While I was in London, my sister briefly commented that she was going to visit Highgate Cemetery (I believe Karl Marx is buried there?), but it – as usual – set off a train of thought.
I’m killing a character in Heights and Horizons (no, I’m not telling you who), but it got me thinking: I haven’t dealt with funeral and burial customs for any of the worlds. There have been deaths, and we know some of the customs (or at least in Aleric): I borrowed Dune so green is for mourning, but burial customs in wartime tend to be odd anyway, and we only really saw Quorl’s.
The death in H&H is going to be fairly important, and have a lot of emotion and character attached to it, so it makes sense to explore the burial and funerary customs. The people involved will also be in a different land to their own, so I can explore the differing customs: how does a desert differ from a forest? A sea-town to the Mountains? And how do the different worlds view death?
I don’t deal in religion in the books – partly through personal preference, as I’m not religious, and partly through simple need: a lot of the culture in the books is assumed, either because I haven’t worked it out yet or it’s not relevant, and so I haven’t gone into detail. I also think that the culture of the worlds tends more towards personal views and opinions, as opposed to the organised religion, and there also aren’t enough people yet to have spawned the mass hysteria and cult-like ideas of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries on Earth. We’re still very much in the farming ages, with small communities and long periods of travel to get anywhere; ideas are spreading faster and technology is coming, but it hasn’t yet changed the world.
I also want to twine the idea of death – and of being immortal, feeling too young to die, feeling too alive to die – throughout the entire book. The early pilots were daredevils: so many of them died and yet, reading someone like Von Richtoffen’s writings, he almost felt as if he couldn’t – and yet knew he would. The early explorers stepped off into the unknown simply for the thrill of seeing the next horizon, knowing that they might die out there; and yet they still went, and often went again and again. There’s something – some madness, some thrill, some drive, some golden light – that made them want to keep going, and I want to explore that.