Creating a New World

I’m still excited about my Jakirian Cycle hitting the real world. All three books – The Calvanni, Scytheman and Sorcerer – and now available through a host of on-line retailers including Amazon (For Sorcerer be sure to put “Chris McMahon Sorcerer” into the search engine) . Ebook versions of all three books are currently in the works and should be available from November.

New Calvanni CoverScytheman CoverSorcerer Cover

I’m proud of the way the whole world came together. It has been with me for a long time, and it’s more satisfying than I can say to finally get my Jakirian universe out there. Thanks to all the patient readers of the 2006 edition of The Calvanni, who have waited some time to see what happens in Scytheman and Sorcerer.

The world of Yos was my first major foray into building a unique world.

Around the time I was dreaming up this world, I was reading David Attenborough’s Life on Earth. I think it was that beautiful presentation of evolution that drove a lot of my early work on Yos.

I thought a lot about the creatures and the races, and how they had come to fit into the ecological niches that existed on the world. All of it was driven by the unique astronomy. The world of Yos orbits two suns (OK for the astronomy buffs, technically the centre of mass of the two-sun system). The red sun, which provides only a fraction of the solar input of the yellow sun, regularly eclipses the yellow sun, causing Storm Season. A period initially of intense cold, followed by – you guessed it – violent storms as the world rapid heats up again. This regular period of intense cold gave rise to various evolutionary coping mechanisms.

There were two main routes. Warm-blooded surface mammals who remained active during this time developed the Heat – an accelerated metabolism that provided warmth, but at the expense of the body’s resources. Modern humans on Yos try to resist the pull of the Heat during Storm Season – the time of the red sun Uros. It can keep you alive, but at the loss of control. In the dangerous world of Yos, the overconfidence and loss of inhibition that comes with the Heat can be a deadly weakness.

The second coping mechanism was to get underground. Birds and other animals evolved to be able to dig burrows they could use to ride out the cold. Others went even further, living more and more of their span under the ground. This eventually gave rise to a parallel evolutionary path that existed in the extensive caverns of the Yos. Creatures such as the drakons with their hot acid breath, delved deep into the bedrock, paving the way for others (their prey). Bats were great winners in the evolutionary race. The bounty of the forests of the Yos was drawn down into the caverns, where a whole ecology of luminescent fungi developed, using nutrients from the upper world. Other creatures evolved to eat the fungi – herd animals that never saw the light of the suns. And then came their predators.

Cousins of man – the Eathal – adapted for the caves. They developed acute hearing and a form of echo-location, as well as sensitive eyesight.

Then came new settlers to the upper world, clearing the forests – inadvertently destroying the world below as they robbed the bats of their bounty. And so the ancient enmity between the Eathal and Man was born. . .

Right. Back to world building. Easy to get carried away with this stuff:

One other thing that comes to mind was an idea for the mammal evolution. I wanted a winged race (the Verial), but I wanted them to have hands and wings.

Now in Life on Earth, Attenborough explained how the form of all land animals basically was derived from the same basic quadruped – lizards, monkeys, birds – all had four limbs (and a tail) to begin with. So to have my winged race I needed not only a proto-four-legged, but a proto-six-legged creature. So that’s way on Yos, some land animals have six limbs – or started with them. One example is the narsiit – the winged horse of the plains. It does not truly fly – its metabolism is so fast that when in full flight it needs to extend its wings for cooling, although it does get some aerodynamic lift.  

So all the birds of Yos have two wings and four limbs. In many cases the second pair of legs or arms has become vestigial – I mean who needs the extra weight? But for birds on the ground – or those that need to compete for space in the crowded caverns during Storm Season, the extra limbs really come in handy for fighting . It also means you can shake hands with a bird:)

So what fun have you been having lately with world building?

PS: I’ll be at Genrecon in Brisbane all weekend, so my post replies might be even more weirdly timed than usual


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