I sometimes reflect on the circumstances surrounding Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds. It was the premier British SF periodical and at the time had a reach that, though it didn’t rival that of the American offerings, was substantial. Under his stewardship, a significant outlet in the then evolving genre, saw changes to content under the guise of introducing literary technique. This had a ripple effect that changed expectations. The changes came at a price; many of the old guard readers became disgruntled, it wasn’t what they wanted. It also became a hot potato for distributors. New Worlds had a different persona but as a publishing entity, it was in a hopeless situation. Eventually it folded. For more on that time, check here. We were left with more the idea that the genre could be better than the actuality. Michael Moorcock was all but burnt out; in striving to keep his dream solvent, he ground out numerous fantasies…
…which I avidly bought. Many of his fantasies were set in strange and invented lands. Some of these settings evoked an idea of places that existed in the real world. Castle Brass exists in the Kamarg – a region of Franconia. I was ambivalent about misspelt names. The invitation to drift into Moorcock’s political agenda didn’t feel subversive, merely crude —Castle Brass is the centre of resistance against the Dark Empire of Granbrettan (Kamarg / Carmague; Franconia / France; Granbrettan / Great Britain) Looking back, Moorcock had trouble keeping his polemic under control. That aside, setting a fantasy story in a place based on the real world —but in France —was interesting. I’d also seen this in James Branch Cabell’s Poictesme in The Silver Stallion, and echoes of this were reflected, I felt, in Zelazny’s Amber; although, to be fair, Zelany’s work put me in mind of the English dynastic conflict (Wars of the Roses) and it was further up the philosophical scale with a universe echoing Plato’s Theory of Forms. I enjoyed those and other fantasies.
Back in September 2014, I started work on a fantasy set in an alternate world where the technology and customs are similar to those in the European age of Chivalry. The Bareqqua is a small state that lies in a mountain enclosed plain. To the south lies the Dugue, the only sea-worthy harbour to border the Southern Sea. The port there is nominally independent but owes fealty to the Bareqqua.
The Old Empire fell long ago. The states around the Southern Sea continue to conspire against one another.
There’s a long way to go on The Bareqqua.