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Using "Eras" to Differentiate Major Events in Fantasy History

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Tangle Shine, May 11, 2017.

  1. Tangle Shine

    Tangle Shine Scribe

    In my thread Wars and Revolutions - Do You Have Them in Your Stories, I came across a reply by Antaus which intrigues me to discuss an interesting topic.

    From the excerpt of my reply to him, I have shown my approach to categorize major events in my WIP.

    I called each division of historical periods as Times, where there are roughly 4 Times:
    - Beyond Times (BT)
    - Ancient Times (AT)
    - Old Times (OT)
    - New Times (NT)

    For example, a year may be named as OT 398.

    The description for one of the Times, Beyond Times is as follows:

    Beyond Times

    The pre-time world simply known as the Canvas existed simply. Whose ancient being disputably the Canvian sought to rediscover the proper ways of rebuilding the realm once deemed flawed in the previous attempt. They assembled each other to congregate a convention, the Prime Covenant of Canvas; where they discussed telepathically about how to utilize the given blank workspace (the Canvas) to produce something corporeally perfect.

    Some Canvians agreed to create something which could last forever and so remain the current realm in-progress as perpetually perfect, so that the world has no need to be rebuilt once and for all. Some Canvians agreed to create something which could alter according to external influences and so shape the current realm in-progress as perpetually imperfect, so that the world has reasons to be rebuilt and learnt from the mistakes.

    The two agreements of their own proposals led to the Conflict, when both sides disagreed with each side's intention. The Conflict whom Canvians caused escalated further; when the newly-formed quasi-faction: the Lopsang (lawp-sang; Changer), broke the cage of Time hence Time flows chaotically. Another quasi-faction: the Gagan (gah-gun; Stasis), was enraged by the doings of Lopsang that they created Space to contain the escaping Time.

    Unfortunately, the Time flowed too fast that the Gagan could not contain all of Its influences across the chaotic Canvas. They could only expand the Space further and further so that the Time could be trapped completely. They did succeed, however, they were also entrapped themselves within the boundary of Time. They cannot escape their own undoings henceforth the stage was set.

    In later times, Time was fully established inside the Space. The laws and natures of the realm were set in stone. Changer humiliated the Stasis by dominating the overall observance and construction of the Time-filled Canvas. Stasis could not do anything but to watch the world being formed by those fierce celestials, unwillingly. The Conflict was over.

    Then thing happened, some Canvians started to appear corporeally physical. The First Revelation had come, they were becoming mortals to live in this flawed world, again. Some traces of the Canvas started to tear down as well, manifesting themselves physically to accommodate the mortal Canvians. In this incomplete yet spherical land, they declared themselves as Divine Mortals, the Yaws; and declared their footing world as Mutual Struggle, the Yura. In the final moments of their declarations, the Changer silently observed. "Interesting," one of the members telepathically whispered.

    The Times ended and Ancient Times began.

    I personally like the idea of telling backstory of my WIP world using this approach. It can easily lead you to worldbuilding disease, but if you can control the use then it can be very decent. Not only it can enhance the depth for readers, but also it can be used as reference for writers to relate their stories with your fictional world's concepts (for instance here, I used metaphysics to briefly explain the nature of my "universe").

    I would like to hear out yours!
    Last edited: May 11, 2017
  2. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    I think that using eras is a very good idea and the more important a time period is the for the story, the more sub-eras can be used to make it easier to grasp for the reader.

    Using eras can allow you to gradually inform your reads first about the general shape of the history and then use them as aids when you go more into the details of it.

    Since it was asked for my own periodization for a VIP project this is one that I've got:

    Mythic Age - myths and ancient heroes and such
    Summer Reign - the kind of transition between the Mythic Age and the Golden Age
    Golden Age - loss of the Summer Reign but everything is still awesome
    Silver Age - not as awewsome but still pretty good
    Iron Age - this cruel and thankless age of sweat and tears

    All of this could of course be changed at the drop of a need for the story. ;)
    Tangle Shine likes this.
  3. Aryth

    Aryth Minstrel

    I think the use of Eras would be extremely helpful in orienting readers. Sometimes I get confused because I am supposed to keep track of a number of significant historical events but it's not clear whether historical event #1 was far back, way far back or even when it was in relation to historical event #2. Some authors try to make certain events sound old by calling them "legends" or "so long ago it turned myth" but I find it helpful to know when those events happened in relation to everything else.
    Tangle Shine likes this.
  4. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    I wonder if cavemen thought in terms of eras before we came along and stuffed them into the stone age?

