Thursday, February 14, 2013

World Building

Lots of information in my brain these days, either from my job or activities related to my job, so I'm starting to get the urge to write science fiction (SF) again. Problem is, I write differently now than I did in my 20s, when I was kicking out a story a month. I want to understand the "universe" (or "world") I'm creating better before I just jump in and write. I ask a lot more questions and try to understand the rules of some future society. Here are some of the questions that are coming to mind as I lay the groundwork for whatever might come next:
  • What is the weather/climate like (on Earth)?
  • What do dwellings/homes look like?
  • What's the world population?
  • How do most people get around?
  • What's the fastest means of transport?
  • What does a ticket to the Moon cost?
  • How many people live in space?
  • What is the family structure?
  • How do people spend their time?
  • Is there any violence?
  • Why do people leave Earth?
  • What do people wear?
  • What are the norms for beauty?
  • What are the norms for romantic relationships?
  • What are the major taboos? Jokes?
  • How do people relax?
  • Is there any privacy?
  • What's considered a luxury?
  • How is political power determined?
  • Who are the popular people?
  • How do people treat their parents?
  • Who's at the bottom of the totem pole?
  • How do people curse?
  • How is depression treated?
  • Who cares for the children?
  • What is school like?
  • What is the primary form of entertainment?
  • What (or who) do most people aspire to be?
  • What are the most important gadgets?
  • Who are the worst villains?
  • What do people eat?
  • What are the arts like?
  • How do people evaluate virtue? Vice?
  • What's considered impossible?
  • What do they take for granted that we would find a miracle?
  • What do we take for granted that they would find horrible or primitive?
  • What do they worship and how?
So those questions will form one piece of the puzzle. Other factors include economics and technology. That, and I got the SF bug from attending the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, so I'm trying to think about the people who would willingly join an interstellar expedition if they live in a world of peace, plenty, and progress. It might be as easy as Jean-Luc Picard saying, "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our society. We seek to better ourselves and the rest of humanity." However, I find that statement a bit elitist and condescending. Is there another way to say that? Might there be other motivations for seeking out strange, new worlds?

A last piece of my current puzzle? Those actual strange, new worlds that telescopes like Kepler are discovering on an almost-daily basis. They are seriously different from Earth, and not in ways that result in just a slightly greener girl for Captain Kirk to flirt with--I'm talking seriously different: much higher gravities, atmospheres, axial tilts, temperatures, landscapes, resources, chemical bases of life. Are human beings really ready to cope with intelligent aliens that speak in sonar (dolphins) or reproduce by mitosis or that have no concept of the individual ego?

The future will be different--how different? How can a writer living very much in this world conjure up what life will be like for future star travelers who have never known hunger? And what sorts of adventures will those people have trillions of miles away from home? Plenty to think about, which is why I read and write SF in the first place.

1 comment:

Ciara said...

I love this post, Bart! Every writer should be able to answer these questions prior to writing a story. It's so important to understand the world we've created. I'm happy to say I could answer all of them for Escapement. I was a little nervous for a minute.