Updates–And Godpower Notes

1 Oct

Hi, everyone

Things have been a little better over the past few days – the side effects have started to clear up, allowing me to actually get some work done. I’ve sketched out a set of background notes for a universe that grew out of a discussion with Leo Champion – see below – and I’ve started to edit The Broken Throne. It’s an extensive edit because the manuscript was sent to both editors while I was in hospital, but I am fairly confident of finishing it before Friday. If things go well on Friday, I hope to return to Para Bellum on Monday.

Thank you – once again – to everyone who used the cookie jar to send donations. They will be put to good use.

Let me know what you think of the background, please.

The World of Godpower

For generations – the Age of Ignorance – the natives of Rhyamdine have been blessed and cursed with Godspeakers, men and women who briefly wielded the power of God to work miracles. The Godspeakers showed their powers, altering the course of history, then faded back into obscurity as the power left them. God, it seemed, rarely shared his gifts for long, even with the most faithful. (Indeed, heretics questioned if the Godspeakers were really drawing their power from God; they argued, sometimes quite convincingly, that the Godspeakers had merely found a way to tap into a supernatural power source.)

And yet, it could not be denied that miracles happened. The blind could be made to see, the sick could be healed, the crippled could walk again … indeed, there were even cases of the dead being resurrected by the Godspeakers. A handful even gained the power – very briefly -to alter the course of wars, raining fire and blood on the enemy army. Very few dared to stand against a Godspeaker. Did he not have God on his side?

And yet, Godspeakers were relatively rare … and when they came into being, they never held the power for long.

This changed with the advent of the First Speaker, a Godspeaker who seemingly never lost the power. He was born during an age of conflict, yet was regarded – even by his enemies – as a singularly pious man. His Godpower was strong enough for him to take control of his hometown, build an army – the first Army of God – and start a crusade against the warring kingdoms. The kings, originally unimpressed despite his power, soon found out that they had underestimated him. Unlike his predecessors, the First Speaker never lost the power. Worse, his disciples – the Sinless – were wielding Godpower for themselves. They led the Army of God as it struck out in all directions, steadily bringing the kings to heel. It was not long before most of the continent fell under the First Speaker’s control.

Previous Godspeakers had rarely held the power long enough to make lasting change. The First Speaker could – and did. Shunning the urge to take control directly, he supported kings and princes who were prepared to rule justly and live in peace with their neighbours. It rapidly became a golden age as laws – religious laws – were codified and enforced. Those who might have resented the loss of power rapidly came to fear the people’s devotion to the First Speaker. The clerics who had taken over the schools – and established a range of monasteries and nunneries across the land – had done their work well. The obvious benefits of the peace ensured that even the ungodly had reason to support the First Speaker.

Precisely what happened to the First Speaker is not recorded (official dogma says that he was the first person to be taken into God’s arms without dying). Anyone who might have hoped that his death would weaken the new empire was rapidly disappointed. The Sinless hastily elected a new speaker – the Second Speaker – who proved himself able to wield Godpower without his mentor (although to a far lesser degree). Despite the lack of raw power, a combination of raw ambition and sheer talent allowed the Second Speaker to put the empire on a more formal footing. The Church, led by the Sinless, became a supranational organisation that would arbitrate between the kings and princes, allowing it to maintain a balance of power. It also maintained the schools – and provided clerics for the kingdoms – that ensured the local population remained faithful. As it also collected a considerable amount of tribute, the Church was also wealthy enough to – if necessary – raise an army or bribe kings who might otherwise be reluctant to follow orders. The city of Speaker’s Rest was built from scratch to hold the Church’s senior officials and bureaucracy.

The key to the Church’s power, however, was the Godly Chain. The First Speaker had discovered (or been taught) how to open a link between a Godspeaker and a prospective disciple. If the disciple was properly prepared – purified, in the Church’s lexicon – the link would open and the disciple would be able to wield Godpower in his own right. Curiously, the disciple was only able to wield half the power of his mentor – and anyone he linked to would only have a quarter of the original mentor’s power – but the Church has steadily discouraged inquiry into the matter. Instead, it was merely relieved to have more Sinless who could be dispatched to serve the Church across the empire. (There are non-Sinless within the Church, as it would be impossible to operate a vast bureaucracy without them, but every senior post – without exception – is held by a Sinless, who outranks every non-Sinless he may encounter.)

