Forever Is Not Enough, or How to Lose a Great Title

Pub Interior, by Leonard Defrance, 18th CenturyWell, I have some…er…interesting news. Apparently great minds think alike.

Some of you know that I’ve been working on the background for a themed anthology called The Forever House since early 2016. The concept is a shared setting, a sort of pan-dimensional tavern that can appear anywhere, and any time, in the multiverse. An artifact of high magic, created by the Ancients, a mysterious race long lost in the depths of time. A tavern/inn that draws in travelers and adventurers, either directly or sometimes in their dreams.

In fact, here’s a vignette I published way back in 2016 that was set in the Forever House.

Oh, yes, I know. There are other magical bars in the SF/Fantasy field. But this one, well, I went all-out on the details. How the magic works. Who works at the establishment. How guests can arrive either in person, or sometimes in a dream. Imagine a magical bar with the details worked out to the level a role-playing game supplement. Picture a bar outside of normal space and time where Sauron and Gandalf could have a conversation…

Sadly, my title, The Forever House, has been totally STOMPED on by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, who is developing an anthology TV series called…you got it…The Forever House.

Now picture how annoyed I am at the situation.

I’m actually about three months away from publishing an anthology featuring this magical inn…

Now, I don’t blame Mike Mignola. He had no knowledge of my project; he’s done nothing wrong. It’s just a coincidence. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’ve researched his project, and it’s nothing like my Forever House project. In Mike’s background, the Forever House is a mansion where lots of magical artifacts are stored. It’s intended to be the basis of an anthology TV show, with each episode featuring a different artifact. He just latched onto a cool name.

Before me.

Given that there’s an entertainment company involved, there are already trademarks involving the Forever House name. In fact, based on a commercial search, a trademark has existed since 2013, which obviously predates my project.

I could still probably use the title, but why would I? I wouldn’t want to be drowned out by a more widely advertised and popular project. And an entertainment company can swing a lot more marketing dollars than I can.

Sigh. It quickly became clear that a name change was in order. I consulted with my friends and fellow writers in my writing group, the Hourlings, and finally selected a new title.

So, the new working title for my anthology is “The Forever Inn: The House of Many Worlds.”

Not much of a change. But just enough.

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Mozanya Rough Sketch

Even the most complex things can start with just a rough sketch on a napkin, or the back of a Christmas Party invitation in this case (thanks, Liz Hayes). This is a rough map of the port city of Mozanya, where Pageeda and Scuffee from my story, “Bitter Days,” are living a hard scrabble existence as homeless refugees.

Mozonya: Rough Sketch of a Fantasy Port City

OK, I know the map still needs a lot of work, but you can still see the basic concept for this northern port city. The sketch is something I scrawled out while discussing world building details with my friend, Bill Aguiar, after a writing group meeting. By the way, north is to the left.

Here are some details about the city, straight from own own background guide:


The port city of Mozanya straddles the mouth of the Yangazi River, a highly navigable waterway that wends its way from the Cragenrath Mountains across the entire length of the kingdom of Salasia and thence to the Western Ocean. Positioned southward of the typical freeze line for ocean ice, the port is generally open all year, although shipping is considerably reduced during the stormy winter months. Mozanya’s strategic location makes it a bustling center for trade.

The Yangazi River divides the city into North Mozanya and South Mozanya. Most nobles and rich merchants live in North Mozanya, which also hosts expensive shopping districts and numerous government buildings including the Etisimah Palace, the fortress-palace of the Praytor. South Mozanya is considerably less refined and more vibrant, a veritable melting pot of diverse peoples and raucous trade.

Mozanya’s size, its population of approximately three hundred thousand, diverse peoples, unique geography and sheer amount of trade present unique challenges for law enforcement, tax collection and city safety.

City Geography

The terrain around, and within, Mozanya can best be described as rolling hills. Mozanya itself sprawls across five sizable hills. The two highest are in North Mozanya. The houses of nobles and rich merchants ascend the hills in stately terraces, ostensibly for the admiration of the lower classes. South Mozanya is built on and around three smaller hills. The Tween (where Pageeda and Scuffee live) is located in South Mozanya. Some people derogatorily refer to the two halves of Mozanya as Highside and Lowside. One of the southern hills, formerly known as Beacon Hill, was renamed Temple Hill by the Church of Turkos when it acquired the rights to the land.

Within Mozanya, both banks of the wide Yangazi River are lined with docks for shallow river craft and barges, and are generally referred to by the unimaginative names of North Bank and Riverside. Expensive trade goods and the tourism trade tend to gravitate towards North Bank. Otherwise, businesses on both sides of the river compete intensely for river shipping, including bulk goods, livestock and slaves.

