Diluting the Premise, or Adding to the Awesome?

Posted on | July 7, 2017

I’ve been spending my week copyediting The Bastet, a short collection of contemporary stories I wrote to explore a single, absurdist idea: What is life really like for a catboy or catgirl? Which then requires a backstory: where do cat people come from, such that they can exist in an otherwise recognizable contemporary setting?

My solution was to play with a common trope, The Magic Goes Away. In the Bastet Universe, for a brief time (~400 BCE to ~200 CE), Magic worked. It worked pretty well. It ebbed and flowed, and sometimes skilled practitioners found their power almost completely inacessible, and other times so overwhelming they created disasters or just incinerated themselves. The “real” in-universe explanation is that magic works everywhere in the universe; it’s a mundane feature. Except in our region of space: 30 million years ago, a supernova either swept this space clear of whatever it is that turns will into reality, or filled it with a magic-dampening something. We’re the only place in the universe where something with a lemur’s consciousness and a need to escape a hungry tiger doesn’t automatically turn into nuking the planet. For that 600 year period, Earth drifted through a space where magic worked somewhat, but not reliably. And now, in our 20th century, we’re left with evidence of magic, but no way to work it. The Bastet are an Egyptian alchemist’s wild dream of a fierce soldier race, but we all know how bad cats are at following orders.

I have been tempted recently to write more in this series. It’s my only extant contemporary series, and the universe is a fantastic setting for other ideas. What magical creatures other than Bastet are there? I’ve had two ideas, one involving a tentacle monster, the other involving futanari. This slice-of-life smut which tries to take a wider look at how the world reacts to this sort of strangeness is my favorite kind of writing, since it’s about alienation and acceptance, which is pretty much how I’ve lived most of my life anyway.

I worry, though, that by writing about other ex-magica creatures, I’ll be diluting the original vision I had for The Bastet, which is taking catgirls seriously. I think I did okay (even if half the stories ended up M/M, and the other hand M/F; I realized I don’t have a single F/F catgirl story in the whole collection!), and I have more ideas in that theme alone, but would it wreck the original purpose of the series if I asked, “What other weird stuff did the great alchemists of ancient China, Rome, Egypt, and Mesoameria come up with?”

Comments

4 Responses to “Diluting the Premise, or Adding to the Awesome?”

  1. Bekador
    July 8th, 2017 @ 12:51 am

    Please dont forget Eurasia: Epona and the horses. The horse has changed from the worshipped creature from ancient times down to the proverbial workhorse and then to the “exclusive” pet and piece of sports equipment of today (including the sexual undertones when someone “owns” a horse).

  2. Elf Sternberg
    July 8th, 2017 @ 2:05 pm

    Hah. As I’m trying to rationalize this universe, I’m also trying to figure out what did and didn’t survive that period. The Bastet survive because their original vision was as an army, so a hundred of each sex were created in the first go-round. If I’m trying to rationalize other experiments, I have to believe they either died out, or their survival is much, much more tenuous and underground than the Bastet.

    The other thing I’m trying to emphasize is that there is no magic left. Not in any useful form. This universe is about the consequences of a post-magical universe; what’s left, what does it look like, how do people explain it, how do people interact with those consequences?

  3. Matthias Urlichs
    July 9th, 2017 @ 3:11 am

    Frankly I have problems with both.

    Futanari are too contemporary a phenomenon (yes I know that their origin goes back some ways, though probably not as far back as Egyptian times) to be entirely believable in the Bastet universe.

    Tentacle monsters on the other hand aren’t, well, human enough. Those things really work well only under water. Maybe the idea would work anyway, I don’t know.

    Yes, a F/F Bastet story is sorely missing. :-P

  4. Andy Wilson
    July 11th, 2017 @ 9:26 pm

    Well, there’s also The Sleeping Hermaphrodite, a statue from around the 4th century CE. Roman attitudes toward intersex people were somewhat less than affirming but then there are pieces like that statue.

    Personally, I’m of the bring-them-all-in! mindset just because I love seeing what Elf does with settings like that. However, I agree that “the magic goes away” is a pretty compelling filter: if a given population can’t survive and reproduce on its own, that’s that.

    But what if they survived in sculpture or literature? What of ancient odes to one’s beloved that make it quite clear how that person is equipped? Legends of the army of fish-men that just happen to be corroborated by multiple sources?

    What happens to the notion of religious authority and divine intervention when it has been documented that once upon a time, mortal man could do currently-impossible things reliably and repeatably?

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