PART 1: Introduction and overview (physical data, government, economy, culture, realism)
This project is likely something that will come up fairly often in my posts here.
Valocea is the name of a country situated on a large island (and on several smaller, surrounding islands) located just off the west coast of North America. It is of course, entirely fictional. But the idea behind this project was to create a fictional country that could be real, i.e. to make it (relatively*) believable. It started as a project focused more on the creation of a fictional transit system, and a single fictional city to go with it, but it has changed shape considerably since then, and the ideas that went into that city now apply to the largest and most heavily populated city in the country, called Lennvale (the location of which is represented by the black dot in region #11 on the map). That city will probably still receive more attention than any other, and public transit (both on a local and national – i.e. long-distance rail lines and such – level) will remain a big focus, and will be explored in greater detail than probably any other single subject. However, the project is very much about the entire country now, on the whole.
Because I don’t want to end up with some kind of gargantuan monster post, I’m going to present everything in multiple posts, each providing an overview of a few subjects, and then delve into greater detail in each area later on. So, this is part 1: a general overview of, and basic information about, the country.
This is all still very much in a fairly early developmental stage, so if it seems like some areas aren’t very well fleshed out, it’s because they aren’t! In addition, this is obviously not an easy task, especially since it’s just me working on it; one person has only so much knowledge about so many subjects, which means that – by necessity – there will be aspects of the country, government, economy, culture, etc. that will not be completely fleshed out for a long time, if ever. Economy is a good example, because it’s one of the big ones: I’m hardly an expert on such topics, thus, the nature of Valocea’s economy will probably be defined only in relatively vague, overarching terms. There will be no detailed examination of the particulars of their economic system, how the government spends its money vs. how other countries do so, etc. I’ll at least establish a currency (Valocean dollar? Hey, if Canada can do it, why not?) and lay out some generalities as far as the overall state of their economy, their chief imports/exports, standards of living, and whatnot. But that’s all they’ll likely be: generalities.
With that out of the way, on to some actual information…
Since mapping (for RPGs and fantasy worlds mainly, at least before this project came along) is a hobby of mine anyway, that ties in nicely to a project like this. Note that the map above was made in Gimp, consisting of nothing more than freehand shapes and lines (hence why it looks kind of bland and blobby). As it continues to progress, I will ultimately be moving the actual mapping aspect over to Campaign Cartographer 3, a very cool program geared for RPG and fantasy mapping (but which can be used for basically ANY kind of mapping by purchasing some of the add-ons), to make more professional looking, and more informative, maps. Weather and climatic patterns are a subject I’m interested in, and Valocea’s conditions are going to be somewhat unusual for an island located in the Pacific Ocean (colder winters than would be typical, mainly, particularly in certain areas) due to the amount and distribution of mountain ranges. The location, shape, and divisions of the main island, the largest surrounding islands, and the 19 regions, are pretty much set. Minor changes may still take place to accommodate specific ideas as necessary, but I don’t envision making any further large-scale alterations for their own sake to the overall shapes and sizes seen in the map above.
Measurements obtained from within Gimp put the total area of Valocea (main island only) at 677,406 square kilometers, or 261,548 square miles for those of you stuck with nutty US customary units. Yes, that includes me. Valocea, however, uses the metric system, so I will be putting measurement information as metric first (and I hope to make myself a little more used to thinking in metric via this project!). For reference, the total area of metropolitan France (i.e., just the “mainland” portion actually located in Europe, excluding all overseas territories) is 551,695 square km (213,011 square mi), and the total area of the US state of Texas is 696,241 square km (268,581 square mi).
I originally envisioned the total population of the country as being slightly higher than that of France (which is 65,350,000), in order to give Valocea a comparable population density. However, I’m thinking about increasing that a bit, giving the country a somewhat higher density than France (which is 117 per square km). Still, I don’t think it will be high enough to be in the territory of, say, Japan (population density 337 per square km).
