I picked a world to work on this month as so:
* a Verse I’m currently writing in.
* not an Urban Fantasy world, one that’s in a completely different world
* Obv. not a fanfic setting
(though, let’s be honest, in most of my fanfic I’ve done enough worldbuilding that I could probably do this – however, they’re all urban fantasy, woe)
Which led me to Bear Empire (I’m writing Found Down Below in the Bear Empire Cyber Era.)
So here’s a tidied-up first seven days of that, with an attempt to get it into categories that’ll be useful down the road.
Theme: Music & Language
Meta: Music that Reminds you of your Setting
“Whatever it Takes” by Imagine Dragons, with a side order of the lyrics of The Chainsmokers/Halsey – Closer Halsey’s a surprisingly good fit, actually. “Bad at Love’s” good too. Oh, and there’s a Sheryl Crow song, what is it… Ah! If If Makes You Happy.
Since I’m using two eras here, I’m going to pause to define them
The Imperial Era is the era in which Running in the Bear Empire is written; technology in this era is to horse-drawn carriage and wagon, swords and bows. Definitely pre-Industrial, and the magic is not such that it fills too many of the holes there.
The Cyber or post-modern era is similar to, say, ShadowRun or CyberPunk – cybernetics exist, cities are in some places heavily populated, and the family/village structure has started to break down just a bit. Magic still exists but is considered almost mythical by many people.
In the Imperial Era, Puma (as it’s called in the vernacular) is spoken-only. There’s a couple others, west and south, outside of the Bear Empire, as well, that are oral only. One of those manages to survive, along with Puma, into the post-modern (Cyber) era.
In the Cyber era, a language called Tracks is used only on their equivalent to chat sites & has no spoken element.
The dominant language in the Empire is Bear. However, many of the other languages known by the Guardians’ People are spoken right up through the Cyber era. Some time in prehistory (that is, before written records; the oral records are unreliable), the Bear Empire decided to make a virtue of necessity and accept all Guardians’ Peoples’ languages as official Imperial Tongues.
However, some officials still, over 1000 years later, use the theory of “you can speak anything you want, but I’m going to answer in Bear.”
Is there a universal translator or a universal language?
Yes & no? In both eras, Bear is the official language of the Bear Empire, but most officials & most documents speak/are written in at least 2 languages (Bear and that of the nearest Guardians’ People, usually).
A spell exists to understand the gist of what someone is saying, but its components are so dear, I couldn’t even afford to have them show up in the story.
In Cyber era, translator software exists, but it usually fails on subtext, context & idiom.
Do people code-switch?
It depends! Anyone who moves between different groups absolutely needs to; even within the main language (Bear), different groups can be almost entirely incomprehensible to each other, especially as many use combinations of Bear and their native Guardians’ language.
In addition, certain trades move between social/economic and ethnic groups, not to mention the Runners (in the Cyber era), whose language use in BelowSpace makes allowances for the magically altered terrain/atmosphere & includes tap & gesture, plus far more casual violence. I.e, “that’s the troll version of blowing a kiss.” (thanks Monstrous Regiment)
Divisions in Types
By Social Class
Are different types of music associated with different social classes?
In the Bear Empire different forms of music
(~are considered especially heinous. The Special Tunes Unit… ahem)
are generally associated not with different social classes, but with different regions, villages, and, of course, Guardians’ People.
That being said, there are some instruments which are considered which are generally too expensive for a poor household to own: something like a harpsichord, an elaborate set of instruments most similar to the tuba and the saxophone, and the giant drums, as big as an adult’s arm-span (Although I am going to note these sets of instruments are rarely played together).
While an affluent household might own its own giant drums, harpsichord, or saxophone, a village almost certainly WILL own one of these.
Apart from that, music is not divided much at all by social class at all – either class defined by wealth (less a definer in Bear Empire in any era then in modern US and definitely less a definer in the Imperial era) or by position.
Day 6 segues nicely into the Day 7, which is if certain music types are associated with certain cultures or specific regions?
To begin with, I have to discuss culture in the Bear Empire.
There are the various Guardians’ People – obviously, Bear, but also Eagle, Cat (Puma), Fox, and Snake, among others. There’s also the people of the Whale, but they are a mysterious group who in the post-modern (cyber) era, do not interact much with the rest of the empire.
Then there are groups who have come into the Empire from other nations, mostly south of the Empire – the Empire fills most of the Northern top of the continent. These groups often share a look, sometimes a language, and often a cultural heritage
In the Cyber era, physical differences between the Guardians’ Peoples are harder to see in most cases. It’s been an Empire at this point for a very long time, and although they often hold with the cultural and social actions of the tribe* of one parent if they are within a community of that tribe, it can be hard to tell a child of the Puma from a child of the Fox from physical looks. These differences were much more marked in the Imperial time, or at least more known – they could be anything from a specific shade of blonde hair to the general size of the nose. In the Cyber era, most people will say ‘Bear’ and mean ‘the Guardians’ peoples.’
* I’m using “tribe” here because “the People of a Guardian” is rather long
Music that originates from the Guardians’ Peoples tends to be group music, including sing-alongs and play-alongs where one person leads and the rest join in. Concerts in the Bear Empire involve a great deal of audience participation. In terms of specific tribes: the Snake people are very fond of flute like instruments; the Fox people go for complicated call and repeat where part of the idea is to trip the other side. The Elk people tends to prefer deep singing accompanied by drums and perhaps something like a trumpet; the Puma people definitely prefer rounds.
Looking at other nationalities: people from Halor prefer complicated rhyme schemes with simple melodies; the harmonies are generally more sophisticated and often involve musical Easter eggs.
Honestly I don’t know enough about the rest of the nations on this continent – or those they may have encountered by the Cyber era from other continents – to determine what their news of musical tastes are like.
But I know that a concert hall in the Bear Empire at full capacity has to be an amazingly raucous, beautiful spectacle. Not for the faint of heart!
IN ADDITION to all of this, I’ve been working on my own Mastodon/Fediverse centric (Rather than Twitter-centric) version of a hashtag worldbuilding party, starting in February.
I would love a/some guest hosts, if not in February then going forward. February’s theme is Relationships – you can see some of what I was experimenting with here – https://mastodon.social/@aldersprig/103511051945849773 and here – https://mastodon.social/@aldersprig/103510896809038255
What say you? Want to play with some worldbuilding?