World-building: the planet of Gannah and the universe of the future
This is another guest posting by Yvonne Anderson. I asked to her to talk about the world of Gannah. This is a fascinating planet. Vibrantly alive, dangerous, and filled with animals which can communicate with the people of Gannah, plus plants which have amazing properties, Gannah is a world apart. It is stuck in an isolated corner of a galaxy. Its people have a gland which enables communication with each other at a distance and with the animals of the planet. The humans and the animals have forged a treaty of coexistence. I could go on, but this special world is best explained by the author.
David asked me to explain the culture of Gannah and to offer my thoughts as to why believers find it so inviting. I’ll endeavor to answer those questions.
One of the things that’s long confused me about our world: whether you look at marriage, respect for authority, fiscal restraint, environmental responsibility, or any other aspect of human life, honoring God and following His principles makes the world run more smoothly for everyone. Yet mankind tends to think he has a better way. It’s not rational, and it maddens me that humans (I include myself here) seem bent on self-destruction. It’s only by the grace of God that we haven’t succeeded.
As the seed of the Gannah series grew in my mind, I realized I’d have to build a stage upon which the story would play out. I’d never created a world before, and the task was a little intimidating. When God did it, He started with a garden, so that’s what I did:
Gannah is from the Hebrew word for garden.
God’s garden was perfect at the beginning, but I can’t conceive of perfect, let alone create it. Instead, I chose some aspects of our world that made no sense to me and “fixed” them on Gannah. Three things that bug me which I chose to change are:
- mankind’s penchant for taking something clean and making it filthy, whether it be an activity (like sex, eating, drinking) or simply caring for our surroundings
- our insistence on questioning authority and pushing boundaries, thinking we can outsmart those in charge (even if the One in charge is God)
- the way the world revolves around money
Because of the nature I gave them, the people of Gannah work with the planet rather than trying to force it to submit to their desires. They honor their authorities with such sincerity that the concept of rebellion is wholly repugnant. They consider the common good, not individual satisfaction, their highest goal. And on Gannah, there is no such thing as money.
Consequently, the values of Gannah vary in significant ways from ours here on Earth—and some of Gannah’s traditions make our Earthish hair stand on end. Consider, for instance, the fact that early in their history, they eliminated genetic weaknesses by killing the defectives who possessed them. (This is not a reflection of what I think the world should be. Rather, it’s the way these pragmatic people turned out to behave. Surely God is appalled at some of the things His creations come up with as well!)
One of the most notable differences between Earthish humans and the people of Gannah is that bit about their respect for authority.
Because this is so important to them, their culture developed complex and rigid hierarchies that are revered like life itself. Why would they want to question them? The system works perfectly, and trying to change it would be the height of foolishness.
A woman from our world might be horrified at the way a man is obligated to control his wife. An Earthish man, however, would be even more appalled to see that a Gannahan mother has authority over her son for as long as they both live. That means she can tell him how to treat his wife. If she likes her daughter-in-law, this is nice. But if she doesn’t? Well, I can think of some interesting story lines that might arise from that. The protagonist of Book #3, Ransom in the Rock, has good reason for saying she’ll only marry a man who has no mother.
Despite the liberated Earthish woman’s disgust with Gannah’s marriage laws, she would approve of one of this planet’s traditions: when a girl reaches the age of majority, she is freed from all parental control. After that, she can do however she pleases within the bounds of the law – and there is no law that compels her to marry. Therefore, a single woman on Gannah has more freedom than a man, whose mother has control over him forever.
Did I mention these social orders are complex?
They are. There’s a lot more I could tell you about them, but I don’t want your eyes to glaze over. [David’s comment: I recommend reading the books ;-)]
One thing Gannahan society lacked at first was religion. If they ever had a concept of God, they’d long since forgotten it by the time they were introduced to Earthish Christianity. In our eighteenth century, a Gannahan space traveler named Hoseh visited Earth, heard powerful preaching, and the Holy Spirit penetrated the darkness of his mind. Recognizing Ultimate Authority when he saw it, Hoseh submitted himself to the Savior.
He took the gospel back to Gannah, and it spread like a fire fanned by the wind. When faced with the truth, how could these people not repent of their sins? How could they not obey their Redeemer’s every word with joy? It was their nature to do so.
As they embraced their new faith, they retained many of their cultural traditions, for few of their laws contradicted their Creator’s. The aspects that did were permanently abolished.
One problem: I have a hard time wrapping my Earthbound mind around all this. In writing a story about a people whose culture and mindset is so far removed from mine, it’s hard to keep things consistent. That’s why, tragically, I had to kill them off in a global plague (Book #1, The Story in the Stars) and start over with a bunch of settlers from Earth (the other three titles in the series).
The majority of these settlers are Christ-followers, but all are sworn to uphold the laws and traditions of Gannah. So what we have in this series is a bunch of people like you and me who want to do right—but sometimes, it’s just stinkin’ hard.
I believe that’s why Christians who visit Gannah find the culture so inviting. On Gannah, we can give God our humble obedience without being made to feel foolish. In fact, peer pressure leads us to be more faithful and sincere in our devotion. Without the allure of wealth, our highest goal is to see God honored and the people of Gannah thrive. Because Christ is the true King, when problems arise (as they inevitably will), prayer is the first resort, not the last.
Gannah isn’t perfect. But in some ways, it’s a picture of the way we wish our world could be.