Monday, July 21, 2008


When reading through my various entries here, you may find multiple (if oblique) references to the world of Varin and its characters. This is a world in which I continue to develop short stories and novels. The first short story set there will soon see publication: "The Eminence's Match," forthcoming in the anthology Eight Against Reality from Panverse Publishing.
Varin was my first really thorough mega-world. Its initial, most basic form came from a core story idea in the classic fantasy style, in which two members of an underclass discover their people were once kings and, with the help of the usurper king's abused servant, attempt to return their people to their lost status.
The Varin concept evolved beyond that first core idea because of my convictions about fantasy and magic, some of which I've discussed here at TTYU. For those who haven't read those posts, suffice it to say that I get frustrated with the unruliness of magic and the tendency of populations in speculative fiction to run true to type ("he's an elf/ a native of the planet Gaga/ etc. so that's why he acts the way he does"). Around the time that I became interested in anthropology and linguistics, I decided to depart from Varin's fantasy core and strive for a world of complete sociological realism, emulating the nuanced work of Ursula K. LeGuin. This led to the creation of the high-technology nation of Varin with its eight underground cities, and the wysps, as well as Varin's caste system (see below).
With Varin as a "real" world, I found many more stories began to grow out of it than ever before. I became able to delve into the national history and the background of each character. The original concept is now the middle portion of a more complete, fleshed-out timeline.
The Varin Caste System
Level 1: Grobal Nobility
Level 2: Arissen Officer Caste
Level 3: Imbati Servant Caste
Level 4: Kartunnen Artisan Caste
Level 5: Venorai Laborer Caste
Level 6: Melumalai Merchant Caste
Level 7: Akrabitti Undercaste
The caste system of Varin defines the identity and experiences of its people, and has done so for over 300 years. Castes are distinguished on the basis of employment, but caste membership is determined by birth, and those who marry outside of caste must fall to the status of the Lower partner. Dressing without a caste mark is dangerous, and "cross-marking," or the impersonation of a Higher, is punishable by imprisonment or death.
The strength of the system lies in the special pride that each caste level takes in the value of its societal role. Each caste has its own set of ideals and cultural ideologies, valuing different manners and behavior, and receives a different respectful greeting when greeted by those of Lower status. Internally, each caste is governed on a meritocratic basis, allowing the caste's most successful members to rise to positions of prominence.
The caste system has a single area of overlap with the distinction between Varin's two religions. The undercaste alone follow a religion based on wysps and shinca trees, the two forces that make life above ground unsustainable on the Varin continent. All others revere the Holy Celestial Family, deities based on the planets of their solar system, whose exploits are recounted in the Ancient Stories.
Copyright © 2008 Juliette Wade