The Big Idea: Aaron Sofaer

Author Aaron Sofaer needed to do some worldbuilding for the novel Quill & Still, and in this case, there was no point in doing it halfway. Come along as Sofaer goes into detail about what it takes to make a kingdom from scratch — and that has also existed for a millennium.


Quill & Still was always a story about civics.

It was called “The Quill & Lathe” at first, and it was going to be notionally focused on woodworking, magic by way of writing, and the use of those two in tandem. (I had just re-read The Magic of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt, Jr., and it showed.) But the first piece of worldbuilding was a treatise on patent law and how it could be used to actually incentivize innovation, not anything related to the main character’s profession or her adventures; I knew, even then, that it was the civics and public policy which were compelling me to write the story.

What might it look like when a society makes decisions on purpose and in earnest, rather than as a byproduct of ossified systems of power and governance? The Kingdom of Shem was my answer, inspired by authors like Alexander Wales (This Used To Be About Dungeons), Elizabeth Bear (Ancestral Night), Becky Chambers (Records of a Spaceborn Few), and Graydon Saunders (A Succession of Bad Days). It’s a messy place, a place that considers itself a work-in-progress, a place of political factions fighting over what the right path to a better future is… but it’s a place where those battles are fought earnestly and in the open, a place where those fellow travelers would rather build a compromise than tear each other down.

Quill & Still Book One: Amazon|Riverfolk Books

Author Socials: Website|Mastodon|Bluesky|Discord Server

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