More about IB
|About Ill Bethisad|
The following is based on a text I prepared in January 2005 and posted to the Conculture group under the title "Some thoughts on Ill Bethisad" . In its original form, it was meant as a discussion piece for IB members about our future course, partly based on input provided by Padraic, which can be found here. I have adapted it to reflect more recent developments, especially those related to our transfer to this wiki.
May it serve as a reminder to IB members about what it is really about, and also as an introduction for (potential) new members.
What Ill Bethisad Is And What It Is Not
- IB is and has always been a place for expressing creativity within the framework of an alternate Earth. The principal attractant from the start has been constructed languages; beginning with Brithenig and following with a veritable host of others. If you look at the Members' List, you'll see that the vast majority are conlangers, even though their conlangs are not always related to IB. This is what makes IB unique in comparison to other alt-histories.
- IB is a collaborative project. A "family creation" if you like. Members come from diverse walks of life and from many different lands, cultures and linguistic backgrounds. They have different styles, different interests, different approaches and place different accents or emphasis on their work. But all share the same common goal of discovery within a fantastic world. That is another feature that distinguishes IB from other alt-histories, and contributes highly to its detail and colour.
- IB is a friendly place. Like any close group of people sharing physical space and activity, we sometimes disagree with one another, but personal feelings remain amicable and personal insult is certainly not the norm. This is particularly important if you consider that the more active Members often spend more time with each other than with their Real Life friends and even their family. Interaction between Members adds much to the fun, but is not a requirement for participation, as long as one's work does not interfere with that of his neighbours and takes into account what has already been discovered about IB. Yet, it must be said that many of the best bits of IB are the result of intensive interaction.
- IB is not the creation of any one person, though there are some individual Members who have put in rather a lot of work. Every Member from the first to the most recent has left a mark on this shared world -- some are vivid and spectacular in their scope, others are infamous, still others are barely discerned now and much dimmed by Time. IB is not a private intellectual property. It has been the generally stated concensus of the Membership that, while conlangs and the specific content of individual's webpages remain the intellectual property of the individual creator (unless specified), all other work done on the cultural and historical aspects of IB become common property of the Membership.
- Conworld or alt-history? Well, if we define the latter as "the careful alteration of history based upon the change of one critical point of departure", the answer must be that IB started out that way, when our one POD was the remaining in Britain of some level of Roman culture and influence. But the more we were joined by people interested in countries outside of Britain, the more this single POD was no longer sufficient to support the newly injected creative ideas. At present, if IB can still be considered an alt-history at all, it is a sloppy one at best. Most alt-histories systematically work their way up from one single point of divergence; we tend to reconstruct history backwards, have many different PODs, also several points of convergence, and often don't let our PODs interfere too much with the developments in neighbouring countries.
- Much as we care for plausibility, in general we are happy when IB's weirdness can be given a reasonable, if not plausible, explanation. What we dó have is a very particular look-and-feel, linguistic richness, fun, and plenty of space for humour, whimsy and satire. One of IB's underlying mechanisms has always been to take things that happen *here* and apply a little transdimensional magic to them.
- The world we work on is a fairly realistic model. We have not really tinkered with basic sciences, whether chemistry, physics or sociology. Although some Members have expressed dismay at the negative aspects of IB, preferring to concentrate on the "nice bits" instead, we generally do not expect a greater perfection from our constructed people, their governments or cultures when we ourselves often fall far short of the ideal. Nevertheless, although IB is a "realistic" world, where war and poverty and disease mar the beauty of existence, it contains some elements of the fantastic as well. Often technical developments that were surpassed or overlooked *here* are mainstream *there*. And although IB is no utopia, the Third World, the poor, and minorities are generally better off than *here*.
- Playful as IB might be, it is not a game. At least, not a power game, a game like Risk or an RPG. There are no winners or losers. The success of a contributor depends not on the amount of countries he gathers or on the wars he wins, but merely on the originality of his ideas and the quality of his work.