At the top of the Church’s hierarchy is the Council of Sinless, headed by the [Number] Speaker. The Speakers give up their names when they are elected, as it is presumed they now speak for God; they are simply referred to by title. Technically, the [Number] Speaker is an absolute ruler; in practice, he takes advice from the Council of Sinless before making his pronouncements and decisions. Each councillor rules a Canton, ranging from the Canton of Holy Words (education) to the Canton of Justice (law and order) and the Canton of Inquisition (anti-heresy). Although they are all Sinless, there is a constant battle for resources amongst the Cantons and it isn’t unknown for their rivalry to have a unfortunate effect on the Church’s ability to maintain order. The Canton of Sisterhood, the sole female Canton within the Church, is the only exception. Practically speaking, they are a separate organisation in their own right.

Below the Council, there is a strict hierarchy amongst the Sinless. Archbishops have responsibility for entire kingdoms; they are appointed by the council, something that has led to tensions between the council and the kings they rule. Bishops have responsibility for either cities or monasteries; clerics have responsibility for smaller towns. Monks and deacons assist their masters, but are rarely Sinless themselves. (That said, there are a handful of low-ranking Sinless who have steadily refused higher rank.) The Sisterhood has its own hierarchy – Daughter, Mother, Grandmother, Mother Superior – and, while the sisters are technically outranked by their male counterparts, it is generally agreed that they don’t take orders from them.

Each member of the Church is expected to follow a strict regime. Their lives are very spartan, at least at first; they are expected to eat simple food, sleep as little as possible and have no sexual contact with the opposite sex. Church dogma states that the Sinless are incapable of breaking the rules; non-Sinless who are caught breaking the rules are generally flogged and then expected from the Church. (Oddly, the Church is quite tolerant of a non-Sinless marrying, although it ensures they have no further hope of advancing.)

Outside the Church – and the castles and manors of the nobility – the Church’s hand is quite light, but omnipresent. A marriage cannot be duly solemnised without a priest – ideally, one of the Sinless; a dead man cannot be buried without the last rites being spoken over his corpse. Every man is expected to attend prayers at least once a week; women are expected to pray at home, except during religious holidays, where they are permitted to attend public prayers and take part in the celebrations afterwards. Locals who can afford it are also expected to make donations to the Church – although, it should be noted, the Church has an extensive charity program to assist the less fortunate.

Upon claiming a vocation, a prospective churchman (generally upon reaching the age of twelve) will present himself at his local monastery. (A prospective sister will visit the nearest nunnery.) The local priest will interview the lad, then inform him that he will spend the next year performing tasks of mindless drudgery. If the candidate remains within the monastery for a year – he is free to leave at any time, having discovered that he doesn’t have a vocation after all – he will either be sent to a seminary or dispatched to Speaker’s Rest, where he will enter a far harsher period of his life. Church dogma and writings – the First Speaker’s Words, the Commentaries on Faith, The Nature of Sin and The Essence of Godpower – will be hammered into his head, along with prayers and vast numbers of precedents for churchly action. If he qualifies, a senior official will attempt to induct him into the Sinless; if the induction is unsuccessful, the candidate will be encouraged to meditate on his sins and confess them to his tutors. Small sins may be punished by the tutors; serious sins may result in immediate expulsion. (The Church believes that if you pay for your sins, you rise above them.) A candidate who fails induction three times will be expelled, on the assumption that he is corrupt.

The Church dwells quite heavily on corruption, which it deems a grave threat to the moral and spiritual realm. Corruption is two-fold, the willingness to sin and the willingness to preach heretical teachings. In the case of the former, the corrupt is either unaware that he is committing a sin or unwilling to confess; it is not so much that the corrupt has done something wrong, but that they do not know (or admit) that they’ve done something wrong. A man who batters his wife to death in a fit of rage might be forgiven by the Church; a man who cold-bloodedly plots his wife’s death would not be forgiven. Worse, someone who followed a heretic would be sinning against God himself. The Canton of Inquisition is charged with hunting down heretics and executing them. It also censors publications that touch on matters the Church would prefer left firmly alone.

***

Despite the two thousand years between the First Speaker and the present, Rhyamdine has developed far slower than Earth. This is indirectly the Church’s fault as it has, by and large, proven quite successful in preventing conflict amongst the various kingdoms. The handful of skirmishes have not spurred technological development in quite the same manner that open warfare did on Earth, although there is constant pressure to develop better ways of farming, metalworking and suchlike. Gunpowder exists, but serves as a mining tool rather than a weapon (although the military applications have not gone unnoticed.) Contact with two extra-continental empires has introduced quite a few new ideas to the continent. The Church has considered a crusade against one or both of the empires, but has been stymied by a lack of enthusiasm amongst the temporal powers.

