Effulgent Corruption: Killin' dudes and the idea of corruption

on Thursday, July 7, 2011
Something that has always been prominent in Effulgent Corruption is the emphasis that the corruption in the story isn't just referring to the poison that crosses the flesh of the magic-users ("Marked") in the book. One of the main points of the book that I settled on when brainstorm it is the idea of corruption spreading across multiple fronts in the wake of a catastrophic event (all their gods die expectantly, and are replaced by a huge, growing chunk of crystal). How would a world react? Would they follow it up wisely, or would the leaders take advantage of the situation?

Of course they'd do the latter; who am I kidding? But this idea of unrestrained corruption makes for a fun write, because it encompasses all the themes of the book. Here are a few key ones that I think of.

- Corruption of Government - Societies that had been constantly ruled by seemingly omniscient, immortal beings that lived among them an then straight up died would quickly assign others to fill the gaps. These mortals, however, would hardly be able to fulfill the task without adjusting the system to better fit their now-empowered needs, leading to corruption.

- Corruption of Earth - This one is simpler: Gangrene crystal kills the soil it touches. It absorbs nutrients and leaves ground in a state similar to ash. As the massive Heart of the Gangrene crystal continues to shoot out "veins," it'll slowly eat away at the world, corrupting it.

- Corruption of Flesh - Another simple one. When Gangrene is embedded in the hands, eyelids, or chest of mortals it grants them power...at a price. The surrounding area is affected by the crystal, turning black, and as the users wield the power the blackness crawls. As the corruption numbs any body part it touches, once they use their power enough it'll eventually reach their head, numbing the mind, or cover so much of their body the Gangrene (which is essentially a slow-acting poison) kills them.

- Corruption of Mind - This one has actually been the funnest to write. Even if the Gangrene doesn't reach the mind, as it grows it seeps into the blood. Not a massive amount (at least not in uncorrupted areas of flesh), but enough to start influencing the mind and body of the Marked. It's a gradual thing, the insanity, and leads to some of the most interesting points of the book. All of the viewpoint characters are Marked; which are insane? Are some already insane, or are they on their way, or are they somehow avoiding the Gangrene's influence entirely? What do they see that is their addled brain lying to them, and what is reality? As the book progresses the viewpoint grows more and more unreliable, which makes for some fun scenes. This is also the most "psychological" part of the book (yay, I'm finally using my stupid undergrad major), with some characters knowing they are losing their minds, and others being blissfully unaware.

- Corruption of Morality - If you take away the gods and the rules, what do you have left? I in no way am drawing parallels to our world, but if our deities walked among us and suddenly died/disappeared, what would happen to the rules they set up? If the new human rulers (see #1 up top) didn't care about the old laws, what idea of morality would remain? It might last a while, but in time it would corrupt as well, with only the most stalwart worshipers of the dead gods willfully following their old rules.

- Corruption of Divinity  - This is further addressed in the second and third books, but think of how your perception of gods would change two centuries after these gods died. Would you really remember them the same way? Do we even remember history as it actually happened, or how it was recorded? How much of that would change, especially in a middle-ages era society where record keeping was more controlled?

- Corruption of Economy - Your world suddenly has a resource that can turn men to to magic-using slaves, but it is extremely hard to mine and is technically biochemical warfare to stab it into somebody. How much is this crystal worth? How would that effect the world's economy? How would that effect conflicts between nations and trade? It would break down, centering about this resource, until everything normalized. It would corrupt it.

All these things were ideas I considered and keep in the back of my mind when plotting and writing Effulgent Corruption. I wanted a book that followed a central theme but didn't blatantly say all the things mentioned above (that's what a blog is for!). So it was interesting for me to try and figure out how all this crap fits together, then make a story out of it.

Though in truth it was the other way around. I started with an idea "magic that kills you, and magic users are slaves." Basically, I wanted the reverse of a normal fantasy story, were magicians are revered sages and (basically) the most powerful men in the world. What if there was a stipulation that made them weak? What if they forgot how to be men after gaining their powers, and could be trained/brainwashed into being submissive slaves despite their incredible power? How would a society work in this situation?

The opening sentence of Effulgent Corruption is, "The day the last god died, the Gangrene crystals appeared." This was, essentially, all I started with in terms of the deities, the crystals, and all that before I actually figured out the plot. From that grew the Gangrene crystals (the name of the crystals, like the title of the book, was actually intended to simply be a placeholder until I thought of something better), and then the repercussions something like Gangrene would have across an entire world.

While I don't consider myself a serious plotter or outliner, I do feel it is important for every author to really think through and imagine the implications of their world before they set their characters loose in it. It's easy to say, "My book uses dragons for money!" but hard to fully process how far-reaching that could be in terms of world changes. I've always tried to think substantially on that fact in my other books, but I never took it as far as I did in Effulgent Corruption, and for that reason I think this book is much better constructed than my others.

Point: BEING AN AUTHOR IS HARD OK. Figuring out all this stuff has been really exciting, and it has been fun to drop hints (or red herrings) frequently in the novel regarding exactly how it all goes together. I also am fully convinced now that the ending of the novel is going to piss everybody off, but if you see post 200 you can see my reaction to that.

I'm running out of break at work (and things to say), so here is an Effulgent Corruption bit to keep you busy. I'm back to my normal 4-6k a day, and Rook's section is going to be short so before you know it I'll be done. I'm shooting for the end of July at the latest, hopefully sooner, but we'll see.

Then the god was gone, and Rook’s body burned with power. He felt the familiar call of the Gangrene, the might of the Dead Six as it ebbed and flowed through him. His arms glowed with the Gangrene’s light, the orange and white throbbing and bursting with color. He was immortal, eternal, effulgent.
He would murder everyone.

- Effulgent Corruption, The Maw


Ryan said...

The idea of magical power corrupting its users is one that is pretty cool. Kind of reminds me of (pre-book 9) Saidin use in the Wheel of Time, where male channelers would eventually go insane and die from the effects of the One Power. I'm interested to read your book.

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