Worldbuilding: Islandfolk! (Final installment) (For now)

(Previous installments: [1. Things I'll probably screw up] [2. Dwarves!] [3. Elves!] [4. Giants!] [5. Spirefolk])

If there's anyone in my setting who're particularly like Western humans, it's the islandfolk.  Even then, though, I'm not enthusiastic about making sure they fit in with any particular Western cultural tropes.

The Islandfolk are the most advanced race with respect to evocation -- like, the really magicky magic.  Fireballs, controlling the weather, and things of that sort.  This is convenient for them because they're the only people with a serious seafaring history, and that gets a lot easier when you can clear a storm or summon winds to help you along.

Pictured below, the Islandfolk population mainly originates on the two southernmost continents, as well as the islands around them.  They have a number of distinct nations, but have had a general blending of culture over time, and speak variations on a single language.

islandfolk-territory

Most of the intercultural exchange and broader unification of the world came through the Islandfolk's pursuit of trade, and, later, imperial spread.  They came to dominate the center of the world map, assimilating a lot of smaller, interstitial cultures and establishing a general dominance, stopping short at the lands of the Spirefolk and the Trolls, both of whom have deserts and mountains to protect them geographically, and the Elves, who are absolutely militarily superior in the forest, and use lifebringing magic to counter attempts at burning the forest down.

map-center

The Islandfolk aren't the only empire-builders in the world -- the Dwarves and Ice Giants both have territories that resemble the hearts of once-strong empires.  The Islandfolk's advantage was having hospitable land to expand into for a long way before hitting the dead-ends of deserts, ice wastes, or the Elves' forest.  (Some historians argue that the forest represents an Elven empire, spread unnaturally large and thick and only stopping at the edges where climate inhibits it.)

Class and gender distinctions are stronger in the Islandfolk's larger culture than in most other parts of the world, but still relatively tame compared to real-life.  I want to note again the influence of magic here:

  • magic allowing for reproductive freedom is extremely simple, and generally mastered before recorded history in the cultures of this setting.  As a consequence, it's impractical to try and force women to bear children, and a woman with a sex life is not likely to be unexpectedly removed from her profession for maternity.  So, women have a much higher degree of equality.
  • class oppression is also more difficult in this setting than elsewhere, because through magic -- and, the intervention of actual, real-life gods -- the poor can pretty easily stage a revolt, or get their own limited access to food.  It would be almost impossible to create a structure in which the lower classes were genuinely dependent on the upper classes.  This is not to say that nobody has tried, and is not to say that class distinctions don't occur.

I don't want to make this all sound too utopian -- there are still plenty of things that suck -- and I don't want to write a setting that enforces the narrative that race, sex, gender identity and so on aren't real issues in real life, but if I'm writing fantasy fiction, I want to write a world in which any of my readers can imagine themselves living in, and thriving in.  So I don't want there to be too much systematic injustice, I don't want it to seem like the only people who can go on adventures in this world are cis white men.