It would be wrong to think of the continent as being trapped in stasis. The combination of kingdoms, princely states and city-states has encouraged a surprising amount of social mobility, with ambitious commoners picking up sticks and heading to the cities. (The nobility is divided on the issue, with some seeing the cities as safely valves (peasant revolts are always merciless) and others seeing their human capital disappearing into the teeming mass.) The Church itself isn’t sure how to treat the cities; on one hand, the Church granted their independence and doesn’t want to go back on its word, but on the others the cities are havens for freethinkers and heretics. That said, the number of such undesirables is relatively low, as the Church still has a great deal of influence.

That said, the majority of the population still lives in towns, villages and farms.

The kingdoms are ruled by kings, who enjoy the support of the Church as long as they follow orders (and accept the Church’s primacy in religious matters). The princely states are a little more complicated – the ruler is often elected from and by the local nobility – while the cities are experimenting with various different forms of government. The Church is not amused, but does nothing as long as its primacy is acknowledged.

***

The Church has ruled, indirectly, for nearly two thousand years. But cracks are beginning to appear in the edifice. The slow advance of technology has presented the Church with new problems, problems it has failed to solve. The failure to ban the printing press, for example, has kicked off a whole new range of problems, ranging from people openly questioning the social order to heretics propagating their beliefs to far greater audience than ever before. Trade with countries outside the Church’s empire has upset the balance of power, discontented noblemen (upset because the Church ruled against them) have been looking for ways to subvert the Church or provide quiet support to its rivals. They understand that not even the Sinless are immune to quiet bribery or subtle manipulation.

Worst of all, however, are reports that the Godpower is failing. Sinless who should have been able to work miracles have reported that the power has left them. The Church has been trying to cover it up, while it works frantically to find a solution, but the Council of Sinless knows it’s just a matter of time before the news leaks out. And, with reports of heretics wielding Godpower of their own, who knows what will happen next?

[Unknown to the Church, it’s dogma regarding Godpower is only half-right. Godpower is a reserve of power that can be tapped into, assuming that the would-be Godspeaker is pure enough to handle it. A selfish man would rapidly be destroyed by his own mind, if he was able to tap into Godpower in the first place. The First Speaker was autistic, allowing him greater understanding and control of Godpower than any of his predecessors. The Godly Chain allows less pure minds access to some of the power, ensuring that they aren’t likely to accidentally destroy themselves.

However, the Godly Chain is a chain. If someone within the chain becomes corrupt – and thus unable to wield Godpower – everyone below the corrupt man loses access to the power too. (For example, if Bob inducts John and Sarah, and then succumbs to corruption, John and Sarah will lose their powers too … as will everyone they have inducted.) The Church hasn’t realised – yet – that this is a problem because most of the Sinless, particularly the ones in high office, are rarely called upon to demonstrate their command of Godpower.

This does not, of course, stop heretics from accessing Godpower like the Godspeakers of old.

The exact nature of Godpower is not clear, intentionally so. Is it truly an aspect of God, with the First Speaker a Prophet? Or is it nothing more than a reserve of immense power, with the First Speaker nothing more than a man who set out to do good and succeeded. Like several other religions I could mention, the Church’s empire – at least at the start – was so much better than what had gone before that most people were delighted. It took time for disillusionment to sink in.]

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27 Responses to “Updates–And Godpower Notes”

  1. Mark Canty October 1, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    Sounds complex and fun 🙂

  2. Gary F. York October 1, 2018 at 5:17 pm #

    I agree with, Mark: complex and fun! And I, for one, am quite eager for you to get mo betta AND get to work! G.

  3. Jensebaum October 1, 2018 at 8:48 pm #

    Glad to hear you’re doing better, Chris!

    I, for one, am quite fed up with the whole religion theme. Both in reality and in literature it has been a huge topic for several years now and I’ve simply read/heard/discussed my fill.

  4. Ihas October 2, 2018 at 12:01 am #

    I wouldn’t read this one. A theocratic world is simply not appealing. Series that do well typically introduce a world that readers would like to visit. Harry Potter, SIM, etc. A theocracy just doesn’t fit the bill.

  5. David Graf October 2, 2018 at 12:16 am #

    I’m not too taken with the idea of a theocratic world either. However, I would encourage those who appreciate Chris and his books to use the Cookie Jar on this blog site to donate to him. Good people and authors deserve our support. http://www.chrishanger.net/cookiejar.html

    • Don October 4, 2018 at 4:32 am #

      Thank you for the link.

