Limyaael (limyaael) wrote,
Limyaael
limyaael

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Class/caste systems

So the little poll said, so shall it be.



1) What sustains the system? Magic? Age? Customs and traditions lost in the mists of time? Religion? Blood? Inertia? A combination of all or some of the above plus other factors? (I personally think authors, especially fantasists, underestimate inertia as a social force. Sure, there will be people burning for more than they’re given in every society, but there will also be plenty of people convinced that all they need is right here, and at most they want to make a few minor changes to ensure their own personal happiness).

Once you know what holds the system in place, you should have a much better idea of how the classes or castes interact, what small outlets for steam and change are permitted (see point 3), what the points of contact—and slippage—between castes and classes are, how they act internally (see point 4), how conscious people are of it (there’s going to be a difference between power constantly reinforced by flashy displays of magic and power that has sunk into the fabric of everyone’s everyday lives to the point where most people don’t notice it anymore), the age of it, how extensive it is (see point 2), and so on.

If you don’t have the slightest clue what sustains your class/caste system, I suggest you find out. About now.

2) Where does the system stop? Sometimes it ends at a nation’s borders, but sometimes not. For example, caste systems of some sort or another prevailed in many of the Spanish colonies in the New World; the “pure” Spanish were on top, the “pure” Native Americans and Africans were on the bottom, and in between were all the various possible combinations, with different positions depending on which color which parent was, how rich a Spanish parent had been in Spain, how long ago the mixing of “other” blood had been, what language a person spoke, where they lived, how great their chances were of actually leaving the colony and going back to Spain, and so on. The system stopped, for obvious reasons, at the ocean, and did not cross over to Spain partially because Native Americans and Africans were rare enough in that country not to make it necessary. (Spain was also the only European country to have been conquered by the Moors for centuries, so that perception also influenced the way the hidalgos and conquistadors responded to people around them in the New World. Not to say that Britain, France, and Portugal were much kinder).

Other times a system might extend across cultures, say if you have classes substantially established in a home country and then carried to another by colonizing powers—and then the natives in that area are weak enough not to become a major factor in altering the system as it reestablishes itself. This was the case of many British North American colonies where the Native Americans were weak enough to provide, at most, a feared or admired enemy on a few occasions, but the colonists were more concerned with their own internal affairs and their relationship to the colonizing country. (Disease had given them that luxury). It’s not to say that the people involved have to recognize what they’re doing, or end up replicating exactly the same relationships; the United States has famously been a “classless” nation.

Know what limits the class/caste system, whether it’s bound to place, culture, society, or a mixture of them.

3) Know your ventilation system and your carnivals. What are the outlets, the places where the steam and the anger of those who suffer within the class or caste system can leak out? They might be carnivals, or days when the master and the servant switch positions (as April Fool’s Day sometimes used to be), or the acceptance of a few “talented” or “special” or “unique” individuals who rise up the ranks and so become less dangerous when they’re at the top. If the dissatisfaction is widespread, it might erupt into riot, revolution, or civil war, but any class or caste system that has lasted generations will have mechanisms in place to help prevent that from being the inevitable reaction.

This is a good place to consider what exactly the place of social mobility is in your world. Is it accepted for those few talented or special individuals? (A deeply cynical part of me wants to write the story of the peasant hero who becomes king from the point-of-view of nobles who decide that he really has aristocratic blood against all the evidence, because that’s the only way they can accept someone from a lower class ruling over them—if he’s “really” one of them. This is also why I want to drop-kick authors who reveal that their “ordinary” person actually has the blood of kings or gods after all. Even urban fantasy has its variant, where the “mundane” heroine turns out to be descended from fairies, as if it doesn’t make sense for her to have achieved her victories on her own). Is the mobility denied, but happens anyway under the covers? Is it considered possible through a mechanism that no one has ultimate control over, like reincarnation, destiny, a god’s favor—possibly someone could fake this—or the sudden choice of sentient magic to hang around a certain person? Does it happen without existing as a concept, so people who rise from one class or caste to another don’t conceive of themselves as part of a process that others can access? And what about downward motion? Can you commit a sin or crime or loss of fortune that makes you Erzenkangran where you had been Ezzeran? If you have children with someone not of your caste, whose standing do they take on? (In British North American systems of slavery or indentured servitude, it was usually the mother’s; the child of a slave woman was not born free). And how many people are incapable of accessing whatever mechanisms for social mobility or softening the blows of the system exist, and have to stew their lives away in helpless frustration and anger?