    I do enjoy when stories have enough history that I get the feel that something organic has evolved into what we are reading about now. That ages and times and events have passed, shaped a lot and in some ways were causes to the effects. I don't however, really enjoy a lot of history about the fictional places. So the conundrum is how to fit it all in when it may not matter to the reader or the story, or the characters in the story. Kind of a shame to invent stuff no one will read or know, but I do feel it has to be there to flesh things out a bit more. I hate to say it, but this is kind of my issue with Tolkien. Loved his story, but found his writing boring. I did not care for all the histories. I do like, though, that the story does have knowledge of things that came before, and that they may be organized into times and places.

    The very fact that they will have been organized also says something about the people who did such. It shows what they thought was important and shaping about their past.
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  5. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    In The World, historiographers and philosophers of various stripes have divided Time up into divisions that correspond to eras or ages. Some of these large divisions are set periods of time, usually based on the greater astronomical cycles. So, a star age is a somewhat arbitrary era comprising forty hipparchian ages. A hipparchian age (25.200 years) is basically a zodiacal annum, the time it takes for Gea to precess through each house of the Zodiac.

    Philosophers love to name things, and these great stretches of time are no exception. The current Star Age is Calior; the last one, which ended rather recently, in 2187 before the present era, is Xora. Hipparchian Ages are also named. Myriades (periods of 10.000 years), millennia (1.000 years), centuries and years are also named.

    Some ages or eras are less precise in their timing, and these are less calendrical and more historical in nature. The philosophers of Men divide the time of Man's existence as a race into five Ages of the Sun. The First Age was about 60.000 years long, and the second about 30.000 years. As you might be suspecting, the length of these Ages is rapidly --- some people might say alarmingly, even --- diminishing. This has quite naturally led to the rise of several competing schools of philosophy on the matter. The most vociferous of these (and the ones who seem to have gotten a pretty good grasp on the reality and future of things) are called the Fifth Sun Philosophy. They hold that the Fifth Sun, which began about two thousand years ago, is pretty close to running down to every philosopher's favourite topic, the END OF ALL THINGS!!!!!!

    Of course, the Truth is that "all things" are nowhere close to ending (the Seven Squirrels of Regenreck are nowhere near to finding the location of the Irminsul as of yet). But the end of Man as a race, well, that's a different matter! That may be closer to hand than many, even philosophers, are willing to admit to.

    Other kinds of historical eras also exist, and are nothing like as apocalyptic. The Age of Archaic Empires is roughly akin to to the prehistorical civilisations evidenced by Satal Huyuk and Gobleki Tepe *here* --- in terms of The World, this Age was that time of fabulous, almost mythical golden age civilisations that arose and fell before the better known historical kingdoms of Sumer, Miser, and so forth. Atelante the Downfallen, is probably the best known (and actually in some ways survives in the form of its one-time colonies); Punt was another, until it got flooded out and its inhabitants scattered about. Those were in Hespera. In Eosphora, there were the archaic empires of Ania, Hoopelle & Anadyr. Of these, Hoopelle lasted the longest of all, limping along to its forgone conclusion in the 257th year of the present age. The time frame for the Age of Archaic Empires was between about 12.000 years before the present age to about 6.500 years before, and ended in great cataclysms. A few of those archaic empires limped on, however, as you can see.

    An Age of Proto-Kingdoms evolved from the dark age that followed the cataclysmic end of the Empires of old. Men being terribly forgetful creatures, they forgot their ancient history and rather than asking for records from those people who dìd bother to remember it, they just turned what few scraps of ancient dignity that they had retained into myths and legends. Kings and queens of old become gods; history becomes garbled legend of derring-do; ancient and deep philosophy becomes nursery rhyme and half remembered fable. You get the idea: Golden Age begets Silver Age begets etc. It's from this terribly degraded era that Man's modern "history" unfolds in all its dubious glory and its irredeemable pride.

    Religions also have their eras. For the Jehudians (Jews), the Third Temple Era just recently (and rather abruptly) came to a disastrous and permanent end. There are many Jewish kingdoms spread out along the trade routes of middle Eosphora (some more or less Jewish in nature) and as far east as Auntimoany of Narutanea (the Eastlands). I dunno when the Fourth Temple Era will be declared, but there are three likely contenders for the new temple's location.

    For the Kristians (Christians), there's, of course, the era Before the Incarnation and the era Since the Incarnation.

