Design Principles

This is a brief summary of the principles, rules, and main features of my setting, the Inkliverse: the Sundered World.

The Inklings

The basic idea is that major fictional works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Willaims—all members of an informal literary club called "the Inklings"—are true, or as true as possible. The works used are Lewis's Space Trilogy and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and associated works (his "Legendarium").

I have not included the Narnia stories in any open way.

Charles Williams's work is present mostly in his treatment of Arthuriana, as transmitted by Lewis. I draw on his novels as convenient.

I draw on other authors, too, notably Tim Powers.

...with Modifications

I have had to trim here and there to fit things into modern reality better. Tolkien's geography is wrong or misleading, and the world was always round. Lewis's astronomy is a misunderstanding.

"Mere" Christianity

Because the Inklings were Christians (and because I am), Christianity is true in this setting. But our Christianity is "inclusivist"—the default state of human beings is saved, and you don't go to hell for belonging to the wrong religion or muffing a sacramental checklist. Characters can go to hell, but they have to march in on their own feet and slam the door behind them, by being stubbornly cruel or selfish.

The Sundering

This is a fantasy setting in the contemporary world, so there has to be a way of hiding the fantasy elements. For this, I have invented the Sundering. This is a twist of luck that hides magic from the mundane public. Try anything that makes magic public and you have worse and worse luck until you stop. Try to hide magic from the public and you have correspondingly good luck.

The Sundering is not leak-proof. Myths and legends seep through. Individuals can discover the world of supernatural events, become "Sundered," through diligence on their part, or someone else's part, or through enough weird luck.

Whole nations (small ones, but nations) hide behind the Sundering.

No one knows why it is there.

Fantasy Kitchen Sink

Some fantasy settings freely pull in creatures from any mythology. This is one of those. The setting may be Christian, and therefore give Judeo-Christian folklore some priority, but critters up to and including pagan gods are allowed in, on conditions. This, after all, is what Lewis did in his Space Trilogy.

...with Modifications

Every fantasist modifies in their own way. In my case, many things that are classes of creature are something else in the Inkliverse. Being a "god" is a social position. "Brownie" is a job. "Vampire" is a skill. And so forth.

...and Confusions and Ignorance

Note that these facts are not generally known to the population of the setting. European fays don't generally know what Egyptian gods are, nor do Mad Scientists know what's up with vampires, and so forth. Ordinary people who happen to be Sundered may be deeply bewildered and deeply mistaken.


There are four main approaches to the mind/body problem: physicalism, holism, panpsychism, and dualism (and then there are forms of idealism that deny the body and forms of physicalism that deny the mind). All have problems spanning the chasm between mind and body. So I propose a third thing, neither mind nor body, explicitly to plug the gap. "Everything should be made as simple as possible," Einstein said, "but no simpler."

This thing is what medieval Scholastics called "animal spirit." This is all very abstract and metaphysical, but it serves a purpose in this fantasy setting, because I identify "animal spirit" with that agency variously called mana, prana, chi, qi, vis, numen, baraca, foyson, and more names besides. It glues the will to the world, and it is the agency of both incarnation and magic. Magic, indeed, is only a diluted form of incarnation.

So that's the basis for the magic system.


It wouldn't be a fantasy setting without magic, would it?

Magia vs. Goetica

There are two forms of magic in the setting. Magia is magic simply by having magic powers. You do the magic thing as directly as you move your fingers, or at least as directly as you speak a language you are fluent in. Goetica is a matter of pacts and rituals and incantations and, really, amounts to getting supernatural beings to do magical things for you. It depends on something else's magia.

Magia can be good or evil, just like any natural ability. Goetica strongly slants evil, because the supernatural beings that are willing to take part in it are almost always infernal. Innocent goetica is a theoretical possibility, but not much of an historical reality.

Historical vs. Cinematic

Forms of magic available to creatures as mundane as humans include the historical forms that were and are actually believed in, of which the flashiest is shamanism or astral projection. But, just for fun, we also allow even flashier forms, "cinematic" forms, mostly varieties of "thematic" magic—magic that is about some selected thing: fire magic, book magic, electrical magic, and so on. Cinematic, thematic magic is well Sundered.

Racial Limits

Different kinds of creatures have various strict limits on the kinds of magic they can do. For instance, the djinn, who are very powerful, can truly shapeshift and teleport. Fays can shapeshift but not teleport, though they can approximate it or fake it. Humans can do neither, though again they can approximate.


Certain changes of state are irreversible in this setting, barring miracle, including:


This is a list of the kinds of characters found in the setting. Each type has variations, and there are crosses between them.

Only we can be unSundered. A few of us and all of the others are Sundered. There are human races besides the ones known to the unSundered world. There are humans with fay, djinnish, and angelic ancestry. There are also human ghosts, undead, and transformations (merfolk, centaurs, etc.) and other variations. Artificial people produced by us also count as human. One way or another, they all trace back to Adam.
A race of intelligent plasma-based creatures native to the ionosphere. They are mortal, somewhat older than humanity, and come in a wide variety of types, some of them acclimated to Earth's surface. There are djinn with human and angelic ancestry. They can all teleport and shapeshift, though they may not have learned how.
A race of immortal shapeshifters, sometimes rational (the Adam-marked ones), sometimes not. They are vastly older than humans or djinn, as a class, and derive from the afterlives of magic-capable animal species, but include recruits from humans and angels. They can shapeshift but not teleport. They always resurrect if slain.
Rational, magic-using animals derived from various mundane species. The most powerful in any given species can become avatars of their species' Oversoul. They are mortal, but reincarnate.
Remnants of a race of rational, magic-using dinosaurs, most of whom have gone on to glory. The ones left behind are a sorry lot, for the most part. Most belong to one of four populations: western dragons, the nagas of south Asia, the lung of eastern Asia, or, oldest and weakest, the sirrushim of the Middle East. All are very rare.
These are immortal, immaterial beings, generally as old as creation. "Angel" is a catch-all category for several different kinds of creatures, but the commonest ones in the setting are the eldila described by Lewis, multi-dimensional energy beings. There are three significant populations of angels: those confirmed in grace (angels proper), the damned (demons, devils), and the wavering ones in the middle (called adheen in Manx, pronounced "ad-HEEN").


This is a list of the kinds of places available in the setting.
Not used much directly, but referenced through Lewis’s Space Trilogy. Most of the action takes place within the orbit of the Moon.
This is present-day Earth as we know it. I reserve any fiction author’s right to add some fictional towns or islands.
Cryptic Nations
These are entire (tiny) nations, on Earth, but hiding behind the Sundering by being involved in magic or the supernatural. They are not in alternate dimensions. The citizens of Cryptics walk among us, unrecognized. Grand Normandy is the biggest Cryptic.
Of course there are alternate dimensions, too. Some are pocket universes. Some are “partial realities,” aspects or ingredients of the real world. They have no Sundering and some kinds of magic are easier there.
Astral/Noetic Plane
Communities and places have memories and, to a lesser degree, expectations. These form a layered collection of thoughtscapes that people can visit.
Turns out the collective unconscious is a place—a very chaotic place that many people visit in their dreams and can shape.

Return to Inkliverse
Return to Wind Off the Hilltop

Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2021