Those stories of frustration and anger aren’t ones I see often. And while the people who are “special” enough, and potentially troublesome enough, to rise are great, I’d like to see stories of endurance, survival, and coping, too. Or people who can rise, but don’t take that as permission to cut off every human connection with the characters around them who aren’t as lucky.

4) What is the internal reality of each caste or class? Again, most fantasy is slanted. We get to see the internal reality of the highest class, or the royal caste. We know how they think of themselves and how they interact among themselves as well as what they think of others below them. Yet when lower-class characters appear, most of their energy seems to be taken up hating or adoring those above them, so the whole story is nothing but a mirror of a mountain peak. We rarely get to see the lower-class people interact with their own families, friends, and neighborhoods. We don’t know how they think of themselves.

So, consider. What kind of internal realities does the class/caste system you’re working with create? They might be pleasant, but try to explore the unpleasant ones, too. And know what the context—in this case, the system and the forces that created it—might make pleasant and unpleasant for different people.

And that means including both mental and physical conditions. When lower-caste characters do appear on their own merits, they can starve, have sores or diseases, scream and bleed, hold starving and dying children—but we don’t get to hear them think or speak. So feel free to contrast material conditions, but try to take on their personalities. (See point 7)

5) Remember that relationships are more complicated than just “top” and “bottom.” If the class/caste system you’re building is immensely complicated—the way it often was in the Spanish colonies—then the extreme top and the extreme bottom aren’t the only ones that can interact. Take a family with five siblings, and the youngest and the oldest don’t just relate to each other; they have their own relationships with the middle child and the second and the fourth. A system with five castes or classes should do the same thing. Meanwhile, all the ones in the middle have their relationships with everyone else, too.

How do they think of each other? How do they react to one another when individuals meet? How often do they have occasion to interact? (How far apart do the different classes and castes live? Even in large cities, classes often separate themselves). What stereotypes (probably more important than realities) exist in the heads of people from certain classes/castes as they think of other classes/castes and govern their reactions? What narratives do they tell about each other, and who gets to imprint the narratives as more than stories on the behavior of others? If there’s a crisis—a war, a famine, a plague, an alien crash landing—who’s the cannon fodder, who’s the scapegoat, who’s the protected and cherished victim?

And how often do they get to break through and see individuals?

6) Know how class and caste interact with other factors in the society. Among those, but not limited to them:

-Gender.
-Age.
-Race/ethnicity.
-Occupation.
-Religion.
-Politics.
-Economy.
-The legal system.
-Nationalism (if it exists in your world) or identity politics of other kinds.
-Art.
-Culture.
-Science.
-Mythology.
-Physical realities of the world (hunger, thirst, disease, need for shelter, cleanliness, geography).
-Magic.
-People’s sense of themselves as individuals.
-Other narratives that may oppose the class- or caste-bound one.

Even if your system is based on one or more of the above—if it has rankings based on who acts more masculine and feminine, for example, or if the most powerful mages rule, or if religion has dictated that certain people are pure and holy while others are not—it is not identical to those things; there can certainly be aspects of gender or magic or religion that the system names only vaguely, or not at all. I think one way that a class- or caste-based fantasy can fail is to assume that this system is the only defining factor in everyone’s lives (it never is; if nothing else, physical realities have got it beat). A second way is to assume that it only acts in isolation and is utterly immutable, and nothing can challenge, change, modify, or bend it. Point 3 gives one example of why that’s not true; that list up there is another.

This is another recipe for enormously complicated fantasy, I know, when perhaps you wanted to write a simple story about a three-tiered class system based on magic that the protagonist travels on a picaresque journey through. Sorry. I appear to be incapable of not leading it back to complication.

