Monday, 14 March 2011

'World-building' three universes: Eden, Hell and Sphericon

One of the things a SF writer has to do - which is a lot of fun - is build a world (or galaxy, or universe). There are some basic questions to start with: Is humanity alone? If not, are we top dog or easy meat? How do people get around? Does long distance travel uphold Einstein's relativity laws or sidestep them? Is it a fun place, a dangerous place, or Dystopian? That's just for starters... Then the writer has to add rules - these are the unwritten rules of how things work in this galaxy, i.e. its culture. The writer has to stick to the rules, even if the protagonist flouts them (knowingly). Once this 'frame' is in place, readers can enter and immerse themselves in the story.

I seem to be stuck in three Universes at the moment. The main one of course is Eden, where the galaxy is far from unoccupied, though the galaxy-building doesn't get into real swing until Book Two, where there are quite a few races developed as well as 'Grid Culture', which revolves around an intelligence scale (we're 3 going on 4, and top is 19) and a mode of transport (the Grid). There are rules, and humanity has to figure them out fast if it is to survive, especially when our heroes find themselves on trial where truth is ascertained by mind-invasion...

Second universe is Hell, and is a short story universe: still plenty of aliens but more sluggish transport systems. Hell, as in the short story 'Looking for Hell' is a 'fun and extreme-danger' place to be, and I liked it so much and its aliens, and the publisher did too, that I'm working on the sequel (Escape from Hell), which should also be a lot of fun. Most of the sequel takes place in Hell itself, so I have to create a SF-rationalised version of Hell, including why anyone would build Hell in the first place (there is profit to be made).

The third universe is Sphericon, set about 400 years into the future, and here man is top dog. This is short story but also serious stuff - the first one called the Sylvian Gambit, is about to come out, and I've just finished the draft of a second Sphericon short story called simply 'The Meeting'. Sphericon imagines a ruthless way forward for mankind, and in effect it's a universe where most species are afraid of humanity. If you think about it, and study man's colonial history and tendencies, it's not such an unlikely prospect. The story that starts humanity off on this particular trajectory is in my head but not yet on paper.

So, three SF universes. I hope something for everyone in there :-) And my inspiration right now? Well I'm reading Matter (Iain Banks), Coalescent (Baxter) and Nova Wars (Gary Gibson). These don't necessarily feed my universes, but I pay close attention to how they develop theirs.

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