Read The Perennial Appeal of Lost Civilizations – by Alyssa Day
What is it about a lost civilization? Is it the possibility of the riches and glory of long-buried treasure – King Solomon’s mines, the fabled treasure of the Knights Templar, any Egyptian tomb breathlessly opened by an archaeologist? Is it the voyeuristic appeal of peeking into a community long-dead, long-gone, unknown to anybody alive today? Or is it both of those things and more: the idea of, to borrow a phrase, truly going where no one has gone before – to walk streets that haven’t been walked in thousands of years?
All of these reasons, and more, were behind my decision to write about the lost continent of Atlantis. I’m famous (infamous?) in my family for having a long history of what you might call . . . impractical . . . goals. When I was six, I announced over the course of the year that I was going to grow up to: become a werewolf, write books, and discover Atlantis.
So far, I’ve achieved two out of three.
To me, creating a world in my head, peopling it with fascinating characters, developing rules that make it work in harmony (or cause fascinating conflict when broken!) is the most exciting way to “discover” a new world – or a lost civilization. It’s funny, but when writing this I realized that the creation of MySpace must have been a lot like my process for creating a novel, if you go by the above criteria! (And won’t the cyber-archaeologists have fun, eleven thousand years from now, wondering what to make of the ceremonial caste system in MySpace? “Were the citizens with the most Friends cyber royalty?” “Hmmm . . . “)
But leaving the bewilderment of future scientists aside, I guess I’d add that any creation of fiction, especially once based on such a large body of myth as is Atlantis, works best if the underpinnings are grounded firmly in established fact. Supernatural warriors sworn to Poseidon’s service? Great! Battling vampires and shapeshifters? Fine, fine, but let me know that the author has at least read the Plato that started it all. Show me the historical characters who really existed throughout the timeline of the creation. Don’t expect me, as a reader, to suspend disbelief too far.
As I said while watching one of the many movies based on Dracula, “Hey, I’ll believe in vampires, but don’t expect me to believe they had WonderBras back then in Romania.”
So I work hard in my fiction to show something you might not expect: the truth. The truth of human emotion. The truth of what I believe might have been behind the lost continent of Atlantis – that it sent ambassadors out to the wide world before it was destroyed in whatever cataclysm drove it beneath the sea. That culture and knowledge and learning saved from that ancient civilization may be the basis of eerily similar rituals and symbols found scattered in diverse cultures throughout the world. That maybe, just maybe, somewhere deep beneath the sea lies an immense treasure waiting to be discovered. A civilization waiting to be unearthed. Like that other famous adventurer in fiction once said to a lost boy who refused to grow up: “I believe. I believe. I believe.”
Best wishes in your own adventures,