7) Think yourself into it. This is a place where a deeper sort of body-centered writing helps. Normally, I think body-centered writing depends on trying to feel what your character does, see what she sees, try to imagine what it really is like to climb down a cliff or ride a dragon. For a fantasy with a class or caste system wildly different from the society you live in—and this only gets more urgent if your class or caste position is not particularly important to you—try to think of the character’s body and mind as a citizen of that system would think of it.

If women of a certain caste are considered violently ugly and unclean at all times, but it gets worse when they’re menstruating, then try to imagine how a female member of that case would feel when she starts bleeding, and how she would think of herself. It’s not pretty, but it’s necessary, and it’s probably the best route to avoiding caricature and exaggerated reactions that, once more, will make the lower-class character into a stereotype while leaving the higher-class observer untouched.

If your character is on the fringes of her own class, in an occupation that makes her have to deal with those of other classes a lot—say, a dressmaker to fine ladies—she might need to be exquisitely aware, at all times, of what clothing and look and posture and tones in the voice suggest. Think like that while you’re writing her. Deciding it’s not important because it’s not important in your own life creates falsehood, again.

If you say that your system encourages citizens of certain classes or castes to think about their minds and bodies in certain ways, then show it doing so.

Tags: fantasy rants: spring 2007, pay attention to: class, rants on power dynamics, world-building: culture, world-building: society
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Oh, thank you. As an anthropology major, I find most fictional cultures teeth-grindingly annoying! This is a wonderful list of points to keep in mind.
Out of curiosity, what cultures would you be most interested in seeing adopted into fantasy worlds? I've been working on world-building non-Western cultures for several projects, and it can't hurt to do more research :)

(great rant)

collie13

9 years ago

templarwolf

9 years ago

collie13

9 years ago

deckardcanine

9 years ago

collie13

9 years ago

l_clausewitz

9 years ago

eveanhei

9 years ago

vote_incitatus

9 years ago

thricebornfenix

9 years ago

vote_incitatus

9 years ago

In India (and neighboring countries with similar caste systems), as I understand it, one section of a caste may try to rise; by adopting customs which belong farther up the ladder, for one thing.

In class systems, one family -- or section of a family -- may rise.

In both cases, there's an alternative to the individual alone rising.
Or, very rarely, a whole caste may try to rise. The actual caste system in India is nowhere near as simple as what most Westerners think, and the line between caste, subcate, and jat can be very blurred sometimes.

On the other hand, I actually think a family rising should be actually more common than a single individual rising since most individuals who do so are not conveniently orphaned in the way many fantasy protagonists are!

tasllyn

9 years ago

tasllyn

9 years ago

l_clausewitz

9 years ago

daphnemundefor

8 years ago

danialarslania

8 years ago

*Requisite pointless reminder that your self-described non-comprehensive list lacks "sexual orientation" as a factor, which is either not portrayed, or terribly significant in most fantasy*

To speak on the caste system of the Spanish colonies stopping at the ocean because of those differences not being present in Spain- it was actually the other way around, to some extent. The Spanish were, in 1492, in the process of expelling the Jews, (in addition to the back and forth Christian/Moor conquests you mentioned), and one's "Purity of blood" was actually considered to bleed into purity of soul in this case- an ancestor who was a heretic was just as bad as an ancestor of Jewish or Moorish family, with one's nobility/social class being another kind of purity that was taken into context in just what such an ancestor meant. This was also the dawn of the Spanish Inquisition, meaning that religious scandal could actually overrule class to cast shame on a whole family, even of a high class.

And "Suspected Convert" became a social class of its own in Spain, with religious art showing caricatures of features believed to be stereotypically "Jewish" at the time given to illustrate shady characters who acted immorally, even if they were not later revealed to be "fake" Christians. (The Cantigas de Santa Maria shows this very markedly.)

I only mention all this because it often had significant consequences for those who chose to go to the colonies- sailors who went on that journey were often thought of as doing so because they were secretly "conversos" (recent converts), and any journey between Spain and the colonies had this dynamic as a factor.

Which all only goes to show, as in 5 and 6, that there are always many factors working on a class/caste system at once.

