Thursday, November 20, 2014

Riffing Pusad

I had a few minutes of downtime today (my workload in the office is going up again, because I'm the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind) and exploring Wikipedia I stumbled across L. Sprague de Camp's Pusadian Cycle.  I'd read a fair amount of de Camp's Conan pastiches back in the day and reading the Wikipedia article for Pusad (de Camp's effort to do a more plausible version of the Hyborian Age using Pleistocene geography) intrigued me.  I grabbed the one English-language collection of Pusadian material used on Amazon for $5, so that'll be coming in a couple days.  In the mean time, let's take a look at what Wikipedia has to say:
In constructing his "Pusadian Age" de Camp took Plato's account of Atlantis and the supposed period of its existence seriously, postulating an early high civilization thousands of years before those of the Egyptians and Sumerians, at the time of the last ice age.[2] At that time, in accordance with actual Ice Age geography, lower sea levels meant that Eurasia and Africa were joined into a single land mass, whose coastline extended far out onto what is today the flooded continental shelf.
 Civilization was based in the Euskerian lands, which were dominated by the Tartessian Empire centered in what is now Spain. To the south was the mountain range of Atlantis, inhabited by savages, beyond which lay the realm of Tartaros, and to the north Aremoria, a land of Celt-like barbarians. The northernmost known land was ThulĂȘ, a snowy land, and the southernmost Blackland, a swampy one. To the west were the islands of the Hesperides, including the island kingdom of Ogugia, beyond which lay the small island continent of Pusad, home to a patchwork of small states, of which the strongest was Lorsk. To the south of these were the Gorgades, a group of three isles inhabited by corsairs. East of Euskeria was the realm of Phaiaxia, a non-Euskerian country subject to Tartesia near the Thrinaxian Sea, and to the southeast Lake Tritonis, home to the warring Tritons and Amazons.[3]
 The Euskerian civilization was fueled by magic, crawling with wizards, and rife with Gods made real and potent by the beliefs of their devotees. It was also slowly degenerating as the power of magic dwindled in the face of an early flowering of iron-working, meteoric iron being the bane of magic. Simultaneously, over the course of centuries Pusad was slowly sinking. De Camp wrote his first Pusadian tales under the influence of the scientific theory of geological gradualism which then held sway, which led him to reject the possibility of the island continent disappearing in a sudden cataclysm, as related by Plato. Later scientific discovery of the geological forces of plate tectonics have since precluded the possibility of an island continent ever having existed where he (and Plato) put it, regardless of the rate of destruction, rendering de Camp's gradualism as obsolete as Howard's catastrophism. 

I dig this.  I dig this a lot.  The idea of a civilization "crawling with wizards" brings Clark Ashton Smith to
mind, and possibly suggests Melnibonean society as well.  I'm picturing the Tartessian Empire being centered around a sprawling decadent city of sorcerous towers inhabited by drug-addict necromancers and their coteries of bitchy, sarcastic mummy slaves and sycophantic demons itching to betray their masters.  The Empire's surrounded on all sides by enemies; the Celt-like Aremorians to the north, who are maybe advancing into the Iron Age and posing a real threat to the mages of the Empire, and the cannibal tribes of Atlantis to the south.  The Thule of the far north are proto-Norse and probably dealing as much with frost giants as they are with the Tartessians, while the (jungle) swamps to the south are maybe analogous to the depths of the Congo and probably crawling with surviving dinosaurs, aka "dragons."

Phaiaxia sounds Greek to me, and is maybe composed of loosely-allied city-states and big bearded assholes with boars-tusk helmets and hallucinating women in oracular temples.  It's interesting that they're apparently a client-state to Tartesia; I'm debating whether this would be a military, magical, or economic conquest -- all three offer interest possibilities.  Google tells me that de Camp probably grabbed the name from Phaiakia, aka Scheria - the last island Odysseus stopped at before returning home to Ithaca.  The ruler of Scheria apparently had a palace with a system of automatic lighting and robot dogs running around, plus a harbor full of ships controlled by telepathy, so maybe Phaiaxia is advancing technologically and the balance of power between decaying, arcane Tartesia and advancing, scientific Phaiaxia is nearing a tipping point.

More riffing to, maybe I should have saved the $5 I spent ordering the book!

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