An appropriate post for National Vegetarian Week! When I began worldbuilding for The Seren Stone Chronicles, there was much to sort out. Set roughly two thousand years into our future, the populace has learned a great deal from our mistakes.
Their ancestors had to live through apocalyptic consequences of our generation’s capitalism and complete disregard for the environment. So, their outlook is very different to ours. Many things have changed, from the landscape which suffered and shifted hugely in the ensuing chaos, variations in the chemical makeup of minerals and natural elements, a large loss of population, and the rise of dragons…
The Chronicles are set in Wales within a naturally simplistic countryside, having lost the large cities a millennia or so earlier. Though technology levels, beliefs, and lives the world over will be different, my lands are a beautiful backdrop to include the changes in landscape and scenery, and to introduce dragons. It lends to a natural community which have turned their backs on twenty-first century technology and embraced the organic and elemental ways of life. This is a society that renounced plastic and tech generations ago because of its aftermath, and makes choices with empathy and a symbiotic relationship with the earth.
The question of food and sustenance crept into my worldbuilding, and I thought I’d be making the decisions, but my characters told me exactly where their values stood.
Their choices lead me to Carnage, a BBC iPlayer mockumentary on veganism. This also coincided with my daughter (who’s been vegan for over a year and vegetarian for two) showing me Cowspiracy as I needed to learn about the environmental damage caused by our current diets and animal agriculture. I wanted to know if meat-eating, vegetarianism, or veganism would be part of their future. I like that we can be both light-hearted and informative about veganism, especially when the stereotypes are so vicious, but both these programmes and further research opened my eyes to much more than I’d expected.
As I wrote, my characters let me know that environmental issues are an imperative part of their lives. They are determined not to make the mistakes of ancestors and they choose to live sustainably. This doesn’t mean they have no tech – just very different devices to ours – and their food choices and health became a crucial part of my worldbuilding.
They use natural materials for building, clothing, and technology, but my biggest dilemma was with leather. However, leather is still a by-product of wild animals, and dragons, quickly reaped when animals die and is highly valued and respected.
Without the huge populations that we have today, mass-marketing and factory-farming are a thing of the past, and choices based on environment, welfare, and ethics are much easier to make.
Incidentally, my research brought me to a pivotal point in my own life. I won’t judge anyone on their own choices, but within a month I was a fully-fledged vegan. We often get portrayed as self-righteous and of inflicting our food choices on others to make them feel guilty. This, in general, couldn’t be any further than the truth. Our care and evangelism is about the environment and the animals about us – and you can’t blame anyone for wanting to share how to help the world, can you?
I’ve also discovered a true love of food and the alternatives that exist out there. I thought I could never live without milk-chocolate, or cheese, or lamb, but I don’t miss any of it. My characters couldn’t imagine a life any other way, though there are definitely people who will differ and choose other diets and ways of living, just as it is in our world.
Life changes for all of us, and how long I remain a vegan is in a state of flux, but I know I can do it.
Worldbuilding is a fascinating process, especially when your characters spell out their ethics and conscience to you, and help you change your own life!
Have you ever been influenced by another world in a book,
or wished you lived in a different time?