offered three good reasons to use it.
First, it me gave me a single landmass on which to work. I envisioned a complex, interconnected story, but the geography needed to be essentially uncomplicated and primeval.
What’s more, it aligned with my realistic fantasy ideals. I drew inspiration from the Tanakh which not only hints at the possibility of a supercontinent, but also refers to dinosaur-like creatures and angels who sought to commune with mankind. This connection to that which many in the Judea-Christian world are familiar, gives me a context of reality—even though it requires one to enter the realm of faith to believe its veracity.
Second, it provided a separate, relatively smaller island to the south-southeast to which my prisoner could escape. The status of the escapee in the tale means he would find no refuge on mainland Pangaia itself. I can say no more here lest I drift into spoilers.
And finally, and significantly, it provided a natural mountain range to separate the two plotlines I initially envisioned. What we now know as the Himalayan mountain range serves as the range of mountains that divides my supercontinent at the neck: the torso, the land of mankind to the south, and the head, the land of giantmen to the north.
And here we come to my problem? (And the reason for this post as a disclaimer.)
Yes, my giantmen, who pose the imminent threat, are positioned in the uncharted north.
Ahem, very GOT like.
By the time this dawned on me, my two plots were fast becoming nine and the complexity of my story had been shaped by the geography.
“Why didn’t Martin position his inhuman threat in some polar south? How dare he use the north!” I spat and kicked the cat. (Metaphorically speaking, since I don’t have a cat).
Frustrated, I considered making a change.
I took a week off from my usual writing schedule to exercise my godlike powers and flip the planet, placing the giantmen in the south. But it was a labour in vain. It required more than just simply using find-and-replace to change a host of words; it demanded both untangling the plot and several rewrites.
“For what purpose?” I asked myself.
To try convince people I didn’t set out to mimic Martin’s geography. And if I toss my entire world on its head, won’t I still be accused of the same given I’ve deliberately turned Pangaia upside down? (And the choice is either North or South; I mean, a cold tundra isn’t possible to the East or West given I’m working with a primordial Earth.)
Either way, I’ll be judged by some. But sticking to the original conception means I can live with my own conscience.
So, yes, my imminent threat comes from the North. If it rose from the South, I’d probably be accused of mimicking Lewis or Tolkien 🙂