Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Ancient Invention

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Engineering before engineers.

Well, at least, before engineers as we know them. Certainly, long before engineering degrees from universities!
The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention and Engineering in the Ancient World (which is an updated version of a book I bought some time ago), both lay out some interesting ideas for “modern” technology for ancient cultures. They both present some great ideas for the basics of technology in a created culture or world.
For instance, China was quite advanced. The Chinese are famous for inventing paper, but they also invented the first printing press and gunpowder. Though, they used those technologies differently than we did in the West, due to cultural differences. They also invented luminous paint and earthquake detectors.
Other ancient cultures invented other suprising things, including water wheels and complicated plumbing and sewage systems. The Romans had heated baths similar to what we’d think of as indoor, heated swimming pools!

Of course, for me, it’s all the little things that really make a world seem real. Things like, what kind of clothing was worn and why. Like, how they lit their way at night. How they prepared their food. A lot of that, though, can be found in these two technology books. Think, for instance, about how much food needed to be processed and moved to feed the ancient Roman Empire or any of the Chinese Dynasties. All things to consider when building a world from whole cloth. And, every decision has impact on the others and implications in the way a people actually live. These two books begin to explore some of those relationships. The rest, though, is up to a creative author to discover.
So, what are you waiting for? Get reading! Then, get writing!!


ConLang Generator

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

New and Improved!

Way back when I first put the ConLang Word Generator on this site, my ultimate goal was to have something that created an entire language via CGI. There were lots of tools available for making words and even languages, but they were all limited in some greater or lesser way. For instance, the very good LangMaker by Jeffery Henning, is for Windows only. Chris Pound’s Name/Vocabulary generators require going to the command line, and it helps if you know a bit of PERL, too. But, I wanted something that would crank out languages on the web. Originally, I have to admit, I was trying to figure out a way to charge for this, but it’s just too fun to keep it to myself, so it’s free.
My ConLang Generator is based on Chris Pound’s PERL scripts, but with heavy modification. My English source files come from a number of sources, but mainly from resources associated with LangMaker.

So, standing on the shoulders of giants, I have finally made a free ConLang Generator. Enjoy!


Flora Inspiration

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Did you ever wonder where the bannana came from?

What about the orange? Or nutmeg? Or coffee? Economic botany is a pretty important part of our lives, though, we might not even be aware of it consciously. I started to get interested in this aspect of herbiculture when I went looking for a replacement for coffee in a fantasy setting. I was suprised to find that there are actual classes taught about economic botany! In fact, one of the best resources is an online economic botany text book at the UCLA botanic garden’s website.
Another “quest” was to find out more about lacquer. I found several references regarding this closely guarded Chinese technology, but the basics can be summed up here. Lacquer was originally made from the sap of a tree. It’s really an amazing substance, too. It makes wood fire-proof and otherwise wear-resistant. It hardens rather quickly and completely, but the Chinese artisans that first started using the plastic-like substance found that letting a certain kind of crab “swim” in the stored mixture keeps it fluid for days longer than normal. For years, the Chinese had a strangle-hold on the trees that produced lacquer sap and, therefore, the lacquerware market. That market dominance was eventually broken, of course, but it makes for an interesting plot or sub-plot.

So, there’s something to think about the next time world creation comes up. What plants fit where and why? Who uses them and how does that effect the rest of the world? And, really, these are just the tip of the iceberg on economic botany. The limit is, literally, the author’s imagination.



Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Sheep which is mid-afternoon.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Which way do rivers flow?

It seems like such a simple question, doesn’t it? But, it’s not quite as easy as one might suppose. For instance, I’ve been told numerous times that rivers generally flow North to South. But, this FAQ on that’s just a misconception. (Here’s another link that also dispels some river misconceptions.) Really, what matters is elevation, the degree of change in elevation, and the material over which the water travels. The flatter the land, the more the river will wander or meander, and the slower the speed of the water flow. The reverse is true as well, the steeper the elevation change, the faster and straighter the river will run. (For more details, see this article on
So, essentially, rivers tend to flow “down” in the sense of the lowest elevation. That might be toward the coast and ocean, or toward a lake, or even toward an underground cave complex. The important thing to remember is that water in general, and rivers, flows toward the lowest point of gravity on the landscape, where ever that might be.

