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PLACE NAMES ON LYR by Chris Wayan, 2004

"Planet-building is one of the joyous arts, if you have that sort of mind"--Poul Anderson

Lyr's homepage, map, gazetteer, evolution on Lyr, climate zones, geology and geography, nomenclature, definitions.

Originally, I planned to use Celtic nomenclature for the world of Lyr, especially sea-gods and goddesses. But the records of Celtic myth are chaotic and fragmentary, disagreeing on even the major gods' names and natures. The Romans and Christians wrote what little we have, and they were hostile (to put it mildly). I ended up using the few dozen Celtic names I found for features on Lyr's huge moon Oisin, instead.

Meanwhile I was scouring science fiction for models of middleweight planets. Diomedes in THE MAN WHO COUNTS by Poul Anderson was so eerily parallel to Lyr that I read more of him. His work over five decades reveals a gifted exobiologist who rang endless variations on my theme: non-Terran worlds that evolve intelligent life with unearthly bodies and minds, convincingly shaped by unearthly conditions. For example:

DIOMEDES
A world whose thick air allows intelligent fliers, but it's so sharply tilted they must migrate twice a year and breed seasonally. But what triggers mating isn't the day-length, as with Earth birds, but--no, I won't tell you. Read it and see if you guess...
YTHRI
A second world of fliers, non-migratory ones with supercharged metabolisms and voracious appetites that shape their far more territorial psychology.
IKRANANKA
A tide-locked world, one side endless day, the other endless night. It's still viable--barely. Its natives fear change, for in a land without natural cycles, most change is disruptive... except at the terminator, where the sun's low, and slight but regular changes breed relative trust--and civilization.
TAMBUR
The earliest prediction I've found of a Pegasian planet (a warm Jupiter)--and the earliest proposal that such a giant could have an Earthlike, life-bearing moon. As it's tidelocked, the inhabitants of the farside have never seen Tambur, never known they live on a mere moon--until a Magellan sails far enough.
ALTAI
A sealess world whose water is locked in great icecaps, leaving a equatorial ring of tundra and steppe. But this belt, bigger than all the land on Earth, is ignored as a searing desert by the natives, who, with antifreeze for blood, prefer the ice...
ROLAND
A hot world with a single polar continent whose mild but twilit climate shapes natives with an eerie psychology.
T'KELA
A cold world using ammonia in place of water--but the parallel isn't exact, and the difference shapes both the ecosystem and the culture.
ULASH
A world whose natives co-evolved with a second intelligent species they use as servants. Not slaves, for they're naturally loyal--but not pets, for they're as intelligent as their masters. Does intelligence alone define personhood?
AK'HAI'I
A world whose axial tilt is as unstable as Mars, so climate zones slowly shift, forcing whole societies to invade other lands or die. Can peaceful cultures survive when the world itself forces war?
WORLD WITHOUT STARS
An extragalactic red dwarf with an old, tectonically dead world, whose marshes support a timeless people who believe no other worlds exist... and why should they, under their starless skies?
ISHTAR
A world whose sun has an eccentric companion in a cometary orbit, darting in every tenth century or so--devastating world climate and civilization.
In tribute, I've named all features on Lyr using terms from his work--not just those listed above, but dozens of stories and novels. Of course, I couldn't set every name, or even most, in a place much like its original Andersonian context, though for place names I've tried. Many of them aren't place names--there weren't enough--but characters, species, cultures or worlds. I'm following an astronomical precedent: the Uranian moons are Shakespearean characters, not places. OK, Anderson is not Shakespeare, but unlike most writers, he did try--read "A Midsummer Tempest", written in iambic pentameter and set in an England where Shakespeare's called The Great Historian, for whatever he wrote is the literal truth--Bohemia has a seacoast, Macbeth swiftly fell, and Puck haunts the wildwood...

Anderson wrote prolifically for sixty years, and I still haven't read all his work--I can't review "The Fall of Ys" or "Hoka!" or "Boat of a Million Years" or dozens more. Some are lightweight. Many of his early tales are just dressed-up scientific riddles, of world-building interest, but not emotionally engaging. The Flandry books are light escapism, the sf equivalent of James Bond stories--yet even they have solid, interesting planetology. What DO I recommend?

BOOKS SHORT STORIES (many are in the three collections listed on the left)
The People of the Wind
Going for Infinity (collected stories)
A Midsummer Tempest
Winners (collected stories)
The Merman's Children
All One Universe (collected stories)
The High Crusade
The Man who Counts
Operation Chaos
Fire Time
Tau Zero
Goat Song
No Truce with Kings
Rokuro (a one-act No play)
The Problem of Pain
Strangers
The House of Sorrows
The Master Key
Lodestar
The Longest Voyage
The Queen of Air and Darkness
Losers' Night
Windmill
Question and Answer
The Horn of Time the Hunter
The Sharing of Flesh
A Little Knowledge
Dead Phone
The Visitor
Journeys End
World without Stars
Kyrie / The Martyr
The Helping Hand

One final map: the sources for place names on Lyr:

Map of Lyr, a world-building experiment. Click a feature to go there.
Gazetteer: index of places, with descriptions. Or...

TOUR LYR! Climb volcanoes, swim seas, meet weird creatures. First: survival tips! Then, pick a region:
Ythri -- Polesotechnic Chain -- Troisleons -- Roland -- Oronesia -- Gaiila -- Flandry -- Diomedes -- Ak'hai'i -- Averorn

Lyr's homepage - map - creatures - evolution - climate zones - geology and geography - gazetteer - nomenclature - definitions



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