Raina’s Fantastic Ramblings: Discovering Beauty Through World-building

This one is likely to be a little short, since I have been busy lately preparing some books to be published (or re-published), and have not kept ahead of things.

So, today I’m just going to talk a little about something that has been on my mind: how writing stories has broadened my appreciation of beauty.

Either that, or it has accompanied the broadening of my appreciation of beauty. Or is that broadening. Questions of cause and effect are not always clear, especially in this area in my life! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, but writing and making stories is how I think and process things, so saying that it is either an effect or a cause is … probably usually not exactly accurate!

It used to be, when I was a little child, that I had a very narrow idea of what was beautiful: green. The Spring-time. Water flowing everywhere in little rills and tiny waterfalls, and green leaves on the trees, and green grass and other ground cover on the ground. Lush with life.

The desert was ugly. Summer was … not ugly, exactly, but I did not like seeing the vegetation go yellow, and I did not like seeing the trees lose their greenery in the Autumn. And deserts were pretty much ugly – all that sand and dry ground, and only a few scraggly bits of green here and there, holding on, and not even the beautiful kind of green!

As for the sea, I’m not exactly sure why, but I didn’t care for the sea either. It occurred with some regularity in my poetry, but I usually wondered why it was present there at all, since I didn’t really like it. It is frightening … and I just did not see the beauty, the awe, or the life in it.

A lot of these things are changing. I learned to love the sea, not as Corostomir and Aderan do, but to see the beauty in it and to rejoice in it, through writing Kindred of the Sea, a story about two men who are desperately in love with the ocean. My descriptive style might be described by some readers as “minimalist,” yet through writing my character’s experiences and being in their minds, feeling their thoughts, I see the wonder in the ocean now. It is breath-takingly beautiful and awesome, and I understand what was present in those poems so much better now.

Far more dramatic has been the change worked in my appreciation for what I used to call barren. The transition from only seeing beauty in the Spring and lush foliage to seeing the beauty of Summer, of the aging vegetation, the drying grasses, has been long in its beginning. But to see the beauty in deserts … that is newest of all. As I write several stories about people who live in desert or somewhat desert-like climates, somehow I come to experience a burning appreciation for those kinds of places. The stark rock, red or white or grey, perhaps wholly unrelieved, or maybe adorned with a beautiful little cactus or a bit of crawling ground-weed … acres and acres of dunes, adorned by nothing by the wind … uncounted miles of drying yellow grass waving in the wind over gently rolling hills … I see the beauty in these things now, in such a way that I wonder how I missed it before.

And, perhaps the most decisive moment in this journey was the creation of certain elements of my fantasy solar system, the Anidril System. I do not love Areaer and Alaer, rich earth-like, Areaer very earth-like indeed, and Alaer full of bright, deep, rich oceans, less than I love Anjea, the little rocky world that orbits closer to Anidril. Anjea, rocky and barren, isolate and beautiful, a little orb of rocks and plains that shall never know the tread of terrestial foot or the root of a plant. No stories shall ever be written there, but it is none the less beautiful for that. It is gorgeous and wonderful, with a beauty all its own. It is wholly right and just for Areaer to swarm with life, thick forests and plains run by various beasts, and oceans of life, it is altogether wholesome and beautiful for Alaer to be wreathed around in seas full of every kind of oceanic life, but it would be a trespass and a defiling of a beauty all its own to try to make such things live upon Anjea. Its “barrenness” is a richness and a beauty unique.

the planet Anjea as it would be seen from space
Anjea; picture made by James M Geary for Raina Nightingale

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