THANK YOU for number 3- it's hard to remember that these things don't simply get plopped into place without some inter-class "dialogue" once in a while.
Most of these came from Spain, although some were produced in Mexico and (in rare cases) locally. Despite its restoration, San Luis Rey probably did more to recreate the impression of a mission against the Southern California landscape: a stark white edifice against high mountains, surrounded by land affected by drought.
Oh, thank you! This is interesting.

I always enjoy your rants. :)
I may have brought this up before, but this reminds me of Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders series.

The series is partly about the struggles of a prestigious caste/class of traders to maintain their political and economic power. Most of the books are from the point of view of a trader family or people closely connected to them, so we're really immersed in their viewpoint.

Then, near the end, Hobb smacks us in the face with the point of view of someone from a lower caste. It changes your perception of their goals, which suddenly don't seem nearly so justified or important.

The books aren't perfect, but I really liked that.
The pathetic reimbursements are only its worst feature to me (a doctor) -- the medicaid recipients can tell you in great detail how much it sucks from their side, and state lawmakers and administrators will fill your ears with horror stories from their point of view.
Number 7 is such excellent advice. And #5! And #4. And all the rest, too.

I share your adoration of complicated fantasy, but I wonder-- have you ever written a rant on pacing? Maybe my biggest problem is getting so wrapped up in exploring a character's mindset, world views, emotions, internal class realities, etc. in every situation, until the story creeps to a halt. How do you balance world depth with excitement??




I think this is an excellent point, although I have good reason to be, since I have terrible trouble with pacing. Just like you said, I get so far into the character's mindset and perceptions (including physical perceptions) that the story gets bogged down. I suppose it's easy enough to correct with judicious editing, but I'd be interested to see a rant on the subject.
I like to think about how large scale external events can shift class structures around. A war would start giving wealth and power to those associated with military that they don't normally have. Plague gives church and medicine a boost in status. A lot at the top are there because of wealth well what happens when the economy crashes. Labour shortages make workers more valuable and have more clout. Up risings will shift the class balance. We have seen examples in history as to how these events shift class structures around yet a lot of fantasy plots have world shaking events and the status quo remains untouched.
Class structures are not fixed in stone and if enough pressure is brought to bear then they move along or collapse.
An awesome and thorough rant! Another factor in class stability, of course, is labour - it's very easy to wonder why the downtrodden peasants stay that way and don't start revolutions, but it's awfully difficult to start examining The System when you and your family are struggling to even survive - the loss of one family member to a magical quest might be the difference between life and death for everyone else in the family. On the other hand, someone might be willing to travel in the hope of helping everyone else.
Of course, scientifically it's nonsense, but if you believe it, your body will respond. People who are believers and take placebos can have lots of wonderful beneficial reactions to various treatments, like accupuncture, accupressure, herbs, cleansing, etc.

nunyunni

6 years ago

"the United States has famously been a “classless” nation."

i dont think there has ever been a classles nation and even if you could enginer one i doubt it would lokk anything like america. example look at the treatment of the rotschilds and vanderbuilts of "new money" indivduals in the 1800's or look at the very distinct socio economic classes tied to race and to a lesser extent religion prevelant in america.

i think america is a fine example of an invisible but present class structure
namely it rellies on a belief that it does not exist to self prepetuate. but in actuallity it is as real as any other class structure in the world. (just try asking the guy looking for change on the corner)
I think that was her point - we don't like to see our class structure.

minervasolo

9 years ago

Deleted comment

conuly

9 years ago

minervasolo

9 years ago

Deleted comment

The Australian one is interesting. Socially-officially, it's "Everyone is equal." In reality, there's a vast difference between having an address in Lakemba and one in Dalkeith. I think at least part of it is that the very wealthy tend to fall into three categories from the point of view of the rest of us.

There's the larrikin rich - generally sports heroes and the kind of exuberant media-fodder like old Alan Bond in his heyday, who you wouldn't be surprised to run into down at the local pub buying a round for everyone, but who never actually went down to any pubs that didn't sport clientele in the eight-figure income bracket.

