World Building Elements in My Stories: Refuge

the-order-masterI’m going to do a series of three posts on the world building elements in my own fiction series: Refuge, A Tale of Two Worlds, and The Star Mages. I’m doing this mainly because I’ve never done it before, and it’s a useful exercise.

Two of these are contemporary fantasy, Refuge is also science fiction, and A Tale of Two Worlds is alternate-world fantasy of a fairly non-standard variety. I think they present fairly decent examples of atypical world-building, since none of them follows a usual script for fantasy or science fiction. I’ll post these in reverse chronological order by year of publication (Refuge is the most recent, while The Star Mages is the oldest).

Refuge is contemporary fantasy, and so it’s set in our own modern-day world. The events of the stories are hidden from the general populace, so the fantasy and science fiction elements don’t result in an altered reality, except for the main characters. Those elements appear in the stories but not in the news. All of these elements are “added” to the world we live in to produce a fantasy/SF story.


Magic is the only fantasy element (so far) in Refuge. There are no gods, devils, or superbeings, the only quasi-humans are aliens rather than fantasy creatures, there are no powerful talismans, and there are no other worlds involved unless you count the home worlds of the Droon and the Andol, which no longer exist.

The magic in Refuge is that of real-world occultism, somewhat amplified. Magic users can sense other people’s emotional states and influence those states by telepathy. They can obtain information through psychic vision about distant events and future events, always somewhat cryptic and unreliable. They can see auras, and both the Droon and the Andol have distinct auras that identify them as non-human. They can influence the flows and currents of fate and shape random events in the world. They can link effects like these to talismans which are created through ritual. They employ meditation, visualization, breath control, symbolic ritual, and sex to create magical links, enter useful states of consciousness, and gather magical power.

The Droon and the Andol don’t have magic that human beings don’t, and aren’t inherently more magical than humans who practice the art (though compared to average human beings they are), but they do have knowledge and refinements that humans haven’t achieved, and are advanced in magic just as they are in science and technology. This allows them, and humans trained by them, to perform magic that real-world occultists normally can’t, but for the most part it isn’t too far out there.

One advanced magical power the aliens use is time control. By focusing conscious attention on their own time stream, they can speed themselves up and slow everything else down. This can have some pretty dramatic effects and is useful in combat. Humans with magical talent are quite capable of learning time control, so again this isn’t an inherent advantage of the aliens, just the fruit of superior knowledge.

Another important bit of magic used by the aliens is the Refuge spell, which I’ll describe below.

Some human beings, in fact, have magic beyond what the aliens can do. Claire Chang, the main character of The Ingathering, is one such prodigy.


Non-human intelligence from other planets is of course a staple science fiction element, and it’s present in Refuge. In a twist, though, the Droon and the Andol are incarnate in human bodies, so for most intents and purposes they are human. No one knows where their home worlds were located. They may not even be in this universe. Both worlds were destroyed in an interstellar war between the two species, and some members of each race employed the Refuge spell to reincarnate as a different species — which turned out to be human.

Although the Droon and Andol are fully human in biology, they retain the memories of their first life as an avian Andol or insectoid Droon, and have some personality characteristics derived from those memories. They also have distinctly non-human auras, which they and human magic users can see.

The Droon and the Andol retain knowledge of advanced technology, too, although they didn’t bring any tools with them and must use human technology as a base, which means that only recently have they become able to build some of the more advanced devices from their former societies, especially in the way of computers. At all times, the aliens have been just a few steps ahead of human technology, in practical terms, although they know of much more.

The Refuge Spell

The Refuge spell was first developed by the Droon Hive Mother in the distant past. It allowed her to reincarnate upon death with all of her memories intact. She worked this magic long before the events that destroyed the Droon and Andol home worlds, so she’s by far the oldest living intelligence in the stories, being some five thousand years old.

When the aliens destroyed each other’s home world, the Hive Mother led the Droon in crafting the Refuge spell for about ten thousand of their most magical elite, using the deaths of the rest of the Droon as a source of magical power. This allowed the Droon to reincarnate on Earth as human beings, and they have been doing so ever since.

The Andol currently incarnate on Earth as Amanda Johnson initiated a similar project among her people, using the Hive Mother as a template. This project was an emergency measure, though, and so not nearly as many of the Andol could be saved; there are a total of 418 of the avian aliens on Earth.

The aliens arrived on Earth in the 14th century in Europe. Thus, all of them except for the Hive Mother herself are roughly 700 years old.

The Conflict

The Droon and Andol represent two different paths of social evolution for an advanced species. The Andol are egalitarian. Their government was democratic, their economy a form of decentralized socialism, and genetic engineering allowed all Andol to be highly intelligent, well-adjusted, non-violent contributors to society. The Droon formed a fierce oligarchy in which a master caste held absolute power over the lower ranks. Although wealth was distributed quite broadly among the Droon compared to what obtains in modern human societies, power was not. The Droon master caste could command obedience from ordinary Droon even to the point of confining them in horror chambers and torturing them merely to exert their dominance and superiority. This was a popular form of entertainment among the insectoid Droon and remains popular among them in human form.

Both these paths were adopted by the aliens in order to survive the crisis that currently faces humanity: to end war and achieve a sustainable relationship with nature. The Andol did it collectively through advanced global enlightenment, while the Droon achieved success by imposing harsh, draconic control. Both methods were successful, both societies non-warlike and green, but otherwise the difference between them was stark.

Today, the aliens seek to transform the Earth into an advanced society similar to what they had on the home world. Both intend to use genetic engineering to modify the human genome, but currently lack the necessary genetic knowledge (techniques that worked on the Droon or Andol aren’t suitable for use on the radically different human genome).

The Human Response

True human beings are caught in the middle between the two alien species. Humans may choose to side with one or the other species, or they may oppose both and seek a destiny that is right for us, recognizing that the Earth is our planet — not that of an alien species, whether benign or malevolent.

While some human beings take this human-first attitude, there are others who side with the Andol for idealistic reasons or with the Droon for selfish ones.

Next week: world-building elements in A Tale of Two Worlds.


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