The country is a developed, English-speaking unitary state which is divided up into 19 regions (counting two that are entirely on smaller islands, as can be seen in the image above). None of them have names yet (because names are hard! Whether they are names for regions or people, sci-fi/fantasy or realistic/modern, names always give me trouble), so for the time being, they are all just “region 1-19”. They will, of course, all have names eventually. Also, there will almost certainly be a much larger number of VERY small islands than what’s there now, but these will all be considered part of one of the existing regions; I doubt I will add any more regions just for them. Each region functions as an administrative district, with a regional government, but as the country is a unitary state, their powers are less broad and consist only of those that the central government chooses to delegate. Further subdivisions are not yet defined; at a lower level, I’m certain there will be “cities”, which will be recognizable in both physical form and political structure to a US resident, but as for what kind of divisions, government levels, etc. exist between cities and regions, I’m not yet sure.
Valocea’s system of government will most likely be either a presidential, semi-presidential, or parliamentary system; this is something I’m still working out. In any case, it will be a welfare state with a democratic government, high levels of human development, and a strong social safety net, likely similar in at least some significant ways to the Nordic Model, including emphasis on gender equality and egalitarianism, high levels of government spending, universal health care, and wealth redistribution through progressive taxation. It’s probably not hard to guess at this point that the government and populace are left-leaning politically, much more so than in the US on average. While there will still be some cultural similarities between Valocea and the US (as well as Canada), Valocea is actually most reminiscent of western Europe in many ways when it comes to government and politics.
On the economy: So far, I’ve worked out that they have less of what could be called “heavy industry”, i.e. not a lot of large-scale construction of things like automobiles or ships, fewer refineries and steel foundries and whatnot, when compared to other countries of a similar level of development, instead importing most of those materials/items from the US and Canada. However, they are fairly self-sufficient when it comes to energy production, making extensive use of wind, water, and solar power to generate electricity. High-tech and scientific industry is much more prevalent; they are heavily involved in information tech, telecommunications, and other related fields. Their largest universities are notable for their programs and research efforts in various physical sciences.
Creating interesting, believable cultures is one of the harder aspects of world-building in any fictional work. It’s hard to say how detailed the “culture of Valocea” (to say nothing of the myriad sub-cultures that also exist in any given nation!) will be exactly. It certainly won’t just be left as a blank slate with no information, but it may, like the economy, be left to generalities. Again, some things I do know so far: they place an extremely high value on the concept of transparency in government at all levels (and this has had an impact on the interactions between large corporations and the general populace, as well). There is a general sense of liveliness, of going through life being happy with oneself being considered an extremely important facet of one’s existence. Success is measured less by wealth and more by this sense of happiness and personal accomplishment. Valoceans are a fairly outgoing lot as a general rule, with great emphasis placed on the value of friendship, cooperation, and community.
*And now for more on that “(relatively) believable” from way up top there. As I said, the point of this is to be generally believable… to a point. I don’t think it’s really going to be 100% realistic. Aside from the limitations imposed by one person tackling such a multifaceted creative project that I talked about back at the beginning, there is another reason for this.
It’s going to be just a bit idealized. This is readily apparent if one reads some of the paragraphs above; the last third of the section on culture, taken on its own, certainly could make it sound like everyone there is happy and virtuous and wonderful, all the time, and this is obviously not the case. It’s not going to be a utopia. There will still be some problems, they will still have their issues as a nation like every country in the world does… but I think these will be introduced more slowly, because my natural focus is to work on the things that make it a good place to live first, since that’s a core part of the concept. I’ve at times created not-so-great or even really awful places as part of world-building for my sci-fi and fantasy work, but that just doesn’t work for me in this case. There is no such thing as a perfect country, but making a country where life is generally good, and making it a place where, frankly, I would want to live, is part of the point of this project. So, if it seems at times like the negative aspects of this nation are being downplayed, remember that it’s not my intention to purport that there just AREN’T negative aspects. It’s simply that such details are not the focus of the project, and unlike the positives, will usually be left to develop naturally out of existing ideas, rather than being pointedly created on their own.
That’s all for part 1! There’s certainly more to this project, so part 2 will follow soon.
(all real-world information sourced from Wikipedia)