Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Q&A: World Building

Q: What process do you use when creating a new world?
A: When devising a new world, I ask myself the following questions:
• What kind of star does it orbit?  There are only a small range of star types that allow for a habitable zone to naturally occur.  With the possibilities of advanced terraforming, that range is expanded, but not by very much.  However, it does allow for some "dead stars" to provide a planetary home for frontier colonies.
• How large is the planet and what is its chemical composition?  Again, there is only a finite range of planet sizes and densities that would ever support ongoing intelligent life, regardless of how advanced terraforming ever gets.  On top of that, that planet must be part of a 3rd generation star system (or younger) and have sufficient raw materials to sustain a colony, or at least to pique the interest of developers.
• There's a lot of mysteries in the galaxy!  What mysteries make sense for this planet?  For reasons that are puzzling at present, many outer galactic rim worlds demonstrate high concentrations of iron and gold.  This is contrary to what is expected, based on the life cycles of star systems within the Milky Way.  With those blurred lines in mind, I take a few liberties with some of the hard science in order to create some fantastic locations.
• If geological and bio-diversity are largely predictable, and if Earth is a pretty good sampling of what we can expect to find elsewhere in the universe, what features distinguishes an entire PLANET from other planets?  I spend a lot of time imagining how the rise of one dominant species might influence the fate of an entire world.  While survival and environment did much to shape human culture long ago, humans have in turn had a direct and measurable impact on the surface and climate of Earth, driven largely by a need to expand, survive and create.  Our means of doing do have determined what tools we use, and those in turn have influenced much of our arts and culture.  So, what if a species of bird born to a higher-gravity world rose to dominance?  I give you Afskya, and I give you the ospyreans.

Q: What is your favorite one so far and why?
A: My favorite world so far is probably K'n-yal, because it's pretty mysterious.  It has a complex, aggressively regenerative ecosystem that is driven by a sentient, unknown intelligence implied to be on a planetary scale.  As the series progresses, I look forward to peeling back the layers until the heart and soul of K'n-yal is revealed.  Second to that, I'd say it's a tie between Huya, for its gritty mix of rustic life and high tech culture, and Ixion Prime, for its beauty.  Of course, the hologram-laden high-rises and floating markets of Thasad are pretty awesome to imagine, and the endless dunes of Ry'lyeh would be breathtaking.

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