1. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    Appalachian-inspired Fantasy

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by TyrannusRex, Jan 24, 2017.

    I'll cut straight to the point: I've always wanted to craft a good, original story & setting inspired by Appalachia, particularly my home state of West Virginia. I can picture a vast, unspoiled "Middle-Earth" of forests, plains, rivers and mountains. That's easy enough. For some reason, though, I've never really gotten past the pretty scenery; when it came to actual content, I didn't just want to take your usual fantasy-novel cliches and put them in Appalachia, nor did I want to resort to the stereotypes surrounding my own home.
    (One of my original drafts of this story was set in the near-future where the world's had a tech apocalypse and only the less advanced mountain folk (see: rednecks) have been able to survive. Not only does it make me cringe, but I think now they have a TV show similar to that.)
    What I'm asking is if anyone out there knows of some good fantasy (preferably of the swords & sorcery type) that has taken inspiration from Appalachia (its land, its culture, its anything), or if perhaps you grew up/now live in the pristine land I described and can lend your own viewpoint/reference material.
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Appalachia is an anthropological cornucopia. There is an amazing storytelling tradition there. Never mind modern stereotypes - you're not wanting a Fantasy version of Hunger Games, right? - dig instead into the legends and myths of the area. I know they are there. That's your material. Find it and expand upon it, grow it larger, make real-world myth into Fantasy mythos. ;)

    https://www.google.com.pr/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=myths%20and%20legends%20of%20appalachia
     
  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    Child of God and The Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy are both considered "Appalachian style" books, not just because of the setting but because of the inherent mythos.. don't know if you're a fan of his, but they are some seriously messed up stories and very fantastical in their own way... Outer Dark in particular made me want to hug my puppy...
     
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  4. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like something the kingdom of Terabithia could have turned into. It wasn't really a fantasy story, more about two kids and their imagination, but your description immediately made me think of it.

    Appalachia has a lot of urban legends. Headless horsemen, witchcraft, beasts, bigfoot, moon-eyed people... The woods are spooky and have a lot of strange sounds at night. When I was a kid, I would often feel as though I were being watched as the sun went down and I was still deep in the woods. I know there were several black bears that lived in caves on my property and I occasionally saw evidence of cats as well. They were probably bobcats, but every year there are a few lion sightings.

    Coyotes are probably responsible for a lot of myths. I remember one time my friend was bow hunting and hit a deer in the wrong place. It was injured so he went off to find it. It took less than ten minutes to find the corpse and in that short time, it had been completely ripped apart. That'd probably be a horrifying thing to come across.

    I find it highly unlikely that any type of sword combat would be popular. People there like their ranged weapons. If there were no more shotgun shells, they'd probably start relying heavily on their bows.

    I'm not sure about West Virginia, but Pennsylvania might be a better place to start because it has a lot of energy freely available, plenty to rebuild with. Along the Bob Casey highway, there are literal mountains of coal slag. They're popular ATV trails now because it doesn't burn as well as real coal, but it'll certainly sustain a small population for a very long time.

    source: Grew up in northeast Pennsylvania.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017
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  5. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    I do agree that the folktales and urban legends are very good sources for inspiration. I'm thinking of playing more on the ghost stories-aspect of it, throwing in some creatures from Native American lore and maybe some things Europeans brought over (where I'm at, a lot of German, Scottish, and Irish).

    I've decided against setting it in our world, so I'm aspiring for a fantasy realm that takes in much of the same aspects: massive forests, unexplored land, mining and farming as major industries.
    My main stumbling block is how to portray the culture(s) I create for this story. They're going to be a roughly Dark Ages levels of technology (with magic thrown in). While I've always wondered what a United States would have looked like if it had sprouted up back then (thank you, Sid Meier), I'm not really sure how a Dark Age (European) culture would adapt/adapt to a land like this. Would they be plains-dwellers? Forest?
    Let's assume they have horses and good metallurgy, which Native Americans initially didn't.
    I'm picturing something akin to Anglo-Saxon society, which fittingly also inspired Tolkien's Rohirrim.
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    You need to read Manly Wade Wellman.

    Not only did he write Appalachian-inspired fantasy, he did a nice job of it: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/wellman_interview/
     
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  7. Kerilum

    Kerilum Active Member

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    Hunger Games is the best movie ever!!
     
