Worldbuilding – Keeping Things Real: A Guest Post by International Best-Selling Author Andrew Weston
One of my “pet things” when it comes to writing, is what many people now refer to as, worldbuilding, the process of constructing an imaginary framework in which to set your adventure. What’s a shame is the fact that sometimes, authors don’t put enough effort into creating a setting for their stories, something that contain sufficient coherent qualities such as history, geography, ecology and suchlike. Yet, this is a key task, especially for novelists like me who concentrate on science fiction and fantasy.
So, how do I do it?
I usually begin from the top down. What does that mean? It means I devise a general overview of the world in which I’m going to set my creation and then I start working inwards. Here’s a broad example:
I begin by considering…where is the world situated? Who are its inhabitants and what is their history? What level of technology do they possess? What geographical features does their planet have how does this affect things like climate and skin tone?
Once I’ve determined those facets, I start to increase smaller details. Personally, I sketch out several maps or ship schematics, and refine them as I go along. It gives me a sense of time and scale, especially if different groups of protagonists and antagonists clash. I also find this method allows me to build well-integrated societies, which in turn, reflects a superior level of quality and realism within the story itself.
I also like to approach my creation from the perspective of a game. Why? Well, since the world I create will provide the foundation for everything that takes place in it – (my concept – the characters – all the various threads and plots I want to weave together) – I want to make sure it’s as sound as possible, and affords the reader the possibility of enchantment as they try to recreate my vision in their own minds. Yes, I want them to lose themselves in my imaginary world, I want them to connect and bring it to life.
To do this, I even go so far as to construct actual languages, flora and fauna, behavioral and migratory patterns. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t drown the reader in detail, but I have it ready – at my beck and call, so to speak – so I can add the little touches here and there that makes the narrative sparkle.
I like to think of my stories as rough diamonds. To begin with, I’ve got an absolute gem of an idea. But it’s rough and lackluster. I need to examine it closely and buff it up with worldbuilding. Decide what to cut and where to spend time grinding and polishing. As it gets into the final stages, I make sure each facet gleams and that there’s a depth and perspective you won’t see until you’ve viewed all the angles.
One of the main ingredients in my imaginary worlds is the “keep it real” ethic. I’m fortunate to be a Master of Astronomy. So, when I devise my fictional worlds, I base futuristic technology on the very latest theoretical science. Think about what’s been in the news over the past year or so: teleportation was the stuff of pure science fiction not so long ago, but now, scientists can transport quantum packets of information through the ether with remarkable clarity and accuracy; we can levitate objects; have artificial air scrubbers that make the foulest environment breathable; there are engines under development that researchers are sure will punch us to Mars in a matter of weeks, not months.
All these things help me stretch the imagination that little bit further, so my readers can seriously consider…“Yes, the citizens of Arden – thousands of years in advance of our own – use everyday constructs that we are only just delving into. I can believe that.” Once you establish the connection, you’ve got your readers hooked…
You see? Keeping things real helps reel them in.
Title: Exordium of Tears
Author: Andrew P. Weston
Genre: Science Fiction
Fight or die.
That simple yet brutal reality is the tenet by which the refugees from Earth – including the fabled lost 9th Legion of Rome; the 5th Company, 2nd Mounted Cavalry Unit; and the Special Forces Anti-Terrorist Team – were forced to live by while the Horde menace existed. Believing that the threat is over, the survivors now yearn to settle down, start families, and reclaim the lives stolen from them.
But such aspirations might remain beyond their reach, for a shadow looms on the rose-tinted horizon of new beginnings.
The release of the re-genesis matrix has done much to foster a restoration of exuberance across Arden. Along with a resurgence in floral and faunal diversity comes the results of splicing the Ardenese and human genomes: transmutation. A metamorphosis of stunning magnitude that not only affects the living, but those still is stasis as well.
Recognizing the emergence of a new hybrid species, the Architect – the arcane AI construct tasked with the preservation of the Ardenese race – responds by unlocking previously hidden and inaccessible areas of the city. It also releases an archive of sealed state secrets. Such revelations are eagerly perused, whereupon a shocking discovery is made.
Prior to the fall, it was common knowledge amongst the Senatum (the highest levels of Arden’s government) that not all the rabid Horde had joined in the rampage across the stars toward Arden.
Realizing that the peril still exists, the newly reformed administration elects to respond in earnest. Existing resources are utilized, suitable candidates are chosen, and a flotilla of ships is sent out to secure, quarantine, and reclaim the outer colonies.
A mammoth and hazardous undertaking. And nowhere more so than at the planet from where the outbreak was known to have originated – Exordium – for there, the ancient Horde are not only supremely evolved and highly organized, but are capable of a level of lethal sophistication, the likes of which has never been witnessed before.
It is into this kiln of incendiary potential that the cream of Arden’s fighting forces is deployed.
