As part of my goals for the last few years, I wanted to build 2+ of my worlds that need building. I have a few projects that have gotten stuck in the worldbuilding stage for various reasons. At my last count, there are currently 13 worlds that I want to build; these are all for personal projects that I currently am interested in writing (meaning that I have more worlds, but they were left off my list because I don’t want to develop them at this time). I chose to develop 2 for my goal because that seemed like a reasonable number to me, leaving room for other projects.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been mulling over one world in particular. I don’t know what exactly caught my attention with it, but the more I think about it, the more hooked I am. It’s going to be a fantasy world, but more than that I don’t want to say right now. I’m hoping to develop it as a setting for some short stories.
I hit upon a rather strange snag about a week ago though: what kind of ocean tides do I want the planet to have? By extension, I need to decide how many moons I want to have orbiting the world. And this has led me to the work of Neil F. Comins. In particular, two of his books, What If the Earth had Two Moons, and his earlier What if the Moon Didn’t Exist, caught my eye. In them, Comins writes a series of essays where he speculates, with science, what our world would have been like had it been different (having no moon, two moons, a thicker crust, and many other scenarios). I’m currently reading the first, while eagerly awaiting the second to arrive. While dense, I’ve found What If the Earth had Two Moons to be fascinating. My world may not need all of this science (it is going to be a fantasy world, after all), but I’m having a lot of fun delving into it nonetheless.
While reading through the blogs a few days ago, I came across a post that commented on what English produces. I remember reading in Klages’ Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed that English produces knowledgeable people, and at the time I was okay with that. But the more I thought about it, the less okay I felt with this statement. Engineers, while trained to build bridges, have to learn math, which is knowledge. Scientists, while trained to discover how natural phenomena work, have to learn scientific theory, which is knowledge. Philosophers, while trained to ponder existence and our purpose, have to learn about the philosophic thought that came before, which is knowledge. How then does English get away with saying that our product is knowledge?
Klages herself partially answers that. She says that Literary Theory helps to examine how our world works. But wait, don’t other disciplines do that? Doesn’t psychology and sociology try to describe everyday human life in a scientific way? Yes, English examines literature, but couldn’t I just apply psychological theory to the literature? And don’t we already do so, seeing how there is a chapter in Klages’ book devoted to psychoanalysis?
There is obviously more to English than this, or we would just be an offshoot of another discipline. The more I thought about it, the more English reminds me of anthropology. But unlike anthropology, we are devoted solely to the written work produced by people throughout time. We are like historians, but we are looking at more than just the stories of people; we examine the way those stories are written, and we are always interpreting what is on the page.
The more I think about it, the more English seems like the unifying discipline among the humanities. There is a little bit of everything in us, and we still manage to stand apart from the rest. While I’m still not entirely clear whether there is a product, I know English produces a unique cultural record that no other discipline has. And isn’t that good enough?