Friday, February 1, 2013


I've been trying to expand the weaponry horizons of the cultures on my world. The meteor hammer was a delightful discovery that I'm excited to implement with the warrior class of a central city-state. One day recently, I remembered a neolithic spear thrower, also known as the precursor to the bow and arrow. Some research was met with an atlatl sporting community and tons of great information. It's a weapon that's conceptually simple to make - with a lot of room for custom design - and lethal in the right hands.

I have yet to really nail the atlatl posture. Here's a tutorial on the proper throw. As with many - and really the goal of any - tools, the more balance and less effort used, the better. But that doesn't invite as much interest as an over-exaggerated, super-dynamic ACTION POSE! So, currently, I'm attempting to figure out how to make it interesting without pulling a Catwoman. Perhaps my rendered atlatl proteges will develop their own techniques. (My third grade teacher scorned the way I held a pencil, but I've stuck with it. Apparently it's unusual. And my writing is super tidy. So sometimes there are unusual but effective ways to do stuff.)


My husband used his fantastic woodworking skills to make a test atlatl out of two hardware store dowels - a very, very basic design to test out the concepts. My first throw left my fingers easily and stuck in the ground. Very exciting! However, the spears/darts/arrows/whatever were also made of hardware store dowels, so 30 feet (which is what I could throw manually) turned out to be the distance cap right there. A proper spear needs a lot of lightweight bending potential; that's how you achieve good, long, mammoth-killing throws. Still, I couldn't help but decorate my first spear, fletching it with goose feathers, painting it with India ink, and whittling the tip myself. (A manual pencil sharpener is much faster and more even.)

I love researching to try to bring as much depth and human history into a fantasy genre that is commonly based on middle-aged European settings. Yawn. The irony is that the more research I do into cultures of the Earth, the more fantastical I find it. I can't imagine thinking up a bow and arrow, Persian loom, or goldsmithing over a meager fire made of yak dung. Arts and technology, man! It's nuts! Creating a "fantasy" world becomes hard to do in the shadows of thousands of years of human civilization. So much of it is completely amazing and diverse. It's hard to wrap one's head around.

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