Showing posts with label worldbuilding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label worldbuilding. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

DeathDay: What Alien Invaders Must Do

An alien invading army must be able to do three things: move, shoot, and multiply. Multiply? Yes, as in 'be fruitful and'. An alien invading army that cannot do that might as well stay home. And that is the problem I found with the alien invaders of William C. Dietz's DeathDay.

DeathDay, published in 2001, and its sequel EarthRise, is a mashup between an alien invasion novel and a solemn tract on the overwhelming importance of racial political correctness. As you may have guessed, that bit didn't work for me.

The alien race, the Saurons, come in three color coded types, and for the purpose of educating us, the ruling type is black! and the menial caste is white! But the important thing about the Saurons is the way they reproduce--- and the fact they don't seem to be able to multiply.

With the Saurons, their reproductive phase begins when a nymph begins growing within their body. When the nymph is big enough, it emerges, killing its parent. But this doesn't matter because the nymph is identical and carries on.

This reproductive phase happens to the whole race at once. When that happens, they high-tail it to a planet, invade, and use slave labor to construct chambers for the change to happen in.

Now, there is an important mathematical bit here: there is only one nymph per Sauron. And 3% of Saurons are early changers and they, and their nymphs, won't survive. So that alone means that each new generation is 3% smaller than the last.

And then there is the factor of Saurons that die of other causes. Since their military force is overwhelming, they don't have battle deaths to worry about. But then they gather survivors to put them to slave labor, giving the angry slaves and other rebels plenty of cause and opportunity to kill a few Saurons. And there are natural causes and accidents as well.

So what we have here is a species that is incapable of population growth at any time, no matter how favorable the circumstances. A species, moreover (I love the word 'moreover', I had a blog named that once) that is locked into population shrinkage for all eternity.

The question becomes, why are there any Saurons left? How could they evolve from the slime when their biology means that the first little band of Saurons to evolve would have shrunk and become extinct long before they had time to develop the wheel, much less space travel. This species is non-viable. It cannot do what the author has it doing.

I fully understand how author William C. Dietz made this mistake. Population growth of any kind is a strong taboo in modern-day progressive circles, to the point that some even call for deliberate human extinction.

How could these aliens be fixed? I might have the aliens not be evolved creatures, but created ones. Now, don't get all bent out of shape over 'created', some alien genetics lab trying to create some perfect warrior race as a weapon will do just as well as Almighty God. In this scenario, the creators can make as many Saurons as they like in a lab for an original base population, and can teach them to use any technology they need to use to fulfill their purpose.

As for the population shrinkage thing: we might give Saurons the ability their creators had to build new Saurons in the lab. But that might change the nature of the race to give them that ability.

What I would do is introduce a concept of twinning. A certain percentage of Saurons would produce two nymphs. That means a certain number of living Saurons would have twins. Perhaps there would be a certain food supplement to adjust the twinning level to the amount desired: to keep the population the same when the living space on their spaceships was full-up, and to increase when they had extra living space--- perhaps from adding new ships to their fleet.

The lesson of DeathDay--- other than to avoid getting all preachy with your race relations politics--- is to think your alien societies through. Make sure you are not creating a non-viable, doomed race such as the Saurons when a little thought can make them realistic.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Worldbuilding Blogfest: History of the Frederikaners

History of the Frederikaners
from 'Shepherd'

The seed colonists of the planet Niesse are a distinct nationality/ethnicity known as the Frederikaners. The main group of Frederikaners live outside the Terran Empire, and are under the authority of an alien species known as the Gray, and live on a continent on one of the Five Worlds that is owned by the Gray. This is their history.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Worldbuilding Blogfest: Geography of Niesse

Geography and Climate of Niesse

Niesse is a world in the Terran Empire, from a WIP with the working title 'Shepherd'.

The planet Niesse is located on the Wieman Expanse, a relatively new slipstream trail with a start-point at the Star Colony Olmayo. Niesse is in the third stage of terraforming and is under control of Grovanli Iterations, an ellessee new to the enterprise of terraforming.

The view on the planet Niesse, regardless of where one chooses to land, is bleak, as is common in a terraformed world at this stage. It looks like a bleak endless sand desert--- rocky in some spots--- with no visible living things.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Worldbuilding Blogfest starts Monday!!!

Sharon Bayliss is hosting a Worldbuilding Blogfest which starts this Monday. There are post suggestions for each day of the blogfest.

I've found such events are a chance to visit other blogs and to be visited by them, so I am participating. Hope you will consider doing so as well.

Here is the Blogfest list:

Population Dystopia in Fiction

Especially in science fiction, from time to time we see fictional characters coping with a population dystopia--- a demographic trend which causes widespread problems for the human race--- or for any other race you happen to be writing about.

Population dystopias come in two major types: the population bomb of overly high population growth and a demographic winter of falling birthrates, an aging population, and population shrinkage.

In near-future fiction, using either of these themes is sure to provoke extreme emotional reaction in people who have strong opinions on either of these demographic theories. In stories set in the far future or in fantasy world settings, you can hope that these reactions will be toned down.

The Population Bomb: I remember reading a copy of 'The Population Bomb' by Paul Ehrlich. His chilling prediction that high population growth would lead to famine in America and Europe by the end of the 1970s would have been even more compelling had I not been reading it in the late 1980s.

