A Certain Lack of Focus

Monday, March 31, 2008

Fantasy and Spreadsheets

Yeah, who knew I could put those things together in a title? So I've spent the last two hours plugging ages of faeries for my novel into a spreadsheet to see how things break down. It's been shockingly helpful.

eyeThere are a couple of tricks with my faeries that make figuring out character age difficult. The first trick is that the faeries age at about human speed during childhood, then at around age 11 when they begin puberty their aging slows dramatically. At around age 13 they "change" getting their wings, horns, lengthened fangs and become sexually mature (sort of... about as sexually mature as you would expect a girl who just got her period to be: aka able to reproduce but not necessarily recommended).

The other trick is that this group of faeries lost a war about 18 years back. When they lost, the victorious faeries slaughtered all the elders (faeries over age 70) and all the faeries of reproductive age (13-63). When the leader of the tribe begged, they left some children alive, but killed all the children that were descendants of the remaining faeries (there's a practical social reason for this which I may explain later). So what had previously been a healthy population of faeries (ok I know that sounds ridiculous, but bear with me) was left at 25-30 older faeries and five children aged from under a year to eleven years. It took five years before the oldest of these (a female) was able to reproduce. The next oldest female (in terms of reproduction the adult males are still viable, so male children are irrelevant) was only five years old at the time of the war, which means she would not be able to reproduce for approximately eight years.

pregnantThis all sounds a bit cold, and it is, but by playing with these numbers I've discovered some interesting things about the society I'm creating. For one thing, I've got all sorts of extra reasons for the frustration and bitterness I've already put in there. That's nice to know. The main thing I've realized though is that for the female children left after the war, life would have been hell once they reached reproductive age. The oldest child for example, had five children in the course of thirteen years, all by very old men (faeries). The oldest of these children was taken from her, the next oldest lived, the next was mutilated, the next was stillborn and the last lived. At the time the book takes place, she's pregnant again. Possibly even more devastating than her status as a broodmare is the fact that she would have been forced into sex pretty continually as soon as she matured until it was evident that she was pregnant and then again once the babies were born. This is not only because of the brutal nature of the characters in question but the practical concerns of rebuilding a population that was growing from 300 or so pre-war, and shrunk to 25 immediately after.

She's not a particularly important character but knowing this makes her more important to me. It gives me a better understanding of my creatures and my story. I also now realize that whatever desperate measures this group of faeries take, they are probably doomed in the long run since they have only three blood lines to start from. Suddenly, just by putting something as simple as ages into a spreadsheet, I know all sorts of things about the society I created that I never would have imagined on my own. Now that's weird science.

*Pregnant image is an altered image from a photo I found on flickr. Linked.

1 comment:

Blackswamp_Girl said...

This is SO a Meagan post. :)