    Just a little bit of interesting lore, from a few years ago:

    If you happen to have been in the imperial city of Auntimoany at the end of the year (2013), you could witness an ancient and terribly respectable tradition, the Proclamation of Yare Namdeyand, the Namegiving ceremony. Every year, the scholars of Yllem consult the venerable Enumeration of Years, a great codex that lists all the names of the thousands of years from the distant and dimly remembered past and on into the distant and as of yet unknown future. The Enumeration itself was devised by the wise scholars of nearly eight thousand years ago, and their modern descendants will compose a Proclamation that gets delivered to all the houses of government, colleges, scholia of philosophy, great temples and churches of Narutanea, and even beyond.

    This is a very big affair in Auntimoany: the Emperor and Empress go over to Parliament House and wait with all the hundreds of MPs and high justices, archpriests, bishops and monks of many houses from around the Empire to hear the name chosen for the New Year, beginning on 25 March, 2014. A Speaker in full academic regalia, sent from the Collegium at Yllem, will announce it thus: Peoples of Onutumun of Narutanea*: Blessings and Peace in all your days!! --- the day now nooning being the 11th of Newyear by fortnight reckoning, or that is the 25th of Yastermath by moon reckoning; the tenth year of the reign of Handfast of the Bloody Blade, Emperor of the Avantimen, in the 2014th year of the Fifth Age of Man, being the 2100th year of the Pesqas Zodiacal Era in the Pwerncas Hipparchian Age in the ninth Age of Stars which hight Calior, the ninth Age of Stars having been born 4201 years ago when the Torras zodiacal era, the Nimbullas Hipparchian Age and the Xora Age of Stars passed away. By these Presents, spoke before the Emperor in Parliament and before the Peoples in Parliament Circus, shall all Men and Daine and all other kindreds know the old year of the Mighty Waterwheel has passed into the bosom of History and all shall henceforth clepe the new year that comes that of the Mended Scapula!

    (*) Onutumun is the (very) ancient name of Auntimoany, from long before the time ere Men even awoke in the distant Southlands. Could be a nod to the Daine who've lived in the land some myriade or longer. One wonders why the Scholars should choose this particular name rather than the more politically correct "Auntimoany". Perhaps in their deep store of wisdom, they recall some things other people have long since forgotten.
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  6. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    I would imagine the cavemen did. At the least I would think that they divided into the eras of; Before anyone can remember, What my grandparents remembered and told me, What I can remember and Present.
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  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Some of the earliest archaeologists on our world lived in the first millennium BC or before.

    I've been listening to the podcast Hardcore History by Dan Carlin, which Brandon Sanderson plugged in the latest Writing Excuses podcast, specifically the series of casts titled "Kings of Kings." [HIGHLY recommended.] It's a series of three, and I'm on the second one. He makes the comment that the early peoples living in ME, thousands of years ago, were aware of other much older cities and civilizations that had lived hundreds or thousands of years before that. Also, apparently the king of Babylon when Babylon was conquered by the Persian king Cyrus was an avid archaeologist, digging up monuments etc. from the past, and in fact his obsession with this (which Carlin suggests he seemed to want to do more than actually rule, much of the time) may have led to the weakening of Babylon.

    Plus, there are examples (not mentioned in the podcast) of ancient Egypt discovering monuments further into the past and uncovering them, even adopting them as it were to strengthen royal ties to "the past" as if to suggest the rulers had family ties going back to times immemorial.

    So the idea of peoples of every time having a concept of "ages" and far-distant periods is very easy for me to accept. The fact that hard evidence such as ruins hundreds or thousands of years old helps, also. In fact, I think it'd often be more realistic to have a concept of "ages" for fictional societies than not to have them. (However, the average person on the street might not have much thought for such things, beyond the random person who'd encountered ruins etc., unless perhaps the ruling classes brought this idea to the forefront through tradition, religion, or parading ancient artifacts around.)
    Last edited: May 12, 2017
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  8. RedAngel

    RedAngel Minstrel

    For me I use Eras as periods that happen within an ages. Though I do use a variety of time frames in addition to Eras.

    My largest time frame is an Aetern or eternity. It measures the birth of reality and the creation of the expanse until such a time as the aether runs out or it collapses back upon itself back into a singularity reforming Aetirma or heaven until such a time that the void starts to cast its shadow upon Aetirma and the void is pushed back once more.

    Followed by Aeyons which can be considered as ages within an aetern. Typically they measure the rise and fall of pantheons and empires of the gods.

    Ages measure the life spans of god kings within each pantheon whom can live anywhere between 30,000-150,000 years or longer depending on their makeup of the 12 aspects of creation.

    Eras are a lesser measure of the deeds or periods within a king gods rule counted by the minions or mortals of their creator god(s).
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