CSFF Blog Tour – The Shadow and Night, Day 2

If I weren’t locked into titling CSFF Blog Tours by the format you see in this post, I would have called this one World Building. Seldom does “setting,” one of the necessary elements of a novel, get front line billing in discussions of craft. With the exception, perhaps, of science fiction or fantasy. Without a doubt, the more imaginative the place, the more important it becomes for the reader to grasp the setting.

Chris Walley in The Shadow and Night, first in the Lambs among the Stars science fiction trilogy written for adults, does a remarkable job building a world that feels familiar and foreign at the same time.

The story takes place in the far-distant future, and Earth (or Ancient Earth as it is known) has expanded across the galaxy, terra-forming worlds into Earth replicas. The Shadow and Night opens on Farholme, a world in progress at the far reaches of the Assembly of Worlds.

On one hand there is this very “other” feel, as people travel through space by gate technology and on there ground via six-wheeled Light Groundfreighters. On the other those colonizing the world work toward its continued development, riding horseback, at times, and living in isolated, small villages. There is a remarkable tension between the advanced science and the primitive pioneering conditions.

The closest I’ve come across (and you need to remember, I’m not well-read in science fiction) to creating a similar world is Kathryn Mackel in her Birthright Project. In that story, however, the Earth had succumbed to the ravages of war. Thus the primitive.

In The Shadow and Night, the primitive is actually a result of advancement as the frontier continues to push toward the outer edges of the galaxy. It has such a natural feel, especially for anyone familiar with the settling of the American West—except, of course, the sculpting of the land to copy Ancient Earth.

In addition to the unique advanced/primitive tension, the world of the Lamb among the Stars trilogy feels dense, complex, believable, in part because of the maps and charts accompanying The Shadow and Night. But this world is not just about the geography of the place but the history of the people. It feels set in time, with peculiar cultural anomalies not found in other worlds.

Chris Walley has expertly crafted perhaps the most important element of science fiction—the world where his story can unfold.

I’ll let others on the blog tour discuss the theology connected to the fact that this world is a result of thousands of years of peace, initiated as a result of people turning to worship God. You can see what these bloggers have to say through tomorrow: Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Grace Bridges Jackie Castle Carol Bruce Collett Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour Gene Curtis D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Janey DeMeo Jeff Draper April Erwin Beth Goddard omitted from original list posted at CSFF Marcus Goodyear Rebecca Grabill Jill Hart Katie Hart Michael Heald Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Jason Joyner Kait Carol Keen Mike Lynch Margaret Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Melissa Meeks Mirtika or Mir’s Here Pamela Morrisson Eve Nielsen John W. Otte John Ottinger Deena Peterson Rachelle Steve Rice Ashley Rutherford Chawna Schroeder James Somers Rachelle Sperling Donna Swanson Steve Trower Speculative Faith Robert Treskillard Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

Published in: on February 19, 2008 at 11:05 am  Comments (5)  
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5 Comments

  1. It’s so important to remember in writing spec fic that the world is a character all it’s own. It’s great to hear that Cris Walley knows how to make it come alive. Sounds really different. Intriguing for me, since I’m not a big techno-gal (which is why I shy away from sci-fi).

    The thing that always gets me is when the writer spends so much time telling the reader about the world that the other characters fall by the wayside. I kind of felt that way about LOTR. I know that’s heretical to say, but I love the people in the story. That’s why I read them. There has to be a good balance between tale and universe.

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  2. The world was fascinating, agreed. I can’t comment on it beyond that, mainly because when I came to a long paragraph of world-building description, I skipped it. After the initial chapters, anyway.

    I suppose that’s about as heretical to say anything negative about LOTR. Please don’t burn us at the stake, anyone, ok?

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  3. Being a “world builder” myself, I liked reading his descriptions. I really like how you brought out the tension between the extreme futuristic (ships that travel at light speed) vs. him liking to use a horse to go north. I noticed that, but not to the point of actually pointing it out! Cool! Thanks! Thats why we need one another. I think it pointed to the fact that, despite all our uses of technology, there are still some things that we can no replace. I think it was Ronald Reagan that said, “There is nothing for the soul of a man like the back of a horse.” And that is SO true…

    CH

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  4. I like your contrast between old non-technology like the horse for transportation, and traveling through the Gates to other worlds. Merral had the technology available for rapid travel, but when he needed to observe the Farholme northlands up close he chose God’s creation – a horse – over a jumper or an anti-grav sled.

    Tim

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  5. Rebecca, you wouldn’t be the first person to admit skipping parts of Tolkien. I just recently finished re-reading LotR and didn’t skip any of it. In fact I was a little astounded. I’d remembered much more Elfen passages that what were there. I did try to read the appendices but had to give those up!

    Rachel, I tend to think that all of us spec writers struggle with wanting to tell our readers all about the world we’ve conceived. In mine I had long passages of backstory revealing the history. Finally I realized that was material for a possible prequel! 🙂

    Christopher and Tim, I can’t say quite why that tension between the old and the advanced hit me so. Could be because I was still looking for a fantasy. 😀 Anyway, once I started thinking about it, I saw how effective it was for Walley’s trilogy.

    Thanks for the comments, all.

    Becky

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