Zallar as Worldbuilding

Nuno Ferreira is the author of The Bleeding Sword (Espada que Sangra) - the first volume of a Portuguese Fantasy Series published by Editorial Divergência

What is this about worldbuilding? Building is first a kind of creation. Then, develop the world. Gradually, you’ll know every nook and cranny of it, as a dad will know his child and his attributes throughout the child’s life. Don’t build a new world whenever the old one bothers you. Or don’t build new worlds if you will not treat them with love. Building also means caring.

Building a new world is like setting up a Lego set, with the caveat that in the end we don’t know what it will look like. For me, this is the most attractive quality. My passion for Lego has always been about bringing together several constructions and invent new ones. The doubt about the outcome and the belief that the work can come to life and be even better than I hoped is my guilty pleasure in this building process.

As a reader, I like all kinds of literature, but as a writer what really thrills me and challenges me is to build something from scratch, something that the reader can identify with while shouting to you “I’ve never seen this before”. This is really what excites me as an author.

My experience with worldbuilding dates back to my childhood, with Lego buckets, pirates and skeletons that huddled around an island on the bed when my own room became “the world”. A bookcase revealed itself as the castle of the darklord, the bedside table the refuge of the survivors of a tragedy and even the lamp could have its own purpose.

In this worldbuilding process, our sources are the books we have read, the movies we have watched, the series we enjoyed so much a couple of years ago or the documentary we watched at the Christmas. It is this data crossing and the connection to our vision that results in the production of something new.

The first fantasy books I read were Fighting Fantasy by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, more a game than literature, followed by Filipe Faria’s Allaryia Chronicles. I never concluded them because I read The Lord of the Rings and Eragon meantime, and at one point I lost interest in fantasy literature. This happened because all the worlds and the magic used seemed so much the same to me. I never understood why fantasy worlds must have magic.

Game of Thrones TV series and A Song of Ice and Fire books rescued my love for this literary genre. Slowly I fell in love with a world of fantasy fiction that at the same time seemed real. This story inspired me to create Zallar. I took a story I had drafted years ago about a world inspired by Dragon Ball anime and reminiscences of the great civilizations of Antiquity. Then, I developed this world to current standards in Fantasy. Thus was born my first published book, Bleeding Sword, and the world called Zallar.

The division of a country into city-states was based on Ancient Greece and the conflicts between Persia and Sparta, and several cultural details of the civilizations I created, mainly Hyldegard and Welçantiah, the major city-states of the Dun Land nation, drink heavily from these same sources. I made the climate more arid and included deserts, meeting my narrative interests. I added to them several features of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Mesoamerican civilizations and gave them our fauna and introduced them to a wide range of prehistoric animals. I made them discover gunpowder and offered them firearms earlier than expected. In the end, I cooked the ingredients until I thought my Dun Land had gained its own identity. I can say that it was from the set that my story came to life.

Layer after layer, I used key characters as references of the races in which they are inserted, with their temperament as identifying the characteristics of each society. While there are, obviously, giant differences between characters from a single social cluster, there are always traits that bind them together. My greatest effort has been to give credibility to every character, every race, every civilization, even though it is a fantasy world that always allows us to take certain freedoms.

My Zallar’s Red Stories is heavily influenced by History. Since the narrative began, however, the story took charge and I just let the characters drive it, acting truly only when I thought other options would seem more solid to me. The construction of Dun Land was only the first stone on my worldbuilding, because this world is still expanding until all points of Zallar are revealed. Zallar is just one of three planets, Zallar, Semboula and Bhaset, the second of which is explored in my book Iron Tongue: Any Bastard and the third in Embassy, which will be released soon by Editorial Divergência.

Who knows, how many more worlds can be born of my imagination for this galaxy and this Zallarverse (as I like to call it)? And how can those I already built be explored in the future? Worldbuilding is, above all, to love creation, the fruits of our work, and this requires the production of something new. It seems irrelevant creating a new world if it is going to be similar to previous ones, if it is identical to what has already been written. There will always be similarities, but everything new must bring something more to the reader. Provoke in him sensations that he never had.

By Nuno Ferreira

Nuno Ferreira collects hats, books and legos. He was an actor, managed a theater company, practiced kung fu and ballroom dances. Occasionally presents fado nights and small shows. Nuno has a degree in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management, but keeps alive the passion for the editorial world. In 2012 he founded Notícias de Zallar, a blog which produces regular content about Speculative Fiction. Nuno had published several short tales and he is the Espada que Sangra author, book finalist for the Adamastor Great Award for Fantastic Literature 2018 and 2019.

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