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Yellowdog's avatar

Is it possible to put a complex faux history or cosmology or spiritual system into a novel, or series of sci fi / fantasy novels?

Asked by Yellowdog (10600points) August 8th, 2019

Well, of course its possible. J.R.R. Tolkien did it.

There are a lot of ‘good’ conspiracy theorists, some who have started semi-religious sects and cults, producing faux histories of the universe, the solar system, the planet, various continents.

You may know a few. Zecharia Sitchin, Robert K. G. Temple, David Icke, Sir Laurence Gardner, Giorgio A. Dääniken, Peter Kolosimo , to name a few.

There are also detailed cosmological religious texts such as The Urantia Book, the Scientology faith/cult and at the expense of offending someone, literature from the Mormons which give elaborate histories and cosmologies and ties to worship, freemasonry, etc etc.

Some of these folks and sources would make great science fiction and historic fantasy epochs rather than trying to convince us of what cannot possibly be true.

One thing these cosmic and esoteric systems have in common, and that separates them from sci-fi and fantasy or horror settings, is their intricate detail, explanations, symbolic systems, etc that correlate to “real” religious orthodoxy. real national histories, and real science or cosmology.

I mentioned that J.R.R. Tolkien came up with a far-reaching mythos. Star Wars and Star Trek have some elaborate fictional renditions of the universe (but had the advantage of screen media dissemination / distribution. And Dan Brown I think wrote a few novels that dealt with classic Gnostic heresies as they are woven into history.

Role Playing games also have richly detailed background.

Well, anyhow, I have developed my own system over the past 35 years, and am wondering what is the best way to get it into writing novels or short stories, Its not flawless, and maybe I’d be better off starting a cult than writing books. But it is hard to compile it in an organized way.

My question is, how do you get all this in a series of novels? It seems far too complex. And I end up writing a lot of background material instead of stories and plots.

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6 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Asimov did it with his Foundation series. Heinlein did it in some of his longer novels. And of course JK Rowling did it in all of the Harry Potter books.

It’s certainly possible to do, but you have to spend an enormous amount of time on consistency and detail, or it all falls apart.

Darth_Algar's avatar

And for what it’s worth J.R.R. Tolkien had his son Christopher to help check his material for inconsistencies in the narrative.

Pinguidchance's avatar

The bible is peerless.

Zaku's avatar

I’ve done this, and seen this done, rather a lot in roleplaying games and some computer games, both well and not so well.

And I think the principles are similar enough for written speculative fiction.

I think it works best when you figure out the details for yourself, but don’t just write background reference material. Instead, if you’re writing a story, you figure out what the characters are focusing on, thinking and saying, already knowing the context, and you just narrate them doing that. You show but don’t tell. If it ends up being too weird and hard to follow for readers new to the setting, you can show-not-tell some visitor from another culture visiting the region for the first time, observing and learning things (and being left to wonder about many things they see, and make false conjectures from their own frame of reference) as they encounter them.

flutherother's avatar

First of all you need a good story. That is the thread that keeps the reader interested from the beginning to the end. Once you have the reader’s attention you can introduce details of your imagined history mythology and landscape. But don’t tell too much. Keep something back so the reader forms the impression that they are getting just glimpses of something grand and real.

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