  6. Dani October 2, 2018 at 3:03 am #

    Good to hear things are getting better!

    The Godpower milieu has promising aspects, but it may be hard to turn it into a backdrop for good story-telling. It might work best to *not* have the church as the antagonist and *not* have a non-cleric who acquires Godpower as the protagonist.

  7. ligger66 October 2, 2018 at 3:15 am #

    Sounds cool. Would the mc be a natural godspeaker(the second coming of the first speaker) or a part of the chain?

  8. Darryl October 2, 2018 at 4:49 am #

    I think the world has potential. An overall mystery to be slowly revealed. Power to tempt and to corrupt. Many possibilities. It probably comes down to what Chris wants to write. How many different universe’s does an author need. Or for that matter want.

    • M.Dennis October 2, 2018 at 6:54 am #

      Like the idea.

  9. Anarchymedes October 2, 2018 at 9:51 am #

    Good that you’re back in business. About this Godpower thing though… I see only two ways it can go: the good Church against the evil unruly heretics, or the good freedom-loving heretics against an evil, oppressive Church. I don’t know which one is more cliché and boring (although the conservative audience will certainly like the first one better😉).
    One suggestion, perhaps: what if the First Speaker actually didn’t know he was wielding any power? Him being autistic, weird, not mentally of this world? What if he simply tried to create a Utopia – and thoght he’d succeeded, while his followers saw him as a Godspeaker, and lusted for his power? The point being, the more one wants the God’s power (and the more it is for the power’s sake), the less of it he or she is going to get, no matter how ‘pure’ (chaste, poor, masochistic, and what not) he or she may force him- or herself to become in order to acquire it. How’s that?

  10. Dan October 2, 2018 at 11:29 am #

    So glad your feeling a bit better can’t wait till the books release

  11. P October 2, 2018 at 11:54 am #

    Glad to hear you’re feeling even slightly better!

    Personally, I think the “fighting against the corrupt theocracy” has become a bit cliche. The world seems intriguing, but I think you’d need a different angle. Maybe try an insider account, such as one of the “sinless” trying to actually make the world a better place through his/her faith while recognizing the corruption within and fighting it. I’m no fan off theocracies, but the corrupt religion aspect just seems tired and would need something different than a hero from outside.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 2, 2018 at 12:03 pm #

      Agree.

      Mind you, I think one aspect that Chris could use is “Is This Power Truly From God”?

    • chrishanger October 14, 2018 at 8:38 pm #

      I don’t believe that there are many organisations that are unrelentingly evil, with the exception of AQ and Islamic State.

      There’ll be good people on both sides, as well as bad people (and people who think they’re doing the right thing).

      Chris

  12. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 2, 2018 at 12:04 pm #

    Oh, Chris has posted on Baen’s Bar that he’s facing additional treatment Friday so his writing may be further delayed.

  13. Stuart the Viking October 2, 2018 at 1:49 pm #

    I think this sounds like an interesting backdrop. Perhaps characters aren’t directly involved in the church, but find themselves unwittingly working for the church, or unwittingly working for heretics (which might be an interesting conflict for a devout character). Or perhaps, it might be interesting to get into the political intrigue of the lower levels of the church. Clerics, monks, and deacons just trying to do the church’s work, while being stymied by heretics, both external and internal (perhaps with a lowly monk that is so far down a chain, that his power is barely there, so he is forced to find interesting ways to use it to effect good).

    What I would NOT like to see is the same old chestnut where the church is filled completely with selfish hypocrites, who only care about themselves. But, I wouldn’t expect that from Chris anyway, so I’m not worried.

  14. G October 4, 2018 at 4:03 am #

    Glad your feeling better–I enjoy the foibles of real people too much to enjoy a theocratic world where the “pure” wield godpower… Instead of writing a story of a young person gradually coming into power like SIM, what would happen if a young person suddenly had enormous power and had to learn how to manage it (making lots of mistakes)? The Chronicles of Loresse by Melissa Bitter (a wonderful series if you haven’t read it) touch on this, but it really hasn’t been done and would be interesting…

    • chrishanger October 14, 2018 at 8:39 pm #

      It might be interesting – I have one idea along those lines already. But I have a vast list of projects and a cold.

      Chris

  15. Lucy October 4, 2018 at 11:14 pm #

    Actually, I really like the world build. I would love to read the book that this is a backdrop to. First though Chris, you need to get well. I’m plugging for my favourite author.

