“In valor there is hope.” – Publius Cornelius Tacitus
Worldbuilding Part 1: Foundation
When building your planet, be certain to select a good solid base to begin your construction… Oh, wait. Too literal, huh?
Jokes aside, this is going to be the first of three posts about world-building / universe-building in science fiction. This isn’t a be-all-end-all guide, this is a process I follow while I develop the world in which I’m writing.
And yes, I’m starting with the foundations of the universe you plan to write in: technology, cultures, and people.
The tech of your setting is a determining factor for what’s available in your writing kit. One of the first questions I ask is how advanced is this setting? Is it near-future, far-future, post-apocalyptic, tech-retro… what is it? Science Fiction draws a lot of its inspiration from possibilities. What is possible in your universe? Most of my SF universes have the possibility of Faster Than Light travel being not only a possibility, but being relatively “easy” given readily available technology. But look at a lot of science fiction and that’s not the case. FTL Travel opens up a broader canvas: more worlds, more star systems, more potential species and cultures to encounter. On the other hand, if you want to limit your canvas to a smaller scale to focus on the characters or story in one location, then FTL may not add much to your story. Or maybe the discovery of FTL, those first intrepid explorers going out is what you want to use for your story. Whichever it is, establish the rules so you know what they are. Hard, Easy, or Impossible, and try to determine how long it’s been that way.
The mode and method of FTL travel can be important, too. In my Shadow Space Chronicles series, FTL travel is possible by entering a non-euclidean parallel dimension, one with multiple layers of which only certain talented people can even perceive. In my Star Portal universe, FTL travel is achieved through development of advanced warp-drives as closely based off current physics models as I can manage. Both of these methods have their own rules and using those rules in the stories and future ‘histories’ of those universes helps me to build a richer universe, one where characters can use their technology to solve problems.
There’s a variety of other technologies that can be important to the story you want to tell. Artificial intelligence, Genetic Engineering and Cloning, Cybernetics, Faster than Light communications, and even psionic abilities, these are just a few of the things you may want to consider. A lot of this, too, comes to genre. Dystopian Cyberpunk stories may be focused on Earth where humanity never made it out to the stars, whereas military science fiction novel may involve vast fleets clashing in interstellar space. You should already know what kind of story you’re wanting to write, this is about establishing what’s possible and why.
What cultures are dominant and which ones are important to your story? In my Shadow Space Chronicles series, the Chinese and Russians got out and colonized the first extra-solar planets and therefore reaped the benefit in cultural and technological advancement. A second wave of colonists to thousands of other worlds had to travel further at greater expense or to colonies marginally inhabitable planets, which meant they were often more poorly equipped and often were economically exploited by wealthy corporations or powerful individuals. They were also easily dominated by a coalition of the core worlds, what became known as Amalgamated Worlds. This led to a lot of hate between the outer colonies and the inner ones, not only did they have different cultural backgrounds, but the disparity of wealth and technology made for flash-points of revolution.
See how technology and culture fed together to give me some story fodder? Conflict between haves and have-nots is a pretty easy idea that most people can easily relate to, it also can provide conflict for characters within a story or a good background to set a story against. Developing cultures isn’t just for humanity. If your story is going to involve alien races, then this is also where you can plot cultures. Try to avoid making them too monolythic. Every society has its outliers, every nation has its internal divisions. Developing those internal cultures can give you ideas for your actual story and can help ground that story for a reader.
People are where you’re working toward with this foundation, they’re what your story will rest upon, they’re the meat and potatoes of your story. Not in a Soylent Green way, either. (Well, maybe, you write it how you want)
Societies and cultures are made up of people. Individuals stand out as the representatives of your worlds. Developing a cast of people, past, present, and even future, can help you to build out your world. These aren’t necessarily characters that your POV characters will meet, see, or interact with. These are important people that shape the worlds and that you may mention. People like the inventor of the FTL drive, or the person who built Skynet, or the traitor to humanity who gave away our defense codes, or the first genetically engineered person. They’re names that you can drop into the story as you’re writing and just knowing a little about who they were and why they were important lets you keep writing and develops the world that much more.
Knowing what cultures they came from, what shaped them, and what pressures they were under to make those decisions can be a tremendous benefit. Maybe the guy who gave away Earth’s defense codes was in it for the money or maybe Earth’s dictatorial rulers had just had his family purged. You decide, and then you can use that to build your story.
Knocking out these three things will let you focus on the next steps, building out your universe so that you can then write that great SF story you want to tell. Remember, though, this isn’t the final product, you world-build so that you can write a story. Don’t get too caught up in world-building that you don’t actually do the part of putting words on page for your story! Next week I’ll dive in with Part 2.
