One of the most entertaining yet frustrating parts of fantasy writing is developing your fantasy world. So many aspects to consider-everything from foods, climate, language, religion- clashing cultures doesn’t always come to mind. `In our multicultural world, it is surprising that this element doesn’t naturally come to mind when we are creating a world of our own.
Of course fantasy novels do mention different cultures, but they generally barely graze each other. For the most part these cultures are at odds. They hold beliefs and values that are in opposition and they hold no respect for each other. Think of the elves vs dwarves stereotype of most epic fantasies. Meaningful connection or symbiosis is not common. Rarely do you find a novel where these different cultures exist stablely or at peace with each other, particularly in an urban setting.
The above picture shows the city of Berlin. The height of modern technology juxtaposes the ancient and crumbling facade of the church beside it. Though the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was built in 1890, it is easy to imagine it is much older. Possibly even of another world entirely…
When I look at this image I see an advanced culture, perhaps elven, who may have lost connection to their roots in nature. Cold and harsh they put all of their efforts into gaining power. With their withering magic, growing weaker as they become less connected to nature, they build smooth fortresses of marble. They rule over their city and begrudgingly allow space for dwarves, rough and gruff as ever. Their rugged church shows that they still pride themselves in working by hand with the same skills they have used for centuries. When pressure is put upon their world which culture will prevail?
When imagining the different cultures that might exist in this environment, the social ramifications are what should have the most impact in your writing. How do these cultures effect the trade, economy, religious climate, the politics? How do these two cultures interact? Are they friendly, tolerant, begrudging, hostile? Consider each culture’s values and traditions. Thinking beyond the basics of food and clothing will bring your world to life.