View Full Version : Calling it like it is.

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

Pages : [1] 2

October 28th, 2005, 09:20 PM
I've always believed in calling things what they are in fantasy world- a horse is a horse if it acts like a horse, etc.
So, my current world is 'powered' by elementals. Salamanders produce fire, undines control water, sylph control the air, and gnomes (the elemental version, not the wee folk), can manipulate the ground. As an alternative to gunpowder, I've got dried salamander poop. Its a bit more toxic than gunpowder, but has the same effect- when lit, it goes boom.

But I'm wondering, should I just say and use gunpowder? Other then how its gathered, its pretty interchangable.
Any thoughts?

October 28th, 2005, 09:30 PM
actually, one of the principal components of early gunpowder was found in manure, so you really aren't too far out in left field.

I recommend you read something about gunpowder to give your own recipe a bit more of an authentic feel, perhaps its salamender dung mixed with something else, perhaps dung just substitues for saltpetre. you could extend this pretty far if you liked, substituting magical materials for mundane (I suppose that's really the idea anyway).

I think gunpowder would certainly work as a name, though it wouldn't hurt to brainstorm for an alternate: you could always use both (ie. the 'scientific' name all the mages use for slamander scats and the common name soldiers and gunners use).

October 29th, 2005, 02:53 AM
Pre-requisit to calling it gun-powder: Guns exist and are either the first, or the main application of the thing. So much for stating the obvious.

If you should call it gun-powder or not, that's a cultural question. Do they know that the world is "pwered" by elementals? Do they care? Do they revere them? Do they exploit them?

If our gun-powder would have been made form demon droppings in a Christian country, it would probably have a name to re-flect that. (It was a monk, who created gun-powder, wasn't it? Come to think of it, he'd probably have been too scared to experiment with demon droppings. Or, it would have been blasphemy...)

Ah, the topic! *grin*

October 30th, 2005, 01:32 AM
Why not call it by its more historical name of Black Powder (http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Black_powder) - you can only really get away with calling it gun powder if you have guns in your world.

October 31st, 2005, 08:11 AM
Why not call it by its more historical name of Black Powder (http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Black_powder) - you can only really get away with calling it gun powder if you have guns in your world.

My question wasn't actually about the name- I'm just thinking that, in my world, salamander poop is used just like gunpowder, so maybe its pointless to explain its salamander poop, and just say they use gunpowder as we have know it. On the other hand, I've spent alot of time trying to design a world that is powered by elementals - basically they are trained and kept like domesticated animals. So saying salamander droppings are used to power weapons is another layer of that.
As far as the name of the weapons- I've simply been calling them shite guns or shite arms.

October 31st, 2005, 08:57 AM
As far as the name of the weapons- I've simply been calling them shite guns or shite arms.

I do think you should tell the reader that it's salamander dung. I'd want to know that, as a reader. It makes it interesting.
But, I think you should let the reader know without having characters explain it to each other by using the tortuously long name "salamander dung". The characters know that already, they don't need reminding. Maybe you could subtly weave the information into the plot.
As for what to call it, if it's a shite gun, I'd just have people call it "Shite" with a capital S. I think that would be the natural development of the language.

Unless, of course, you mean to employ other animals' dung for other purposes, at which point it could get confusing.

October 31st, 2005, 09:19 AM
Wouldn't they be more likely to call it salamander spit or something like that? As has been pointed out, gunpowder is the powder that is used to power guns. But it wasn't called gunpowder until "gun" started being used as the word for guns and cannons, as Expendable points out. And in other languages, it has many other names.

So if you're calling a gun, a gun, then gunpowder would make sense. If not, it would just be confusing. If the focus of the story is these elementals, then the fact that they use salamander poop as their weapon needs to be conveyed, I'd think. Otherwise, what's the point of having them use salamander poop?

You might want to check out Marion Zimmer Bradley's Elemental series, and Weiss/Hickman had a series with a realm in each element, I believe, back in the 1980's that was pretty big in the field, just to see what some other authors have done with the concept and how they've handled these types of issues.

November 1st, 2005, 02:16 AM
Maybe the salamander's a secret ingredient. Like the really ripe anchovies in Worchester sauce. Otherwise everyone else would be raising salamanders.

November 1st, 2005, 10:55 AM
Eewh, there are anchovies in Worcester sauce?

November 1st, 2005, 11:12 AM
Eewh, there are anchovies in Worcester sauce?
Could be worse, could be salamander!

The way I see it, elementals are powerful and dangerous, and require very specialized care and feeding, as well as a goodly dose of magic to keep in check. Generally, only the governments and large companies can afford/manage them. There are enough, however, that byproducts of elementals are common enough (such as in the use of gunpowder).

I'm envisioning a steampunk-level technology. I'm still working this out, obviously. It will take awhile to work out how elemental power would effect every level of the world I'm creating. Any thoughts to this end would be much appreciated.