12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of worldbuilding? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?
That would be Diamond.
The King’s Diamond is the story of a king named Damalepazhur, who rules a land long ago and far away, and the diamond his people believe will protect him from all evil. The “diamond” isn’t a stone, though: it’s a person, a young man named Ketu, and the tale is about the two of them becoming more than king and guardian.
This story was inspired largely be two things: the folkloric meaning of the diamond (purity, protection, love) and the calendar of treasures of ancient Egypt I had hanging in my kitchen all of 2007. The last page is of King Tutankhamen’s funeral mask. Now, the story of King Tut has always broken my heart a little: he was so young when he lost his father and became king, his wife was never able to carry a pregnancy to term, he had to mollify a country in rebellion against his father’s changes to their religion (Akanaten banished the polytheism Egypt had followed for centuries in favor of worshiping a single god, Aten, the sun disc), and in the end he was quite possibly murdered when he was just eighteen. And the only reason his name is known now, really, is because his tomb was found nearly intact.
So when I started thinking of plots for a diamond story and asking my what-if questions, I thought, what if there was a young king like King Tut, but what if he had something more to keep him safe, and what if he fell in love with this piece of protection . . ?
The result was Diamond.
The culture is influenced by what I know about ancient Egypt and to a lesser extent Greece and Israel and other cultures of roughly 2000 to 3000 years ago. A lot of the names are Tibetan: I wanted them to feel very foreign, and Tibetan culture is about as foreign as they come. The rest is an experiment in style and in writing about something as sweeping as a kingdom and as small as a household drama. It also owes a lot to Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite novels, though the subject matter of the two stories has very little in common.
One of my friends suggested once I should rewrite it in novel-form so I can explore the culture and setting more thoroughly. I might. I just might.