Lankhmar, Sanctuary, Darujhistan, Tanelorn, Bas Lang…
I love fantasy cities. As settings go, there’s something about an interesting fantasy city that just sets my imagination running. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy fantasy stories set outside an urban environment. However, few non-urban settings can carry so many different, complete stories in such close proximity and still retain some semblance of verisimilitude.
That’s what I want to do with Ythis. There are dozens of stories I want to tell in Ythis, involving the Five, the Church, the criminal guilds, the Tsojim, the Ksathash, the noble families, the movers and shakers, the wheelers and dealers, and the innocent victims caught up in events beyond their control. The Tower of Dust is only the first such story, and the Severed Oath will soon follow.
I do intend to set some stories in other parts of the Empire, and even outside the land controlled by that horrid government, but Ythis is the focus for me, and will be the setting for many of the stories I want to tell. Some will feed off of events in previous novels, and some will set some events in motion, but generally each story will be self-contained yet part of a larger tapestry.
So how much planning have I done around Ythis and its inhabitants?
In truth, I want Ythis to grow dynamically. The Tower of Dust does not contain a map of Ythis, and in large part this is because I have defined only those parts of the city that were essential to tell Borolt Zale’s story. I have a general feel for the rest of Ythis; some of the neighborhoods, some other landmarks that weren’t part of the first novel, some characters who will appear in future books, and the way some organizations are run.
But Ythis is still partly a blank canvas, and I want to leave it that way until it must be filled. The creation of a city like this should be dynamic and raw, and should take me – and my readers – through unexpected twists and turns. Defining too much of the city before it becomes essential locks it down, makes it static in ways that you can feel when reading about the city as a setting.
Like an old map of a region with “Here there be dragons” marked in unexplored areas, I want Ythis to surprise me, to feel dangerous, to remain unknown and unknowable in its entirety. It won’t remain that way forever, of course. But I hope that Ythis becomes more than just a backdrop to individual stories, that it takes on a life of its own, and that readers get a chance to explore new nooks and crannies with a sense of excitement and a little touch of fear.
Will there ever be a map of Ythis? I’m sure I will create one at some point, if only to help to keep the various areas straight and ensure I don’t contradict myself in a future book. But it won’t be a map you can ever trust, should you find yourself on a dark street some night, caught between the Temple and the Tower of Dust…