‘Where and when the heck are we?’
Posted on July 17, 2015
It seems I’ve thrown people a bit with the settings and the dates, so here’s a bit more explanation. (No spoilers, in case you’re worried.)
Yes there are Welsh and Finnish names, and yes it feels like we are somewhere in the European Renaissance or Enlightenment period (14th to 18th centuries), but in fact neither is the case. So why have you got that impression?
Because you’re smart people and you picked up lots of the clues, is why. But I like to write stories that unfold, and that’s what’s going on here. You can blame the Catastrophe for causing all the confusion.
Shadowless is set on earth, and the book starts off on the south coast of England – Dorset, to be precise. Eh? you say. Honest! Ask someone Welsh to pronounce Mhrydain for you, sound out some of the other place names in the book for yourself, and all should become clear.
We are in fact in the 26th century. Big cities vanished, quite literally, 450 years ago, taking all but a tiny percentage of the developed world’s population with them. (There are back stories to come that explain how we got to this point so I won’t go into detail at this stage.)
Before things went to hell in a handcart, the automation of farming and industry meant few people needed or in practical terms could live outside cities. As a result only the very richest and very poorest survived the Catastrophe.
They survived because they lived in places where it wasn’t possible to farm mechanically, or the landscape provided hiding places for the most determined itinerants. Mountains and moorlands, tundra and treelines, places where it is possible – just – to eke a living. Hence the survivors are in wild places like Brittany, Cornwall, the highlands of Wales and Scotland, the taiga of Scandinavia and Russia, the deserts of Mongolia.
Meanwhile, the few remaining poor, largely rural-based economies of Africa and south Asia (which had not developed huge urban populations so didn’t lose as many people) were quicker to recover from the Catastrophe.
An empty Europe had obvious appeal to all these groups, and in they came, travelling hundreds, often thousands of miles. With migrants arriving in waves for centuries clashes were inevitable, but so in the end was compromise. After four hundred and fifty years, the stable state of Ilmaen is the end result.
But it doesn’t take much to undo all the patient work of previous Crowns and Councils when someone like Lemno Tekai sets his mind to it.