As an ocean port, Mozanya’s primary advantage is the Crescent, a rocky, natural breakwater that provides the city with a spacious bay, the Bay of Fools, protected from the Western Ocean’s tumultuous winter storms. As with the river trade, a sharp division exists between the two sides of the city. Thanks to expensive magical dredging, North Beach supports the largest and best maintained docks for the larger, deep draft ocean vessels. This leaves Dockyards to focus on smaller ships, budget shipping, the slave trade and fishing, including the dangerous arctic crab hunting trade. Dockyards is widely rumored to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Thousand Kingdoms.


Since the Yangazi River was too wide to be easily bridged at its mouth, Mozanya originated as two competing port cities, Mozey and Anya, on opposite sides of the vast river (to the north and south, respectively). The era of bitter competition ended 437 years ago when Mozey eventually proved victorious under the leadership of Everard, who became the first Praytor of the unified metropolis. Everard promptly declared Mozanya to be the new name of the combined city.

The city supports three distinctively different bridges:

  • The Bridge of the Morning Mist: Deciding that improved ties between the two halves would be beneficial in maintaining his unification efforts, Everard commissioned the building of the Bridge of the Morning Mist. The bridge, a narrow construction of steel and concrete, was positioned on the eastern, inland side of the city to take advantage of a strategic ridge of bedrock underlying the river. It was the city’s sole bridge for more than four hundred years. The bridge’s relatively low height and the distance between support pillars limits the size of river vessels that can pass down the river and into Mozanya.

  • The Bridge of the Graceful Heron: The city’s western bridge is one of the most advanced bridges in the Thousand Kingdoms. Known more colloquially as the “Archway,” it is a graceful steel construction with a concrete roadbed that soars across the mouth of the river, with pylons on several man-made islands. The Archway is more than three times the length of the city’s eastern bridge, but bears the majority of the city’s cross-river traffic. Unlike the other bridges, the Bridge of the Graceful Heron was mage-built, but designed to not require ongoing magical maintenance.

  • The Bridge of Heroes: The oldest of the three bridges and the closest bridge not within range of the city’s defenses, it crosses the Yangazi River some ten miles north of the Mozanya, at the town of Antigon. Formerly known as the Sudayeen Bridge, it was renamed the Bridge of Heroes after the Battle of Antigon eleven years ago. The Bridge of Heroes is an antiquated but strategically important bridge.

  • There’s a lot more to know about Mozanya, but this at least covers most of the basics.

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Total. Audio. Visual. Fail.

I just gave a talk on “The Pitfalls of Medieval Fiction Writing,” covering many of the problems I see in stories, films, and TV shows that feature medieval cultures, whether in a historical setting or transplanted into a fantasy milieu.

Can I say…

Total. Audio. Visual. Fail.

Yes, I believe I can.

The screen showed up, but not the projector. Then my Dell laptop glitched, so no PowerPoint slides. Not even for me, the speaker. So, I gave the talk from memory.

It all worked. Somehow.

Worst A/V debacle I’ve experienced in my seven years of public speaking. (As a conference organizer with more than twelve conferences and dozens of smaller events under my belt, I’ve seen worse failures. This was just the worst that I’ve personally experienced.)

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Creating Realistic Worlds: Resources

World Building - By David KeenerI’ve starting releasing the various sections of my World Building project as blog entries as I soon as I complete them. My intention is to eventually gather them all together and publish them as a single non-fiction ebook to be entitled World Building: Creating Realistic Worlds for Stories and Games.

So far, I’ve published the Introduction and, today, I’m publishing the “Resources” section of the project (which is still a work in progress, and something that I’ll be continually adding to until the project is completed). The two sections beyond the “Introduction” have been completed, but I can’t put them online yet because I’m still in the process of securing the rights to some of the graphics and maps that I want to feature in the project.

While I’m still getting the rights issues resolved, I thought there might be some general interest in some of the world building resources that I’ve looked at during my research. Some of them may be a little rare, but you may still be able to hunt down a copy online.

Writing a book like World Building: Creating Realistic Worlds for Stories and Games is one of those interesting endeavors that required an astonishing amount of research. Indeed, the effort required far more investigation than I had anticipated when I embarked on this journey of exploration. I am indebted to numerous writers, scientists and cartographers who provided valuable information that helped me in this enterprise.

The entire concept of detailed world building, of creating realistic and plausible worlds for diverse purposes, is notable for the depth and breadth of the topics that can come into play. My book provides, at best, a hopefully solid overview of what can be done. For more information about world building, feel free to explore the resources that proved so useful to me in creating this book.

