Friday, June 11, 2010

Building Captain Bonny Morgan's World for The Novel Captain Bonny Morgan: The Cassandra Prophesy by Robert "Doc" Gowdy

Today's guest blogger is Robert "Doc" Gowdy, author of the science fiction novel, Captain Bonny Morgan: The Cassandra Prophesy.

I’m assuming that what is meant by “world building”, is how did I go about building the world that my characters inhabit in my novel, Captain Bonny Morgan: The Cassandra Prophesy? For me, building Bonny Morgan’s world in the novel was quite easy. Being a big fan of science fiction—novels, movies, and television—I had a ready template to work from, especially where futuristic galactic space travel and alien worlds are concerned. However, I wanted to do something a little different given my love of the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean at the turn of the eighteenth-century. I also used my Ph.D. to good advantage in that I put to work for me my knowledge of mythology, particularly the writings of Joseph Campbell in The Hero With A Thousand Faces, and supplementing that with Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey where Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (the monomyth) is readily explained in literary terms.

Nevertheless, I built my novel’s world around Captain Bonny Morgan, a beautiful, mysterious, fairy-like galactic pirate. I derived her name from the real pirates Anne Bonny and Sir Henry Morgan. As a result, given my love for the Golden Age of Piracy, I made her a true pirate, right down to the West Country brogue she speaks, and placed her in a high-tech, futuristic galaxy where pirates roamed freely among various pirate strongholds like the real Tortuga. But in my novel’s case, it became Spiller’s Point (where, by the way, they serve Spiller’s Ale—good to the last spilt drop). In the case of Spiller’s Point as a pirate stronghold, or safe haven, I drew on my love of the mountains, particularly the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Building around the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, I fashioned Spiller’s Point as a very green, vastly mountainous planet with dense, dark forests, and high mountain peaks with glaciers that produce spectacular waterfalls. On Spiller’s Point I placed a pirate tavern called the Pretty Red. The Pretty Red is an ancient tavern, perhaps several millennia old, created in log cabin fashion and hidden within a narrow valley among very mountainous terrain. The pirates must know its coordinates in order to get there, and its fairly hidden from most ships’ sensors.

However, to compliment Bonny Morgan, I had to create a pirate world, or galaxy, in which she could operate. Drawing on ancient Irish mythology, I took as my model for my galactic pirates, the mythic Fianna—mythic Irish warriors. As a result, I made the bulk of my galactic pirates descendents of the “ancient” Fenians derived from the Fianna. As Fenians, then, they are all basically of Irish descent, and speak with an Irish brogue—not all, but most of them, anyway.

As a result of all this beginning “world building”, I found myself very quickly sketching out galactic maps in order to situate the various pirate strongholds, the center of the Galactic Empire, and internal tavern diagrams and Brethren Hall diagrams in order to situate locations in my mind, various pirate shootouts, and spacecraft battle scenes. While doing this “world building”, I happened on creating the pirate Queen, Colleen O’Malley, who is the leader of the O’Malley Brethren (one of nine Brethren factions) and has a pirate hideout on the snow planet Prilla. She, too, has an ancient, but high-tech, hideout facility, in which she also has an in-house tavern. It is in Colleen O’Malley’s Brethren Hall in-house tavern that Bonny Morgan does much of her pirate business and planning (not to mention the Pretty Red on Spiller’s Point).

In effect, then, I created one huge galactic Caribbean in which my characters live and operate. And that “world” served as a wonderful contrast for my favorite character (and the most fun to write) Tink to operate in. Tink is my nod to both J. M. Barrie and his creation, Tinker Bell. While Tink is a full-grown, human woman, she is nevertheless very Tinker Bell-like. She is beautiful, mischievous, playful, and very much in awe of the “world” around her. And having Tink operate within an ancient (albeit highly technologically advanced) pirate world was a lot of fun. However, Tink is also a slave. She is the Princess Lysette’s favorite slavegirl, another main character in my novel. Nevertheless, since Tink is a slave, I had to also create within the galaxy a “world” in which slavery was an ancient practice and tradition. So I had to build a “world” in which slave rules, etiquette, and protocols are observed, including the buying and selling of slave. Hence the creation of Miin, the planet where one of the galaxy’s premier slave market’s is located. There Tink meets Jon Black, a pirate of the same species as Bonny Morgan, and who owns a café in the Miinian Slave Market. And there she also meets Lady Brit, a beautiful young Miinian noble who is drawn into Tink and Princess Lysette’s adventure, along with Jon Black.

So in addition to pirates and slavery, I also had to create “worlds” in which royalty and nobles exist. And it seemed that the more I wrote, the more the “world” I was creating, created itself. I was quite fascinated by how once the germ of an idea began to take shape, the darn thing took off and snowballed into a rather wonderful, and quite magical, “world” in which my characters exist and, to my mind, live.

Robert “Doc” Gowdy is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a Ph.D. in Literary Criticism and Theory and an emphasis on Nineteenth-Century British literature. His specialization in literary theory is psychoanalytic criticism and theory, particularly Lacanian psychoanalysis, with further emphases on Milton and Eighteenth-Century British literature. Doc Gowdy is currently an adjunct assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University where he teaches various literature courses. His interest in writing is long standing, but aside from academic writing, his first novel, Captain Bonny Morgan: The Cassandra Prophesy is his first foray into fiction. Captain Bonny Morgan is based on archetypal themes and patterns from mythology, such as fairies, goddesses, and the Hero’s Journey, and based loosely on Doc Gowdy’s active duty service in the United States Marine Corps with special emphasis on the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean at the turn of the Eighteenth-Century.

My Facebook page is listed under Robert Gowdy.

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