There's the Old Man rich, people whose names every knows but who stay out of the limelight unless it's on the business pages, like Packer, Murdoch, Ziggy, Rose Hancock etc.

Then there are the silent rich - people who are not only not known by name or reputation, but whose entire existence (and the existence of their class) is at odds with the Socially Approved Views, and who therefore slip from thought and memory almost as soon as their existence is proven. Australians have this huge blind spot when it comes to the existence of rich, high-class countrymen who aren't That Crazy Bugger In The Paper or That Guy What Probably Owns Everything.

We can sometimes name the wealthiest suburbs in a city, but either no-one knows anyone who lives there, or if someone DOES have a friend/relative who lives there, they're quickly dismissed as "Not really $suburbname material, ya know, it was a lucky break, it's a small place, they can barely afford the upkeep, it's just until the kids grow up, they keep inviting me over but I've never been, he/she was actually born in Grots Bottom, still supports the local footy team and everything."

The concept of the "Mom and Dad investor" had to almost be forcibly inserted into the collective skulls of the population with a chisel when the formerly government-owned telecom monopoly was floated. Owning shares and stocks just wasn't part of the middle-class mindset. It was something that That Guy What Probably Owns Everything did.

And yet there is actually a fairly flourishing wealthy class in Australia. Talk to the antique dealers, the high-end home renovators, the salespeople in the six-figure car showrooms. Or the real estate companies in the wealthy suburbs, the yacht builders, the top-tier architects. Their world is one where every client drops a million dollars on one purchase, and there are never any shortage of clients.

It's practically an entire hidden stratum of society.

ilmakka

9 years ago

topazlily

9 years ago

claudwillin

8 years ago

This is also why I want to drop-kick authors who reveal that their “ordinary” person actually has the blood of kings or gods after all.

I've read a variant of this, where the heroine comes out of obscurity (she grew up in a monastery) claiming to be the long-lost heir to the throne. She's merrily going around having adventures and raising armies. Stuff happens. Then, in the epilogue, when she's had her crown for several years (and things are very prosperous, incidentally), one of the minor characters tells her, "I've done some checking. You couldn't possibly be descended from the people you claim to be and here's my proof!" "And what are you going to do about it?" she asks, quietly smiling. He hangs his head: "Nothing, ma'am."
That's hilarious! That is such a good backwards twist at the end. Do you remember the book's name and/or author?

cat_i_th_adage

9 years ago

Awesome timing for an awesome rant; I've been struggling with this concept for quite a while.
Wow, this will be really helpful for the world I'm working on.

I've got two rough classes, and I'm still fiddling the "classes within classes". Mages rule over people without magical ability. But the outlet it built right into the system, because magic power doesn't follow lineage. It's not genetic, it's pretty much random. In fact, one of the main characters will be a mage born into a family from a small village (and then shipped off to the free, and mandatory, mage schools). The immediate family of someone who becomes a powerful, influential mage will have some of that influence rub off on them. And since the ruling mage of the country is chosen by the previous mage based on merit (as magic power isn't hereditary), my farm-born mage has a chance at the throne, without the overused cheat of "supa-seckrit surprize noble blood". And becoming the mage-king would cause one's family to sky-rocket in status.

Eh, I'm blathering on and on about things I'm still working on. Thank you so much for the rant! It should prove immensely helpful.
I have a vaguely similar set up, at least as far as Mages having a place in the top tier of government. I kind of conceptualize magic as a cross between an inherited trait and nuclear fallout... it runs irregularly in families, occasionally pops up out of the blue, and it's somewhat geography-linked, as well. People have been jumping classes based on the economic/political opportunities magic opens up all the time, and that's led to more freedom for generally talented and intelligent people over the decades, but big jumps still cause problems.

