THE REAL HISTORY OF MIDKEMIA
How a fantasy writer found his world
Raymond E. Feist
I don't write fantasy; I write historical novels about an imaginary place. At least that's how I look at it.
I've always had a vivid imagination. I read adventure stories when I was a kid; Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the biggest influences on my writing. And, you just don't find anything like The Three Musketeers or Captain Blood these days -- and so it's up to sf and fantasy to fill the gap.
I grew up in an environment at home where imagination was encouraged. But today you hear people telling children, "Stop daydreaming and pay attention!" Smart kids are put in the science class, not in art or music. You don't hear, "Hey, we've got a genius here -- give him a violin, a paintbrush, a pen." There's a sense in America today that art is equated with frivolity. "Serious" people don't make their living writing books.
Well, I do. I am, by much luck and some skill, a paid storyteller, despite having been programmed to think that I should be a scientist, doctor, or lawyer. Somehow, in spite of the best efforts of the Los Angeles Unified City School System, I still managed to end up a writer, a spinner of yarns, a creator of worlds.
Midkemia is a virtual world created by a bunch of UC San Diego grad school buddies 23 years ago. We did it for fun, as a pastime. This was around the time that Dungeons & Dragons was all the rage. But D & D was underdeveloped for our tastes; we decided to draw on our knowledge of medieval history and our love of fantasy to build a fully realized gameworld: Midkemia. We made up characters, countries, political alliances and disputes, a system of magic, a pantheon of gods -- a wonderful, magical place that didn't exist anywhere except in our heads. We brought it to life when we got together on a regular basis (every Thursday night for a while, then Friday nights), mastering games or playing characters. Game players understand this sort of world-building, but for a lot of people it may seem like a weird thing to do. And maybe it is -- but in my opinion it's no more weird than driving buckets of golfballs in the rain, collecting every pressing of every LP the Beatles ever made, or buying every stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service. Later, my friend Steve Abrams suggested that I tell the story of how Greater Path Magic (Don't know what that is? Read the books!) came to Midkemia; from that came my first novel Magician, published in 1982. In order not to conflict with the gameworld we'd created, I set Magician, the first of my Riftwar novels, 500 years before our game. I write the history to the Midkemia the Friday Nighters created.
What we never imagined all those years ago was that this world would take on a life of its own beyond anything we could have imagined; that Midkemia would find its way into homes all around the world -- not just our student apartments. I hadn't begun writing back then, and the possibility of a computer game was nil since the personal computer didn't yet exist. We created Midkemia solely for the sake of fun.
The books, games, and other projects underway are all part of my attempt to share with readers and game players my love of this quirky, impossible, imagined world created by a bunch of "poor starving" grad students. Whatever unique beauty and wonder comes from that world is the legacy of those original creators; I am merely the storyteller.
And that is the essence of my work. I am not attempting to produce Art (big A). I am attempting to touch the emotions, to draw the reader into a fantastic, exotic world. I love adventure and scary things in the dark, and derring-do, and lovely princesses who need rescuing (or maybe don't, as circumstances warrant). My work is an adventure, and is designed to show you what people do in odd circumstances and wondrous environments. My goal is to entertain and astonish, and I know of no place more entertaining or astonishing than the wonderful world of Midkemia.
Copyright © 1998 Raymond E. Feist
Permission to reproduce or retransmit expressly denied.