  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Shh. The safeword is Swiss Fish Salad. :D Contributor

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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    I would like to disagree with that statement. :p
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It sticks in my mind that Orson Scott Card (not everybody's favourite person, but he's a reasonably good writer) wrote a story series about a Seventh Son, laid in a very Appalachian-style setting. I can't remember the name, but I think the character figures in the title. I see if I can look it up, and post a link on this thread.

    Ah! The character's name is Alvin Maker.
     
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  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Alvin Maker... Ender Wiggin...

    I see a pattern forming. ;)
     
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  11. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And, yes, I agree. Not someone I'm likely to invite to dine, but he does know how to string a sentence together. I'll give him that.
     
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  12. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    My wife is writing a wolf-shifter fantasy set in 1950s Appalachia and has done a lot of research, including picking my brain... I grew up in Western NC mountains in the 1950s. She has dug up a huge amount of research on this, cornhusker dolls, Cherokee legends, I have a Cherokee dictionary. Even found where the name Appalachia comes from, a Spanish approximation of an Indian word dating back to 1600s: Desoto passed through WNC and left traces. Heavily Scots-Irish, so plenty of music and traditions that are Celtic-based. The Scots favored the Appalachians because they are so much like the highlands. Myths include ghosts, mysterious lights in the mountains. Music, get-togethers, types of towns, etc. Although 18th Century Scots were famous swordsmen, that tradition appears to have died out in the Americas without a trace in favor of squirrel guns and pistols, as pointed out by @newjerseyrunner. Not sure why, same terrain as at home in Scotland. There was writer for the Asheville Citizen-Times who wrote a weekly column for decades, "Roaming the Mountains," which covered myths and spooky things.
     
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  13. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

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    Stongly, strongly seconded. The Silver John books by Manly Wade Wellman are excellent, and they may be floating around the net in a legitimate, no charge form.

    Also, directly inspired by those books was Old Nathan, by David Drake. Hills magic, no hovertanks or plasma weapons this time. He didn't do nearly as well as Wellman, but it's still an entertaining read.
     
  14. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Roaming the Mountains" by John Parris is available on Amazon, consolidation of his stories.
     
  15. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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  16. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Believe it or not, his advice to writers (he was a regular in the Writers' Digest novel-writing books) is actually excellent. I learned a lot from reading his advice. I was horrified to later read the remarks he made about gay people. Orgh. How can a smart man be so effing stupid?
     
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  17. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're just looking at the geography, not the human elements, I'm not sure this will be easily distinguishable from other fantasy settings - forested hills/low mountains with pockets of farmable land is fairly fantasy-standard, isn't it?

    What distinct features do you think you could use?
     
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  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Also important to note that our modern idea of Appalachia having open, arable land is a modern phenomenon. When we crossed the Atlantic to the New World, Appalachia was a giant, endless forest. Tolkien imagined Galadriel as queen of Lothlórien, but forests worthy of her realm were felled centuries before in England. Such forests were still to be found in the Americas, though. :)
     
  19. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    I appreciate all the feedback in/on various areas, but as mentioned earlier, it is the very culture that is proving troublesome.
    I didn't want to transfer over all the stereotypes that people would expect to see (like I had originally done when envisioning this as post-apocalypse).
    I'm going to have a few different races in addition to humans:
    -"Woodmen" (basically Sasquatch) which will be very Native American-inspired in terms of culture
    -Kobolds/Cobolds (haven't decided on spelling) (the more doglike ones as opposed to D&D's reptiles) are the middle class, the hardworking miners and craftsmen whose work tends to go unappreciated by other societies.
    -An unnamed magical race, based on Mothman, who lived in the land before the other races. They are benevolent and wise, and powerful sorcerers, but they have begun to disappear along with the magic. Representative of old values/traditions that go by the wayside as younger generations come to precedence.

    The only problem is: I don't really know what to do with the humans, other than make them arrogant and greedy like fantasy epics tend to do.
     
  20. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    Here's another thought, to anyone still reading this thread:
    This is more of a minor thing, but I'd still like a little feedback.
    I figured I could combine the importance of the church in medieval times and in modern rural America and create a religious organization for the setting (not directly mirroring any real-world faith, but meshing traditions of the Catholic and Protestant Churches).
    In my area, I thought it was funny how some people never said "preacher" so much as "preacher-man". That seemed to me a little odd, not only because it seemed pointless, but also because I've known several preachers who were women. But still, it's a quaint little trait of speech, and I kind of like it.
    My only curiosity about it is should it be written "preacher man", "preacher-man", or "preacherman"? Personally, I would think the middle one, but I also like the idea of making it one word. Thoughts? (And for that matter, on the previous as well?)
     

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