Harry Harrison's Make Room, Make Room is a science fictional treatment of the population bomb theme with the usual overcrowding/food shortage theme. This book was make into the movie Soylent Green, which added commercialized cannibalism into the mix. I still remember Charlton Heston running around screaming about soylent green being made of people. In the book, of course, it was made of soy--- or perhaps soy and lentils, or some hybrid of the soybean and the lentil.

Orson Scott Card's book Ender's Game (a Hugo and Nebula award winner) has the population bomb as a minor theme. In Ender's world, governments forbid families to have more than two children. Excess children from non-complying families are not permitted in the schools (which all seem to be government schools). Ender's parents gave up their non-complying religious faiths--- Catholic and Mormon--- in order to get an education, but when the government asked them to have a third child because their first two were almost-but-not-quite what the government needed in a future military leader, they feel quite awkward about it.

Demographic Winter: This theme is not as widely used, though it can be found in a number of fantasy series featuring elves. The elven race is quite frequently seen as experiencing a demographic winter of falling birth rates.

For example, in Mercedes Lackey's elves-and-race-cars series, the elves are seen as cherishing and protecting abused children, often kidnapping such children from their violently abusive parents. The motive is given that elves cherish children because they have so few of their own. The common demographic winter concern of masses of elderly people needing care and few young people to give it is not shown--- the elves may all be over one hundred, but they seem like young people or at worst, middle aged. But it is obvious that the elves' adoption of abused children is a custom that would provide them with a substitute labor force to help them care for elderly elves when it got to the point there were not enough young elves for the job.

If you have read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood you may have thought it a simple work of new-feminist polemic or of anti-Christianist bigotry. And those are indeed the reasons why the work is taught in schools as literature. But the book also contains a demographic winter theme.  The absurd walking stereotypes of a liberal's view of 'fundamentalists' (evangelical Christians) are experiencing a demographic winter caused by widespread infertility. The feminist heroine, as an enemy of the Gilead state who is a woman of proven fertility, is placed in a home as a 'handmaid'--- a household servant who is expected to bear a child to the household's master. I must applaud Miss Atwood for taking the trouble to create an actual motivation like this for her absurd Christian caricatures. A lesser writer wouldn't have troubled to think of a reason for them to do this evil other than 'that's how evil those Christians are'.  While I personally think Miss Atwood might have taken the trouble to actually meet and talk to a conservative Christian in person before writing this book in order to ground the Gilead characters in some faint semblance of reality, she did at least do enough of her homework in world building and in creating her main character to enable me to find the book not only readable but re-readable, in spite of the bigotry in it directed at my own faith.

Have you ever thought of using a population dystopia theme in your fiction? Was it a major theme of the work, or only a side issue? Did you make it close to the population concerns people have about the real world, or did you try to make it quite fictional and distinct from people's view of real-world population issues?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Linguistic Aspects of Worldbuilding

In fantasy and science fiction, some degree of world-building is essential. In fact, if you start out without doing some world-building type planning, you may end up writing a world that is a clone of Narnia, Valdemar, Middle-Earth or Darkover without intending to.

A centrally important aspect of world-building is language. You don't have to do what J. R. R. Tolkien did and construct languages for your fantasy world. But your novel will have characters and places, and those characters and places will have names. You want those names to add to

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Outlining Collective Characters/Fantasy-SF Races

Chantho, alien chick, Doctor Who
In NORMAL fiction, you usually only need to outline the individual characters. You don't need to write yourself an essay on what the human race is, or a reminder that black people tend to have dark skin.

In fantasy or science fiction, however, you may have to deal with creating collective characters--- groups with common characteristics. Like elves, Vulcans, Timelords, hobbits, Buggers/Formics, hertasi and other fantasy/SF races.

You might also have a collective character that is a faction within a race/species/culture. Like the Death Eaters in Harry Potter.

What you do is you work up the collective character as if it were a single character. In the place where you'd put physical appearance, you put down the distinctive characteristics--- an insectoid race with a hive mind, a humanoid race with pointed ears..... For things like values, ambitions, story goal, you answer for the collective character as a group--- any individually important members of the group you will outline as an individual character, anyway.

If you are using the Snowflake Method, the steps that deal with characters are Step 3: Define Your Characters, Step 5: Write Character Sketches, and Step 7: Create Your Character Bible.

What I did--- since I have Asperger Syndrome and my brain is weird--- I wrote a free-form sort of Step 5 (for both collective and individual characters) and then went back to do Step 3, which has 7 sub-steps and is so more formal/organized. In time I will do Step 7 to expand on the important characters/races.

On organizing the result: I have a big binder which has sections for the worldbuilding--- one tab for 'Erileth' (name of my planet) and one for each of the five regions--- and sections for the 8 initial snowflake steps for the individual novel. For the collective characters/races, I will have to make 2 copies of my print-outs, one for the worldbuilding section and one for the individual novel's section.

Today I worked on the race known as the Gray Seekers. They all have gray skin, black hair and silver eyes.They all wear nearly identical white coveralls, are engaged in scientific research, and have the highest level of technology--- or magic--- of any race on Erileth.

Tomorrow I'm probably going to move on to the Sahchiro, who have dark brown skin, green hair in various shades, and golden eyes. They wear very short, colorful tunics and no underpants. They are warriors who live in high mountains. Their name for themselves means Eaters-of-Men, and their name for other people can be translated 'meat-that-walks'.

So--- what do YOU do to create and outline your fantasy or sci-fi races/cultures?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...