  16. Sarah Lynn Wolterstorff-Shearin October 5, 2018 at 6:01 am #

    I love the concept ( especially in light of current events ). A lot.

    Am glad to hear you are feeling better.
    You and yours are in my thoughts. There is power in positive thinking.

  17. Dan October 5, 2018 at 8:00 am #

    Hello so will this be the final edit or will you send it back for another round also this new series sounds interesting I would definitely read the first book see if I liked it.

  18. sam57l0 October 6, 2018 at 12:26 am #

    ” Church dogma states that the Sinless are incapable of breaking the rules; non-Sinless who are caught breaking the rules are generally flogged and then ***** expected *****
    from the Church.” The Word would be “expelled”.

  19. Kira October 6, 2018 at 2:29 am #

    That was a GREAT read Chris! It sounds like the heretics may be on to something though as the church has taken away almost all notion of Free Will, which is the foundation of God’s love for us religiously speaking. I would LOVE for the main story in that Universe to be about the birth of a child who “knows” the “truth” and has Godpower, but is born outside of the boundaries ruled by the Church (and would be considered a heretic by the church) who goes on to fight for what is right as the church would be now corrupt in my ideal storyline, and fight to right the wrongs that have come through corruption in the church, perhaps from the higher ups. What do you think? That would be an AWESOME story line in that Universe. That’s what came to my mind upon reading this. 🙂 Tell me what you think😊. And please REST! Lol
    Thanks for all your great reads!

    Your SERIOUSLY Number One Fan,
    Kira

  20. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 8, 2018 at 4:34 pm #

    Great! Chris has posted more chapters of Para Bellum on Baen’s Bar!!! 😀

  21. Bewildered October 9, 2018 at 4:45 am #

    I think this may be difficult to write without offending someone – and judging by comments above the whole theocracy angle isn’t as thrilling as some of your other settings.

    To me your setting reads as something of a hybrid between the Age of Apostles and medieval Catholicism, but with pseudo-wizardry replacing faith. You use the term Godspeaker for those who use ‘the power of God’ to work miracles but don’t say anything about them speaking – though you note that heretics claim such people are merely tapping into supernatural power. Shouldn’t the Godspeakers as you call them preach a message? And if messages are preached, how do you reconcile different speakers preaching mutually exclusive messages? To use a real world example, if a ‘Christian speaker’ says Jesus is God, a ‘Muslim speaker’ says Jesus is merely a man that Muhammad is the Chosen Prophet, and a ‘Buddhist speaker’ says both were merely teachers with Buddha being the real teacher to follow, how can such messages be reconciled? Not sure how this would translate in your world, and it appears you don’t want to define the power, but logic will dictate a conclusion. Either the power is independent of the message, or it is not. And what of the 2 extra-continental empires you mention, do they have Godspeakers?

    As for your protagonist, and bearing in mind comments above suggesting boredom with an outsider overthrowing an evil church – which again has disturbing real world implications, why not either go with a Martin Luther style internal revolt – but (especially to avoid offending Catholics and to make it something new) go with him reforming the Church instead, or an L.E. Modesitt Jr Magi’I of Cyador\Scion of Cyador type character who lacks the mindless loyalty prized by the hierarchy so is instead sent to serve at the edge of civilization. While surviving may be difficult it also offers an opportunity to develop one’s gifts away from the prying eyes of the hierarchy and perhaps in time become the new Godspeaker. As a third possibility, what of an exceedingly devout lesser Sinless who loses power when his master falls into corruption, but perhaps dies before his corruption can be publicly revealed. Such a character might undertake a pilgrimage to determine what is wrong. And if he is an inquisitor …

    There’s a lot of real world parallels you could draw from but the trick would be to use them for inspiration not to simply copy them and offend folks. Your Godpower may also play a critical role – who can use it and under what circumstances. Does God, or gods exist? If so what is the relationship between faithfulness and the power?

    Hope this helps.

  22. Big Ben October 10, 2018 at 12:48 am #

    Meh ….
    That about sums up my opinion. The premise may work well as a general background for some plucky protagonist to interact with … imagine an alternate Emily getting dropped into such a world.
    I agree with an earlier commenter – it will quickly devolve into “church is good” or “church is evil,” either one which will either bore readers or infuriate them. Maybe both.
    Here, I’ll sum up every major religion: A long long time ago a bunch of literate (powerful) men wrote down a bunch of rules and parables in a big book (every major religion has one) and told the serfs and peons to obey the rules (and tithe lots of money) or burn in Hell.
    The end.

    Glad to hear you’re getting better.

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