Hey everyone, it’s August. Just last Friday I had my latest book, The Colchis Job, come out. It’s already at 21 reviews (as of a few minutes ago, anyway) and I’m stoked by the feedback. If you haven’t checked it out, give it a look! https://amzn.to/2AIUnBM
What else am I working on? Well, I’m getting the fourth Children of Valor book ready for publishing at the end of the month. Valor’s Cost has been a lot of fun to write and I think my readers are really going to enjoy it. I’m going to be releasing it during Dragon Con and I’m even going to do my best to have copies of the paperback with me when I get there.
I’ve finished outlining a couple of books as well, including the first book of the spin-off YA series. Since it ties into Valor’s Cost, I want it ready to go by the end of September, which means I have to have it done by the end of this month.
My next project after that is completing my zombie series so I’ll have a full trilogy for release starting in October. Those books have been intense to write and if you’re a fan of the zombie genre (or for that matter if you think most people in zombie stories are morons) then you’ll like this series. I already have the first book done and I’ve outlined books 2 & 3, so come September I’ll start cranking out the words. I’ve also started the outline for the next Argonauts book for Chris Kennedy Publishing. So as you can imagine, I’ve got a lot on my plate!
Way out on the horizon I’ve got quite a few other projects. The fifth Children of Valor book I aim to have out in November, with the second YA spin-off due in December. As I get more time, I’m also going to finish the 7th Shadow Space Chronicles book and return to the Renegades, Fenris Unchained, and the Eoriel Saga.
That’s all for now, and thanks for reading!
The Colchis Job, a Four Hoursemen Universe novel is now available on Amazon! https://amzn.to/2AIUnBM
Colonel Jason Azoros is having a bad year. Having taken over the Argonauts’ mercenary company when its previous owner was killed, he has arrived back at Karma to find that no one will deal with him. Blacklisted by his father, Jason is forced to do a job for him to clear his name.
The early days of humanity’s expansion into space was an exciting time, as the best of the race went to the stars. Unfortunately, some of the worst went, as well, and the Argonauts must hunt down and destroy the worst of the worst, Colchis Industries.
Colchis has powerful friends, though, and its coffers are overflowing with credits, allowing it to hire mercenaries and buy equipment beyond what the Argonauts can afford. They also meddle in genetics, and their creations range from…interesting…to unstoppable.
Outmanned and outgunned, Jason and his crew embark on their voyage short on equipment but long on attitude. One thing is for sure—win, lose, or draw, they’re going to go out in style!
Here is the final snippet of The Colchis Job, available today on Amazon. (link: https://amzn.to/2AIUnBM) The Colchis Job is a military science fiction novel set in the Four Horsemen Universe. For the first three snippets, follow the links: Snippet One, Snippet Two, Snippet Three.
A few hours later, as we closed to orbit over Anauros, my plan had come together. Ruel had been giving me nervous looks ever since I’d come up on the bridge. Whether that was because he knew that Mulcahy had come forward or because he’d heard about the guard on the armory, I wasn’t certain. Either way, it shouldn’t matter.
“Stable orbit achieved, Colonel,” Heather Valsaint reported, “Anauros landing control wants to know our intentions and if we have any cargo to send down.”
“Miss Valsaint,” I replied, “Let them know we had a run-in with some pirates in their outer system. Inform them that we’re going to bring down the survivors and let them deal with them. Tell them we’ll send down a sample of some of the equipment and weapons we’re here to sell, too.” I didn’t look at Ruel but I heard a muffled hiss, “I think I’ll take our shuttle down with them myself, there’s some questions I’d like to ask them.”
Ruel spoke up then, “Colonel, how about I take care of that, for you?”
I looked over at him, an expression of practiced surprise on my face. I hoped I wasn’t over-doing it. “Are you certain?”
“I know some people down there,” Ruel smirked. “I’ll make sure those pirates get what’s coming to them.”
I grinned back, smiling for an entirely different reason now. “That could work. I’m not sure I trust these people, though. Better take a team of people you trust.” I couldn’t help but fiddle with the watch on my wrist, feeling the cool metal against the warm palm of my hand. It was a nervous habit of mine and I hoped it wasn’t too much of a tell.
Ruel’s expression went blank and I wasn’t sure if I’d overdone it or if he was having trouble changing his plans. I was offering him a chance to hit the ground with some of his chosen people, with trade goods, weapons, and a chance for him to link up with some of his criminal contacts. It is either the best or stupidest plan I’ve made since taking control of the ship. He could pack our shuttle full of well-armed pirates and go for attempt number two to seize the Argos.