- IB is not just geography. At present, IB is a collection of written histories, biographies, short stories, a novel, news items, languages, movie fragments, music, maps, flags and other images, all pertaining to the same fictional world and represented on a number of websites, discussion fora and a wiki. There is nothing commercial about it. However, as the project grows, it might serve as a background for more professional or commercial expressions. For example, it could be the setting for alt-historical fiction (novels, short stories), computer games or board games (say, a campaign game based on GWII), etcetera. In general I think we've made a pretty good place for things to happen in, and I think that a general audience would find pleasure in reading about those things, even if they are not too keen on the "technical aspects" of culture building and language construction that we are so interested in.
- An important thing to remember is that IB is not Wikipedia, even though this wiki may give such impression. See therefore the section below.
Always keep in mind these two things:
- IB is more than the IBWiki, and
- IBWiki is NOT Wikipedia, nor is this wiki supposed to be an emulation of it.
First of all, remember that there is much more to Ill Bethisad than this wiki. Originally, the IBWiki was intended to become a repository of known facts, as far as they couldn't be located on people's private websites. Over the years, it has developed into something bigger: it contains lots of info that cannot be found on websites, it also contains duplicates of various websites, and gives a fairly complete overview of our constructed world. In addition to that, it has become one of our main discussion fora. Yet, it should not be forgotten that the primary place where we discuss our ideas is the Conculture List, and that a lot of the most essential IB material is located outside this wiki. Our Main Page contains all the necessary links.
As a whole, the IBWiki provides an excellent medium for elaborating the world of Ill Bethisad. Yet, because of its visual similary to Wikipedia it contains a few traps:
- A red link is not an open invitation to start a new article. If there is no article about a country, that shouldn't be treated as a "gap", but merely as an indication that it hasn't been worked on yet. It you feel really compelled to develop that place, then by all means feel free to make a proposal. But if you don't, then better leave alone until someone else turns up with a genuine interest in the place.
- A related danger of using a Wikipedia-like medium is the temptation to think that once an entry about a country has grown into something Wikipedia-like, this country is "complete". But in a creation like Ill Bethisad, nothing is ever complete. A short history of a country can always be expanded into something longer, and there are always other terrains to be explored: maps, news items, the composition of government and parliament, a biography of the king, popular TV shows, the national anthem, architecture, music, dance, mentality, currency, flags, companies... It is better to keep discovering new facts about one place than jumping around from one place to another, leaving nothing but shortish descriptions.
- Another potential trap of using Wikimedia software is the chance of overconcentrating on categories, templates, all kinds of tags and other secondary stuff. Especially since several IB members are also active participants of the Wikipedia project, the tempation to mimic it here is real. While there is nothing against nifty tables and the like, there no absolutely no reason why all countries should be described in the same manner, using the same templates, etc.
How serious the dangers of a Wikipedia-like medium really are for a project like this became all too obvious in the Summer of 2006. At that time, anyone from inside or outside the project could edit any page, and this is precisely what happened - extensively. Lla Dafern had evolved into our primary, if not our one and only discussion forum, and the creation of Wikipedia-like pages had pretty much become the focus of all IB activity. The discussion had lost much of its former depth, the huge amounts of work invested in personal websites were gradually neglected or forgotten, and at some point, it had become completely unclear who is a member and who isn't. Many of the older IB members felt uneasy in this new constellation and were quickly losing interest. Their dissatisfaction about the current state of affairs came out in the open in June 2006, when a relatively innocent response to edits made by an anonymous user caused a lengthy "Discussion on the Nature of IB" in Lla Dafern. This discussion, later known as The June Revolt, ultimately caused numerous changes, including the wiki being closed for editing by outsiders and most of all IB-related discussion moving back to Conculture.
Questions like: how to become a member of IB, what member can and cannot do, etc., are addressed on the page: Membership of Ill Bethisad.