Worlds are torn asunder, suns destroyed, and star systems obliterated. Yes, tragedy is forged, in a universe spanning conflict which proves once again that…
Death is only the beginning of the adventure.
The cavern’s vaulted interior resonated with silence. More than a hundred yards wide, it was a natural feature etched from living rock by the slow and patient attrition of running water over thousands of years. As time passed the wellsprings ran dry, and the chamber gradually drained. Once barren, the cavity lay undiscovered for millennia until explorers from a faraway world happened upon it during their initial surveys prior to colonization.
Recognizing its value, those adventurers adapted the character of the gallery to suit their own purposes, transposing its simple grandeur into a wonderland of startling complexity and delight.
Yet even this transformation had been a long, long time ago, and for many years now the facility remained abandoned.
Although subdued, illumination was still afforded by a swarm of ethereal holographic constructs. Of unknown purpose, these nevertheless had been rigged to serve the mechanism dominating the cavern’s center.
Here, a circular dais more than twenty yards across rose from the floor. Above it, a pair of gleaming U-shaped collars hung suspended in midair. Each measured over fifty feet in length and were positioned so that their open arms bowed toward each other. Within the expanse of their embrace, a tear challenged the authority of spacetime itself. Appearing like a DNA helix, it slowly revolved around its own axis, warping reality to its will. A gentle breeze flowed toward the rent from each of the cavern’s exits, betraying the presence of a subtle vacuum.
Blip — blip — blip!
Harsh in the silence, a warning tone blurted from one of the control stations closest to the feature. Two adjacent projectors flickered to life. As their emitters focused on a condensed shimmering fog of ionized gas, a series of complex equations appeared. The beams intensified, and a stream of translucent symbols scrolled down the misty page.
“Anomaly detected,” a voice announced. “Please stand by . . .”
Background generators kicked in. A steady whine signaled the buildup of impressive potential.
“Target recognized and locked. Quantum tunnel initialized. Temporal sheath established. Safety overrides engaged . . .”
An oscillating tone added deeper counterpoints to the coalescing energies. Underlying vibrations increased dramatically. Static sparks jumped out to scratch at the invisible plane lurking between the brackets. Lightning flashed, once, twice, then the void yawned wide and a tornado of warped sensibilities bloomed forth in a churning bore that somehow encompassed both pelagic and volcanic attributes.
“Gateway activated. Spectral sensors primed. Data retrieval will commence in three, two, one . . . Downloading.”
A surrounding halo of ancillary equipment lent its weight to the process, and by its light hitherto unnoticed features of the chamber stood revealed.
Unlike the rest of the control center, a large area along the western periphery was free of equipment. Desks, cabinets, and scanners occupying that zone had been smashed to pieces and thrown to one side to make room for the assortment of power cables trailing along the floor and into a wide pool of gelatinous goo.
The air above the mucus shivered gently, as if wallowing in the heat of a welcome zephyr. No sooner had the wormhole stabilized than the undulating curtain flared into a confusing amalgam of Orphic contradiction. Strontium-red passion vied against a well of midnight gloom. Magnesium-silver flares rushed to counter all-consuming darkness. And finally, neon-blue tendrils of scorching hot plasma contended the threat of everlasting obscurity. Such was the frenzy of the outburst that the atmosphere itself bristled, and nearby metallic objects clanged together as they became magnetized.
Hidden at the very edge of the visible spectrum, a nest of nightmare apparitions languished in hibernation. The commotion had disturbed their repose and triggered an instinctive reaction. Roused to the verge of consciousness, their glittering fangs snapped imaginary necks. Steaming talons twitched toward phantom aggressors. Huge great jaws opened, and piercing howls joined together in a cacophony of spine-tingling complaint. Several pairs of eyes fluttered open and in that instant, an overwhelming sense of barely suppressed rage and rabid hunger flooded the cavern with the promise of certain death.
“Cycle completed,” the same automated voice intoned.
The combined resonance of multiple stations shutting down droned through the gallery.
“Geodesic anchors retracted. Astrophasic tracking nodes disengaged. Gravity locks releasing in three, two, one . . . Mark.”
The humming swarm abruptly cut off.
“Returning to passive-scan mode. Info-packet prepared. End run . . . Execute.”
The hovering screens went blank, and the control room was thrown into darkness once more.
Deprived of the source of their agitation, the beasts’ emotions cooled, and they were soon lulled back toward slumber. The energized cloud hovering above the ectoplasm continued to ripple awhile longer, but it too eventually subsided into inactivity.
All was as it had been before, except that now, a brooding, heightened state of watchfulness pervaded the ether.
Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.
An astronomy and law graduate, he is the creator of the international number one bestsellers, The IX, and Hell Bound, (A novel forming part of Janet Morris’ critically acclaimed Heroes in Hell shared universe). Andrew also has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Fantasy Society and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.
When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with two of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for http://Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.
Social Media Links:
Andrew P. Weston Blog: http://theix.blogspot.gr/
The IX Blog: http://theix.blogspot.gr/