Wednesday, 21 September 2022

The Rest of All Possible Worlds: Appendix N (+1)

Somebody's got to have made an N+1 joke before about the Appendix. Still, it fits in this case: only the first and second parts of the below details the inspirations for the continent of Calliste and its residents. 

Some of this has already been discussed in this post, or in passing in TRoAPW posts. Footnotes added where apt. [Square brackets] indicate something unfinished or unread. This doesn't quite include every piece of fiction or non-fiction or art or <Other> set in or around the Long Eighteenth Century that I've read, but hopefully there's enough. 

This is Appendix material, so I suppose it's Spoilers, in a vague sense. A peek behind the curtain. But, well, some of the references in (say) my post on Pavaisse were not subtle.

Image added to break up the text - and to remind the reader that there is a Classical Antiquity for Calliste one may refer to with a different set of influences.

Inspirational Fiction
Candide, Voltaire
The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson
Mason & Dixon, Thomas Pynchon
The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco
An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
A History of Henry Esmond, Esq, William Thackeray
The Luck of Barry Lyndon, William Thackeray (& Barry Lyndon, 1975, Dir. Stanley Kubrick)
The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas (& the 1973 film of the same name, Dir. Richard Lester)
Guns of the Dawn, Adrian Tchaikovsky
On Stranger Tides, Tim Powers*
Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
The poetry of John Dryden
'The Cavalier of the Rose', in Anthony Burgess's collection The Devil's Mode (this is a prose version of Der Rosenkavalier - though actually listening through one of Handel's operas wouldn't hurt).

Inspirational Non-Fiction
Map of a Nation, Rachel Hewitt

An Answer to the Question: 'What is Enlightenment?', Immanuel Kant 
The Search for the Perfect Language, Umberto Eco 
The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes
Peter the Great, Robert K Massie
Imperial Spain 1469-1716, JH Elliot
Prince Eugen of Savoy, Nicholas Henderson

These would fit neatly into the world of TRoAPW. 
Against the Wicked City, Joseph Manola**
Hot Springs Island, Jacob Hurst
Qelong, Kenneth Hite
[Behind Gently Smiling Jaws, David McGrogan]
[There is therefore a Strange Land, David McGrogan]

These offer images of a magical past and future. 
Cthonic Codex, Paolo Greco
[Ars Magica]***
Magical Industrial Revolution, Skerples
The Lord Darcy mysteries, Randall Garrett

These don't necessarily inspire the world in which Calliste is set, but rather some of the magical systems and ideas behind it or offered as possibilities by TRoAPW.
Anathem, Neal Stephenson
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (et al), HP Lovecraft
The Blazing World, Margaret Cavendish
The Chronicles of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
Warhammer Fantasy
Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny
The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
Tales of The Dying Earth, Jack Vance
Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser, Fritz Lieber*****

* The 2011 Pirates of the Caribbean film differs so significantly that it will not be cited in the same breath as the book. Still, scrubbed of the franchise elements, the movie could be used as a TRoAPW plot.

** I've not been shy about my appreciation for Against the Wicked City, or employing posts like this. Of course, the clockpunk elements of AtWC don't quite cohere with TRoAPW (nor do, I should say, the Romantic elements), and there's already a thumbnail sketch of 'Europe' and expanding powers

    But none of that outright bars the various states of Calliste from existing alongside the Great Road. Honestly, I quite like the idea also that while 'Europe' is running round debating the definitions of spells schools or the use of grimoires, 'Central Asia' is tinkering and fiddling and making and doing in a thousand different workshops (and you can get clockwork prosthetics and airships and robots and The King Is Watching You Through His Statues and.....)

    Maybe one day this could make Calliste ready for an explosively effective magical Industrial Revolution (Cf. Part Two of this post, in the para starting 'I'm going to tangent...') - but that hasn't happened yet.

