Between the light at the end of that tunnel, the similarly encouraging Just One More Section state of Tempered Will, and a boost of pride from finishing up a pair of Dynasty Warriors one-shots last month, my brain started chewing on a literary pipe dream.
I like Three Kingdoms history viewed through a pragmatic lens rather than the David vs. Goliath distortions of traditional popular culture. I like people and factions with a nuanced concept of "good" and "bad", and some worthiness of admiration and relatability even if they happen to be unsympathetic in various regards. I once pondered a novel about my favorite conflict of the time - the 219 takeover of Jing province, culminating in the defeat of Guan Yu. I did some brainstorming, but the idea didn't grab me enough to develop.
That's fine with me. Now I have a better one.
You know what else I like? The slick, bustling aesthetics of a sizable and futuristic city. Interpreting character archetypes into fully fledged personalities within different settings, which I've already had enough fun with in my fan works. Speculative worldbuilding, which gave rise to a never-ending sci-fi story back in middle school. A loosely 3K-based story in my own setting would scratch that long dormant itch, let me pick my own cast of stars, and avoid the crushing weight of research required for a novel-length exploration of a specific historic conflict - politics and all. (Tempered Will is mainly about the psychology of small, personality-driven ancient militias. Research focused on absorbing enough background on Han era cultural values and peasant armies to get into the mindset of each character. Sorting out years of political motivations leading up to a big conflict is a whole other 55-gallon drum of worms.)
Speculative fiction also requires research, of course, but it would be more along the lines of consuming mass quantities of exemplary literature and learning about societal structures to inspire my own. I'm still at the point of vague keywords and concepts, but I'm hoping that's enough to get some input from the peanut gallery.
I envision a setting evolved with best intentions - not quite as successful in practice - branched off some real world society. Fittingly enough, I keep coming back to China. 5000 years of civilization makes for a versatile basis of alternate history or future, thanks to the variety of leadership styles, from dynasties to communism, and the current leadership's self-proclaimed intent to engineer sustainable development and harmony. (I lack the research background to get into how well - or not - that works, obvious negatives notwithstanding. But that's another tangent.)
I'm nowhere near the point of specifics, let alone the themes and fundamental conflicts that will arise from them. I don't even know if said conflicts will be on more of a governmental or private level. What I really need are reading recommendations about planned societies - whether utopian, dystopian, or whatnot - with that plausible feel of real world basis. Modern/future preferred, but I'll take others as well. I haven't a clue what the speculative fiction genre cliches are, let alone how to avoid them, and I sure as hell don't want to pour a bunch of time into something that's Already Been Done By Far Greater Minds. But I can feed my brain and explore this new interest, and at worst, I'll have enjoyed some new books. w00t