The ruling mage prior to my MC was born in a farming family. He had some unspecified fallings out with them during the course of his schooling, and ended up at the top of society, but unable to give his family anything they would accept. He seems to have seen himself as a sort of adopted father to my MC, a daughter of the most notable family in the area, whom he hoped would succeed him. I feel like he always thought of himself as a class traitor, and tried to disguise it... my MC thinks he was overly obsessed with fitting into the nobility. Now I want to give this character more page time! He had fun issues!

cathowl

9 years ago

devilpony7

9 years ago

cathowl

9 years ago

onyxflame

9 years ago

How strange for this to come up just as I'm about to sell a collection of stories about a very structured caste society.
On keeping or eroding class barriers, there's also language, beyond the uneducated dropping of letters and the like. Either slang that keeps the peelers out of your buisness (like Cockney) when you're not rich enough to get away with "eccentricities" or the speech that defines a higher class to such extent that non-natural speakers train their children into it to better their chances of social mobility. [bitter]

Whores next, right? [hopeful]
non-natural speakers train their children into it to better their chances of social mobility.

Word! (It seems an appropriate expression!) Dad, growing up in the North East of England before the War, spoke with the local accent at Primary School but RP at home. Grannie (daughter of a miner, married the son of a grocer) was very, very particular about it. Even now, my father doesn't really like hearing strong regional accents on the radio. I suppose a regional accent produced assumptions about a person's intelligence or fitness for her/his place in society.

Then there's schooling: Private; or Grammar school; or Secondary Modern/Comprehensive. Class is insidious.

saltnester

9 years ago

conuly

9 years ago

Ooh, thank you. This is extremely interesting and has given me a lot to think about - not only in what ways class systems work, but also in what ways they might fail to work.

For the record, my original-fantasy-novel-that-will-never-be-written is about a society that was formed when a large part of the class of craftsmen in another society decided to follow a crazy prophet and wound up creating their own little nation on the edges of nowhere. The story is set maybe a century or so later, and I've had a lot of trouble trying to figure out what kind of system they'd come up with, who would wind up doing the menial jobs, who would wind up doing the ruling, what kind of classes they would have, where the problems would be, etc. etc. So this helps me a lot. Although it makes me realise that I have a crazy amount of worldbuilding left before me, as my view of that society is still pretty vague.
Well...maybe the one thing that will help you a lot is remembering that they can't help being heavily influenced by the class (or subclass?) system of their original society. Even if they consciously set out to avoid that old class system, that already counts as a very strong influence.

kazaera

9 years ago

In one of my fics I've got a class and a caste system competing, as well as a group who are outside the caste system. Class and caste are pretty much fixed in my world, but I admit I've only really dealt with it from the PoV of the highest nobility and their personal household, including their slaves. I've got at least two types of marriage, one's restricted to within your own caste but not necessarily class, and the other almost always crosses caste and usually class as well. I'll keep this list in mind when I work on the story that sort of establishes these castes and class, or rather reinstates them, and on my next two stories, focusing on a royal marriage, and the interactions of two slaves in the royal household with less priviledged positions than the ones I've focused on so far.
There's also shades of status within the class levels, based on history and fortune and who's related to who and a whole bunch of stuff. If a character was born into a certain house/family/clan/group, he or she may automatically have a higher default status than someone born into different circumstances, even though they are both of the same class/caste.

Sometimes, the differences within a class are even enough to blur the line in some places.

This, of course, makes for all kinds of interesting politics and friendships and groupings and potential relationships.

"You can't possibly be considering Lord Huffledrum. His great-to-the-eighteenth-ancestor wore the wrong shade of blue on one of his hat-feathers on the thirty-ninth Festival of K'norg!"

"It's him or the grocer."

"WHAT? Wait - does the grocer have ties to the Horck Trading Alliance?Hmmm..."
power that has sunk into the fabric of everyone’s everyday lives to the point where most people don’t notice it anymore

Boy. I don't know what it is if it doesn't remind me of what Laozi said in the Daodejing (or the Tao-te-ching for those who still prefer to stick with Wade-Giles). Talk about "the best ruler is one whose subject don't know that they are being ruled."


or the acceptance of a few "talented" or "special" or "unique" individuals who rise up the ranks and so become less dangerous when they’re at the top.

Now this reminds me of the Imperial Chinese civil service examinations. (You know I'm a bureaucracy freak.) On the other hand, it also brings forth the anthropological point that the presence of effective modes of social mobility can contribute greatly towards the stability of a class system--something you've elaborated about--because it allows people to think about how they were going to get into a higher class rather than breaking the class system altogether.

