Category Archives: Writing

Worldbuilding in Science Fiction: Part 1 Foundations

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.

Technology

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.

Cultures

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

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.

Conclusion

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.

For other posts on worldbuilding, check out my steampunk and fantasy worldbuilding posts.

Advertisements

Kal’s August 2018 Forecast

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!

Kal’s June 2018 Forecast

June is here.   The year is halfway over.  Where did the first five months go, anyway?  At this point, I’ve finished three novels this year, though only one has seen the light of day, just yet.  Last month I released Valor’s Duty and wrote a book for a publisher (I can’t go into specifics until I hear back from him, but I’m excited about that one).  This month I’m working on Valor’s Cost, the 4th book of the Children of Valor series.  I’m making great progress on it and I hope to release it early in July.

Later this month I’ll also be attending Liberty Con in Chattanooga, TN.   I’ll be posting my schedule next week, but I’m really looking forward to it, it’s probably my favorite convention (even including the flight out there from Colorado).

In other news, I’m working on setting up a Patreon page.  If you’re not familiar with the site, it’s a way for creators to share content and get paid directly from their fans.  I’m not sure yet of the extend of what I’ll be doing there, but I will for certain have copies of yet-to-be-released novels (yes, novels, I have 4 or 5 I haven’t released), short stories, artwork, and some other things.  Feel free to comment here if you’re interested and tell me what you’d like to see.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Kal’s May 2018 Forecast

Here’s an update on what I’ve got going on for the rest of May.

First off, Valor’s Duty, the third Children of Valor book, will be out on the 18th!  I love writing these books and the feedback from my readers tells me you like them, too.

I’m working on a submission for a publisher, one of the first I’ve actually pitched a concept and gone forward with instead of writing and submitting.  It brings an interesting set of challenges and I may write a blog post about that, if there’s interest.

I’ve yet to see Avengers: Infinity War.  Mostly because I was in Germany for work and I didn’t want to see it without my wife.  I’ll have a review post up soon(ish), once I get a chance to see it.  I’ve also got a stack of books I want to read and review.

If you’re a writer and you want to see how a slush submission works for real, I’ve volunteered one of my manuscripts for the Baen Live Slush reading, happening on 16 May, it should feature at either their 10 AM or 2 PM session and  I’ll post a link after it’s completed.  Here is a link to their channel:  (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjV7Nn4-bkB48wDjtobIuPQ)

Next month I plan to release another book.   Stay tuned for snippets and other updates, and thanks everyone for reading!

 

Kal’s (Slightly Overdue) March Forecast

Hey everyone!  March is… well, mostly here and gone, actually.  The good news is that I think I’ll have two books finished up this month.  Jormungandr’s Venom (Fenris Unchained Book 3) and Valor’s Duty (Children of Valor #3) are both nearly done and I feel confident that I’ll have them out soon.

Next on my schedule is finishing off the seventh book of the Shadow Space Chronicles.   I’ve got three more books queued up to work on after that, so the rest of spring and all through summer, you should see a number of my books getting ready to come out or coming out.

As you may have seen, I’ve redone the covers of my Shadow Space Chronicles books.  Thanks to the hard work of David C. Simon as the cover artist and to Robert Brockman for the layout/formatting expert, The Fallen Race, The Shattered Empire, The Prodigal Emperor, and The Sacred Stars all have new covers.

Stay tuned and I hope to have some more posts, (including some book reviews, snippets of new books, and cover art peeks) coming out in the next few weeks.  Thanks for reading!

Kal’s Feb 2018 Forecast

Hey Everyone!  Happy Valentines Day, and also welcome to 2018!  (Yeah, I know, where was I six weeks ago?  Well, 2017 was holding on tight and didn’t want to let go)

I’m plugging away on Valor’s Duty, the third book of the Children of Valor series.  I had hoped to have it done, but real life, alas, has intruded.  My priority is to finish that this month and get it out to my alpha readers.  Ideally I will get it published some time in March.

My next couple of projects after that are on new series, one for a publisher and the other I plan to shop around.  I plan to return to the Shadow Space Chronicles after that, and hopefully back to the Eoriel Saga and then maybe the Renegades after that.

Additionally, I’ll be attending the LTUE convention in Provo, Utah, starting on 15 February and running through the 17th.

Coming up early in March, I’ll be at Whimsycon in Denver, and I plan to talk a bit about a steampunk-related project that I’m working.  Whimsycon is a new Steampunk based convention in Denver, run by the same group that hosts Myths and Legends Con and this year they will also be hosting Westercon.  I highly recommend it, they’re great at organizing conventions and it is sure to be a good time.

In addition, I’ve had several of my older covers redone by the fantastic David Simon.  I’ll be uploading those over the next couple of weeks.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

Stayin’ Alive

Hey everyone, I’m still here, sorry for the long absence.  These past couple of months have been busy and stressful, but I’m hoping to get back to something like a normal writing/posting schedule.

For those of you curious to know what’s happening, my wife has gone through two surgeries in the past couple of months and we’ve had several visits to the ER, various doctors, and lots of appointments and such.

Combined with some other events, my priority has been managing all of that and I’ve fallen behind on writing and blogging.  But things are improving and so I’m back.

I’ve got a bunch of things planned around here, so check back for updates on my writing schedule as well as my appearances at conventions.  Thanks for reading!