Well, you maybe asking yourself, that’s great but who cares? Anyone making a created world, country or culture. Rivers are a great way for people to move resources quickly and efficiently. They also tend to be sources of useful animals and plants. Water, after all, is one of the most important ingredients for life, so water attracts life. Rivers teem with life, both on their banks and in the river itself. Any place that attracts life in great quantities also attracts civilization as well. That, in turn, brings interesting things to write about. And, that, after all, is what I’m after!

So, let the water flow and the creative fiction ideas flow with it!

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Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Do we actually live in one “slice” of the Multiverse?

Well, according to this article in Scientific American, we just might! Multiple universes have been a staple of science-fiction for as long as the concept of other planes of existence have been contemplated, but physicists think they might actually exist. It’s hard for me to hear the term “multiverse” and not think “comic book”, but the comics industry apparently borrowed the term from quantum physics. Who knew?
Anyway, the article is pretty darn interesting and brings up some interesting thoughts about different ways that this multiverse might exist. Pretty much every possible configuration sounds like something that a science-fiction author has explored at one time or another. The good news is, though, that far from being a deterrent, my familiarity with science-fiction made it easier to understand the rather heady theories being tossed about.
If you’re contemplating any kind of “alternate” anything, including alternate history, this article should give you a jump start on the underlying concepts.



Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Okay, here’s a new angle…

Here’s a news story from Yahoo about a guy who claims to be a time traveller who “knows” what the market is going to do. He started with an $800 portfolio and in two weeks made over $350 million! What’s interesting is that no one can seem to find any record of the name this guy is using prior to December of 2002. He’s apparently claimed that he’ll tell us where Osama Bin Laden is and how to cure AIDS as proof that he comes from the future. Well, I’m game!

This does point out, though, why that old sci-fi favorite of travelling back in time to buy the right stocks on the stock market wouldn’t work. You’d have to be pretty darn careful or someone, somewhere would notice. On the other hand, it could just be an interesting plot twist. Of course, there’s still the old lottery gambit. You know, going back and getting a ticket with the winning numbers on it. Hmm… That one has some possibilities. Oh, and combine the two and you’d have an interesting tale of greed! Of course, time-travel is really more the realm of fantasy than science-fiction. Asimov came up with some rules about time travel that seem pretty solid to me. He was, after all, an actual scientist and a genius to boot. Also, he’s still one of the most prolific writers of our time. Still, those time travel stories have always piqued my curiosity….

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Language Archive

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

The Rosetta Project is really rolling now.

I first read about this in a news story in Wired. Their goal is to create a permanent, or near permanent record of dying languages. Their goal is to preserve at least a thousand of the roughly 7,000 languages on the planet. They expect more than 80% of those languages to die out due to globalization and modernization. What Wired talked about was the method they plan to use for preservation. Somewhat suprisingly, they don’t plan to use a computer-based technology. Rather, they’re going with a low-tech, but durable and easy to use, disk etched with examples of the same text in all 1,000 languages, just like the famous Rosetta Stone that allowed us to dechiper ancient Egyptian. (The text, incidentally, is the first book of the Bible, Genesis.)

But, what interests me the most is the on-line language search engine and the Comparative Word List Generator. With this bad-boy a person can generate lists, or tables, of the translations for the 207 most widely used and important words in language. Now, not every language listed has this table compiled, but the major languages all do and quite a few of the less major languages do, too. In any case, it sure is cool to play with when thinking about creating a language. Shoot, they even have grammars and phonologies and orthographies for hundreds, in some cases thousands, of languages. It’s well worth checking out!


Military Phrases

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening.
The moon is a Full Moon

What does a soldier need to know how to say in a foreign language?

It’s an interesting question, I think. I actually hit on it by accident. I was looking for an Arabic phrasebook, just because it’s one of the world’s major languages that I don’t have a phrasebook for yet. While I was searching, I came across a book that was an Iraqi Arabic Phrasebook for Military Personnel. That got me thinking… What do those soldiers need to know when they’re talking to the natives? What kind of questions and answers are expected at check-points? How does one tell an enemy soldier that their surrender has been accepted? Do soldiers make small-talk with the natives? What about intelligence gathering? Or, bribes?
Unfortunately, the book was unavailable, so I couldn’t see what the authors thought military personnel should know. In any case, it sure is something to consider when building a language, a world or culture, or a story about international war.

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