Ana Marija’s Imaginary World, Iveny

At first glance, the planet Iveny looks like a familiar place. It has water, a breathable atmosphere and supports a bustling human population. it could be Earth, if you don’t look too closely.

But if you do…

…you’ll find that Iveny’s universe plays by different rules. Assemble the right pieces of technology and you can step into the link field, a sort of alternate plane that connects and contains the entire cosmos. From within this plane, you can reach all points in 3D space simultaneously, which makes you essentially omnipresent. And that’s just one part of it. The link field can also distort spacetime, generating gravity in the absence of matter, it can transmit energy, and even though it’s not actually part of the universe, it interacts with matter and therefore can be manipulated with material tools.

[An engineer building a prototype of a transfer cell, which exchanges energy between 3D space and the link field. The inhabitants of this universe founded a civilization upon link field technology. Image courtesy of Ana Marija.]

Iveny and the link field were dreamed up by Ana Marija, a mischievous, creative, and cynical-but-good-humored biochemist. Ana Marija has been thinking about Iveny for over a decade. It all started when she was just 13-years-old. The first piece in what later became an entire world, were two characters named Atticus and Darjeeling, and they certainly weren’t a planned invention. It’s like they “just showed up one day, and rather than assigning them characteristics of my own choosing, I began to discover characteristics they already had. I’m still discovering things to this day,” says Ana Marija.

Ianta Oramis-Nielsen, a.k.a. Darjeeling, is a translator from Dacro, the snobbiest city on Iveny—but she definitely doesn’t share that characteristic with her hometown. On the contrary, she’s “frank, curious and sociable. Her nickname, (Darjeeling), is the name of the ship that brought her ancestors to Iveny.”

Atticus, Darjeeling’s friend and erstwhile neighbor, is “cagey, mistrustful, and stubborn, but enduringly loyal if you manage to gain his confidence.” He’s a link field engineer, and a good one.Atticus and Darjeeling share their world with a cast of characters including family members, colleagues, friends, and rivals.

[The “regular crew”. From left to right, Taxis (in the window), Atticus, Esling, Darjeeling, and Ignis. When Ana Marija hangs out in the world of Iveny, these are the people she spends the most time with. Image courtesy of Ana Marija.]

Ana Marija says that she built Iveny “backwards,” creating the characters first, and the environment second. After a while, the environment became as complex as her characters, and then started to influence them. “At the time, I did not realize that this was actually a very big deal. But whether I properly appreciated it or not, the world took on a life of its own at one point, and over the years the characters have changed, though I have made few deliberate changes to them. Rather, as I modified and expanded the environment, they’ve adapted to their new setting like living people.”

As an outsider, learning about Iveny feels like diving into a science fiction book. It’s layered, complex and deep. It explores ideas that don’t fit into our frame of reference here on Earth (like the link field). Also, there are two species with technologically advanced civilizations living in Iveny’s universe: humans and emerin. Humans are much like we are on Earth, “aggressive, xenophobic, and without foresight on one hand, and on the other, creative, insightful, and capable of great feats of scientific genius and technical skill.”

Emerin, however, are not so familiar. They are carbon-based life forms that require water and oxygen to survive, but that’s where their similarity to humans ends. Emerin have three genders and they live tens of thousands of years. (Humans only live up to around 180 years with medical intervention, in this alternate reality.) They have no sense of hearing and no vocal chords, but communicate via intricate semaphore languages using bioluminesce and polarization patterns. Vision is their dominant sense, and it’s pretty comprehensive: “[Emerin] can see in all wavelengths from middle UV to near IR (200 nm - 500 μm), and sense magnetic fields and radiation in the X-ray range. Multiple resolving and non-resolving photosensitive organs on all sides of their bodies afford a 360-degree field of view, and they have excellent high resolution vision at both long and short ranges. In addition to the four familiar senses, emerin also have the ability to perceive the link field.”

Furthermore, “[t]here are two physiological formats of emerin: the original form that evolved naturally over the course of the species’ history, and a hominid form that superficially resembles a human. The latter was bioengineered specifically for contact with human civilization.” Hominid-format emerin have the ability to hear and speak, features which were deliberately added to facilitate communication with humans.

[Atticus (right) and Esling (left). Hominid-format emerin can display “normal” human complexions, but in that camouflaged state they can’t communicate with patterns and must speak using only their voices. To them, this feels a bit like taking a vow of silence, then using a notepad to have written conversations. Image courtesy of Ana Marija.]

An interesting dynamic of Iveny is the relationship between the emerin and humans. At civilization-wide level it parallels the relationship between “a mentor and a curious and brilliant, but irrational pupil with anger management issues and no grasp of the concept of delayed gratification. Emerin see it [interaction with humans] as tending an ant farm, full of bellicose ants that can speak and build computers, spaceships, etc. Humans see it as dealing with shady, inscrutable foreigners they don’t quite trust, but tolerate because they have a lot to offer.” Yet despite this, at the individual level, emerin and humans can be “colleagues, friends, and sometimes even lovers.” Case in point: Atticus, a hominid-format emeris, is friends with Darjeeling, a human.

Ana Marija experiences Iveny in the same way you might when you watch a film—you have some free time, so you settle in and watch. Except, in this case, it’s a totally interactive environment. If she wants to, she can “live ‘in’ a character and experience the world through their senses (but not control them),” though she doesn’t do that very often because it can be quite a mind-bending escapade.

Part of our fascination with imaginary world invention at My Secret Country is because we’re curious about why we as humans, think of things that aren’t real? How does that relate to creativity? Why do people play in this imaginative way, for fun? Ana Marija says those “are in fact questions that I have given a lot of thought, though I can’t say I’ve come up with any comprehensive answers. One thing I have noticed, though, is that as least as far as creating imaginary things is concerned, not everyone does it. For example, my best friend will weave imaginary universes with me, but my sister will not. She says she simply doesn’t think up stuff like that, and she doesn’t perceive this as a lack at all. I, on the other hand, would feel like I’d lost a limb if I couldn’t create worlds and characters!I have also noticed that imagination (mine, and that of the creative friends I’ve talked to) seems to have generative capacity that is outside one’s conscious control. That is, beyond a certain point, imaginary worlds take on a life of their own and begin to dictate their own development—sometimes in directions that contradict what the creator had planned. The reason I mention this, is that one answer to ‘why do people create imaginary things?’ I’ve heard quite a few times is, 'in order to have an object/environment over which one can have total control’, and I do not buy this. At best, it is a partial explanation applicable only in some circumstances.”

Ana Marija has not described Iveny to very many people, nor archived it in any public medium before. Her world isn’t a secret, but broadcasting it was never much of a priority.

“I build worlds for myself, not other people. It’s enough for me to enjoy them entirely by myself; the characters in them keep me company. While I’m happy to share, I only do it when explicitly asked. Though I do feel like there is a certain peer pressure for everything to have an online presence nowadays…”

Learning about Iveny has been incredibly inspiring. I hope Ana Marija does write her imaginary world into a novel one day, if she wants to. Otherwise, I’m glad Iveny makes her happy. After all, that’s what our imagination can do, it can support us, and nourish us in unexpected and even intergalactic ways.

#worldplay #worldbuilding

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