*** Unread - see here.

**** Unread, but there's plentiful internet material on the subject. 

***** An RPG references Lankhmar? Unheard of! But, of course, the reference here is less the City of Sevenscore Thousand Smokes and more of an option for magical antecedents: see here. See also McKilip's Forgotten Beasts of Eld, which I should reread. 

† I guess The Gardens of Ynn and The Stygian Library should be here as well. But, well, their ability to be plugged into a game is part of their selling point.

‡ Cthonic Codex could be the 'Magic of Late Antiquity RPG'; Ars Magica the 'Magic of the High Middle Ages RPG'. Magical Industrial Revolution is, as I wrote in my review, a possible result in my mind to TRoAPW. 

    The world Garrett makes for his Lord Darcy mysteries is clearly Victorian in tone (gas lamps, revolvers, steam trains, evening dress) but the magicians and the laws and mores around magic make it rather more like a world in which very few of the reforms proposed by mages in TRoAPW happened (or were defanged, or overturned, or....). The Medieval elements of Lord Darcy (Western Christian practice without a Reformation, an enduring Anglo-French Angevin Empire) naturally reinforce this. 

    Perhaps Lamentations of the Flame Princess could be a 'Magic of the Reformation and Wars of Religion RPG'. But I think that LotFP doesn't quite counts as a fully fledged setting, and while I appreciate its use of Early Modern Europe, it's rarely consciously about that time. It may be that some LotFP publications would fit in this proposed niche.


Your chance, chaps. What am I missing? What is there that I really ought to read?


  1. Interesting! Many of these I have not read. Anathem I'm familiar with, and I read the Chronicles of Amber a long time ago (probably 25 years or so ago). I've also read my Lovecraft and a very VERY long time ago I read the Earthsea books though I just picked up the first one again and am planning on re-reading it.
    I can think of a number of recommendations, but I'm not sure how well they would fit into the idea of Early Modern Europe - most of what I can think of might check two of those boxes but not all three, except for maybe the Discworld stuff - which I'm assuming you have already read, but probably doesn't have much influence on TRoAPW, at least intentionally. I note one of the influences is John Dryden's poetry. I have not read Dryden (I will do so, though) but I have been on a bit of a poetry kick lately - some of my current favorites are by Robert Browning, who you might look into? I'll try to think of other work I know that fits the criteria!
    Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Dryden maybe isn't a main influence here - at least compared to something like The Baroque Cycle. But he's clearly worth reading for his own sake, and not just for snide references in Malmery. Browning I know vaguely - he's outside the obvious window of time here, of course, and I'm not sure he writes about magic that much. Why do you suggest him?

      I've read most all of the Discworld books, and much of the supplementary material. Ankh-Morpork, at least once it gets properly developed, feels a little too modern (IE, after the French Revolution). There are those 'Industrial Revolution' stream books (Moving Pictures, The Truth, &c) - but they sit outside the 'Age of Discovery and Debate' angle that TRoAPW tends towards. Obviously, the wizarding debates over how much ritual paraphernalia you need to carry out the Rite of Ask-Ente are very TRoAPW.

    2. Yeah, Browning is outside the time period. I think I was surprised to see ANY poetry as an influence and he's been top of mind for me recently, but also I was thinking of his characterizations of poeple who do fit the period a bit better - the Duke of Ferrara (1533-1598) in My Last Duchess and Filippo Lippi (c. 1406 - 1469) in Fra Lippo Lippi. As I understand it, he did a number of other poems where he is speaking as a character from roughly the same time period (Andrea Del Sarto) and then there is the description of the knightly quest in Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. But it's really those first two that I am most familiar with, and in part my recommendation was one purely because I enjoyed them so much. That said, the Duke would make a GREAT villain!

  2. For its title and style if nothing else, "Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds" by Fontenelle (1686). Lovely speculation on the other planets: I was especially intrigued by this: "In America, you know, there are birds which in the dark will afford light enough to read by : how can we tell whether Mars has not a great number of such birds, who, as soon as the night is come, disperse themselves on every side, and give an artificial day ?"