I think that's also why the American society claims to be "classless;" it's "classless" only in the sense that clas boundaries are highly fluid and permeable, though they still exist. This makes people more inclined to think how they're going to rise in class (mostly by getting richer) than about what might be "off" with the system itself.

BTW, I sort of wrote an entry in my journal some time ago about merit and self-perpetuation in a non-meritocratic society. Maybe we could consider it an expansion of #3? ;)
Ooo... that was also a useful rant. Education can be a huge factor in stablizing class systems- it might be the dominant one in the nation I'm working on at the moment. Now I need to figure out what sort of educational system would support the sociopolitical structure I'm favoring at the moment...
Awesome rant! Perhaps it's different in novels, but I've noticed in RPs and fics that oftentimes a character is made royal or noble just to have the money and specialness with none of the responsibility, and will go slumming in backwater inns without worry of being shunned by others of their class, and of course the lower class people accept them without suspicion, etc ad nauseum. I'd definitely like to see more clearly defined class and social structures and real consequences for breaking the boundaries like there would have been. But yeah, this was covered in earlier rants :P Since I have my peasant-puppet-ruler thrust into the upper class, I'm definitely going to make sure she doesn't fit in perfectly, if at all, and the same with the princess-turned-washerwoman on the other end. *feels inspiration finally returning to write*
This is good. Thank you! This is really helping me with a story that has very sharp class lines going. I particularly like the last few points as far as getting into the motivations and feelings of the various characters in my story.
Sure, there will be people burning for more than they’re given in every society, but there will also be plenty of people convinced that all they need is right here, and at most they want to make a few minor changes to ensure their own personal happiness.

And live happily ever after in a steady-state economy maintained by the will of the People. Ambition is prideful and wasteful and makes you a tool of The Man.

We get to see the internal reality of the highest class, or the royal caste. We know how they think of themselves and how they interact among themselves as well as what they think of others below them. Yet when lower-class characters appear, most of their energy seems to be taken up hating or adoring those above them[.]

This is more than you can say for politics. There, the rich are depicted similarly to demons in a Chick tract, or like the cogs in Disney's MMORPG Toontown. The poor are either driven to violent jealousy -- which is considered a righteous thing -- or do nothing but wait for the college kids to come slumming in.
I'm working on a country/race with huge caste boundaries. They're the Benders, and they have a sort of magic that allows them to manipulate various elements. Water Benders, Earth Benders, etc. Basically, the cast depends on the fact that various of the varieties of the Benders came from different parts of the Creators body. They believe all other races came from his stomach. There's also the divisions of Priests- Warriors- Farmer- Traders- Outcast/Unclean.
Priest are close to the gods. They believe that in fighting you draw close to the gods. Farmers are just menial laborer. Traders come very close to Outcast/Unclean because they have to associate with other races, who automatically come under Outcast/Unclean.

Does that make any sense? I'm trying to figure it out more and get more variations inside.
Maybe, although if you've watched the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender you might want to change your mind about the name "Bender."

Re: Thanks

wokmistress

9 years ago

This has nothing to do with the rant (which I loved, btw), but I thought you'd find it interesting.

http://www.io.com/~sjohn/demog.htm
That page has been on my bookmarks for a couple of years, but the thing I noticed most from it is that I've never used it to construct my fantasy worlds!

This is principally because the resource is designed for GMs/DMs who need quick average figures, while as a writer (and an obsessive researcher at that) I usually have the time to examine the specific sources for the historical epochs and locations I deem to be most appropriate as the models for my fantasy settings. And when it comes to the military details like castles and fortified cities, I find that it's more fun to place, plot, and count them by hand on my own map than to get cold numbers like this!

It might still be a useful resource for other writers, though. And the book Fief advertised there is even more valuable.
Wow, these rants are really good (and so very useful)

I'm currently writing something with a very definite caste system amongst my elvish peoples (Fay and Sylvan, who will get much better names when I get around to doing some research).

Mind if I friend you?
These rants have really helped me
*makes puppy dog eyes*
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