He gave me a friendly grin as he thought it through himself, “Sure, thing, sir. I’ll take Schottler, Obradavic, and Cadrun.”
I frowned as I considered it. I knew that Cadrun and Ruel were close. I hadn’t figured Obradavic and Schottler were in whatever Ruel had planned, neither of them were from Third Platoon originally, which meant he’d done some recruiting behind my back. Still, those were the four who I’d ordered Reedie to take with him to secure the armory when the pirates had attacked. If Ruel had subverted them, then he’d want them with him on the ground, preparing to attack the ship.
He would also want someone on the ship to open the airlock and prevent us from blowing it like we had with the pirates.
“How about you take Mulcahy and Scott, too?” I asked. “I think four might not be enough to handle the prisoners and to deal with any kind of customs and such they’ll have here.”
Ruel’s expression flickered. I could see him trying to figure out whether he could deal with two marginally honest mercenaries and still keep someone on the ship to help him take it over on his return. I could see Valsaint and Reedie looking on, both of them clearly confused by the interaction. They knew I didn’t trust Ruel, and they didn’t know why I would send him to the planet alone.
“How about La Voie and Rice?” Ruel asked, almost gritting his teeth.
There we are… Rice had been the one to “find” the dead Lieutenant Bohannan after the firefight on Bedarine Seven. Which meant that Ruel had probably ordered him to kill his platoon leader. La Voie, on the other hand, wasn’t on my radar, other than the fact that he’d fallen asleep during the firefight back on Bedarine Seven. I wasn’t sure if he was on drugs or if he was narcoleptic, but the fact that Ruel wanted him along was a down-check in my book.
“If you think those two will be useful…” I trailed off, not wanting to sound too eager. I could see Reedie’s eyes bulging behind Ruel and he looked like he was holding his breath and starting to turn purple.
“Probably the best ones for this job,” Ruel gave me another friendly smile, though I could tell he was frustrated and trying to stay in control.
“Fine,” I nodded. “Professor, have you loaded those crates?” I asked over the radio. I’d given him the assignment as a punishment for having let the pirates aboard in the first place.
“Yeah, uh, sir, but are you sure about this–”
I interrupted him before he could go on. “Great. Go ahead and clear the shuttle airlock. Sergeant First Class Ruel is going to be bringing the prisoners down there.”
“Roger,” Grimes sighed. I could tell from his tone that he thought I was insane or stupid, but that was normal. I looked at Ruel, “Better get moving, right?”
“Yeah,” Ruel grinned at me and I could almost read his mind. He was already seeing himself commanding the Argos.
“Lots of luck,” I said as he stepped off the bridge. All of it bad, I hope…
“Staff Sergeant, uh, I mean Colonel,” Grimes asked as he came onto the bridge, “I still don’t understand why…”
“Not now,” I waved a hand and looked over at Valsaint. “They’re landing?”
“Bring up the audio,” I said crossing my arms. I’d had Grimes conceal a radio in the shuttle’s passenger area.
“…remember, get those crates open and get the weapons out. I’ve already radioed ahead. A friend of mine will be waiting. Arm up and start passing out weapons. I want to blow out of this spaceport before the authorities even know we were here. Once we hit the ship, Schottler and Obradovic, you head for the armory, Rice and La Voie, you take a team to engineering, and the rest of you will follow me to the bridge…”
“I think that establishes their criminal intent,” I smirked. “Please forward that recording to the local authorities as a statement of conspiracy, intent to mutiny, and piracy.”
“What about the crates of weapons?” Valsaint asked nervously.
“But I didn’t load any weapons,” Grimes protested, wiping his hands on his pants. “He had me load four crates with sewage from the backed-up sewage processor. The really nasty, chunky stuff, too… God that was gross.”
I heard laughter across the bridge and my smile broadened. A moment later, disgusted shouts came over the radio and I felt a warm, pleasant feeling wash over me.
“That was a shitty job, sir,” Grimes noted looking disgruntled.
I snorted, “Well worth the effort, I’m certain. I only wish I could see Ruel’s expression as we break orbit.” I nodded at Valsaint. “Miss Valsaint, break orbit, if you would. Tell landing control that we’ve dropped off some refuse in need of processing… and tell them they can bill us for disposal if needs be.”
I sat back in the command chair and took a deep, satisfied breath. My satisfaction didn’t last long, though. I cursed and pressed the button to do another radio call, “Reedie, please send for the cleaning crew, the bridge still smells like fish.”