Useful Resources

GURPS Space AtlasGURSPS Space Atlas – By Steve Jackson and William A. Barton
1988, Steve Jackson Games
This was a supplement for the GURPS (Generic Universal Roleplaying System) game (another product of Steve Jackson Games). It provides numerous two-page examples of solidly designed worlds, including icosahedral maps of each world. Followed by at least three sequels of a similar nature. Note that William A. Barton also went on to become a successful SF writer.
Map Projection Essentials – By Daniel Strebe
This online article by Daniel Strebe is an excellent introduction to the realm of map projections. Daniel Strebe is one of the principals behind Geocart, a leading commercial tool for producing map projections (available for purchase on the Mapthematics web site). He has also provided many of the open source map images that are available on Wikipedia. In short, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to anything related to cartography.
The Traveller Book by Marc MillerThe Traveller Book – By Marc Miller
1982, Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW)
A compendium from GDW containing the basic rules for the Traveller roleplaying game (previously published in three smaller booklets beginning in 1977), a game noted for its emphasis on hard science. Notable for containing a useful 2D star mapping system; the Universal Planetary Profile (UPP), which described characteristics of a world such as atmosphere, population, government type, law level and tech level; a technology levels timeline, which illustrated what typical technological items might be seen at different tech levels; and an abstract but very useful model for a world’s fauna. Now referred to as Classic Traveller to distinguish it from alternate versions of the rules. Still available in various forms today; see the Traveller Wikipedia entry for more details.
World Builder's Guidebook - by Richard BakerWorld Builder’s Guidebook – By Richard Baker
1996, TSR, Inc.
This is a surprisingly complete wording building supplement for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons created by Richard Baker, who has gone on to write numerous tie-in novels for various game systems. In its 96 pages, Baker covers diverse subjects such as seismology, hydrography, land features and climate. He also includes information about crafting realistic low-tech societies and mythologies. Like many of the other game supplements, the book uses an icosahedral map for world maps. Highly recommended; one of the best AD&D supplements that I’ve seen.
World Builder's HandbookWorld Builder’s Handbook – By Joe D. Fugate Sr., J. Andrew Keith and Gary L. Thomas.
1989, Digest Group Publications
This 96-page book was a supplement for MegaTraveller, the second generation update of the Traveller roleplaying game produced by Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW). The second half of the book provides a fascinating and excruciatingly detailed set of procedures for designing not just worlds, but entire solar systems. Also notable for being the first resource that ever introduced me to icosahedral maps. Note that J. Andrew Keith, the brother of SF writer William H. Keith, went on to become a successful military SF writer before his untimely death.
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Creating Realistic Worlds, Part 1

World Building - By David KeenerHow do you design realistic worlds?

This is a problem unique to science fiction and fantasy writers (and sometimes even game designers). The challenge is to create a world that seems realistic, without rousing the ire of fans who rightly point out things like unrealistic locations for mountain ranges, implausible deserts, unlikely climates, overly regular coastlines, etc. Additionally, the world shouldn’t seem so artificial that it was clearly designed solely to support the needs of a story.

Designing a realistic world can be a daunting task, so the first principle we need to apply is “divide and conquer.” Let’s separate the design process into components, and deal with each section of the problem separately. Here are the major components that I’ve identified:

  1. Mapping Strategy: There are lots of ways to produce a map of a world. Since worlds are typically spherical (yes, yes, I know about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and a few other counter-examples, but I did say realistic worlds), all two-dimensional maps involve some degree of distortion. Our goal is to choose a mapping strategy that will support our efforts to design a realistic world.

  2. Geographical Features: Our world needs features like continents, oceans, mountains, volcanoes, etc. Our goal is to develop a step-by-step process for generating these features on our world map in a natural and realistic fashion.

  3. Climate: We want to develop a realistic world so we can avoid the dreaded “It was a rainy day on planet Mongo” syndrome. If our world has realistic geography, then we should be able to specify climate features like ocean currents, deserts, jungles, and rivers with some degree of plausibility.

  4. Flora and Fauna: Given the opportunity, life will develop. How do we create plausible lifeforms in realistic ecologies?

  5. Solar System: Planets don’t exist by themselves (unless they’ve been ejected from a stellar system, in which case they’re really cold and boring). What does the rest of your world’s solar system look like?

I’ve always enjoyed the technical aspects of world building, and I’ve engaged in world building for years — most often for elaborate worlds for roleplaying games. I’m also just a little tired of all the stereotypical “Class M” worlds, all narrowly constrained copies of some particular Earth climate, that I see in a lot of science fiction. Accordingly, I decided to produce a series of “World Building” installments covering the diverse areas that must be addressed to design realistic worlds.

I’m a “kill many birds with one stone” kind of a guy, so I’ve got some wide-ranging goals that I hope to accomplish with this series. First and foremost, I hope to inspire other writers to develop more fully realized worlds, with obvious benefits to their writing and to the experiences of their readers. Second, I’ll be using these techniques and strategies myself to design some of the worlds that I need for my upcoming projects. Third, I hope to gather this content eventually into an ebook and sell it online (although I plan to keep all of the installments online for free as well).

I hope you enjoy these “World Building” articles. More importantly, I hope you find them useful and relevant to your writing process. Let me know what you think of them. Your feedback is welcomed.

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