Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo - Musings on an SF Setting

The event: Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2013.
The target: 25,000 words, since I've got other stuff I'm doing.
The real goal: To see if the SF setting I've been percolating for nigh-on two decades has legs.

So, yeah, this is me using my eighteen-and-change years old SF setting and trying to write a story in it. It's a setting that has undergone a lot of changes in various phases, most recently in the past few months.

It started out beyond generic, I'll own to that, and the idea was an enlightened, alien-led Federation bordering a prejudiced, neo-feudal human Coalition, with the focus on the Federation. Then I got interested in the history of it and, in creating that I began to feel that the super-sophisticated Federation was actually less interesting than the Coalition, and my focus began to shift.

Then the alien antagonists got a bit of their own culture as I began to wonder why they were as aggressive as they were, and realised that they didn't make a lot of sense, culturally or economically. I treated the first as a bug and the second as a feature, and that's where gods, of a sort, came into the picture.

More recently, the neo-feudal structure of the Coalition, largely informed by all that Star Wars I watched as a kid, has been replaced with a more varied set of political systems. I've proactively gone through and tried to balance out my tendency to 'go with what I know' in terms of names, since that inevitably and unintentionally leads to a very white universe, and usually one overfull of Jameses and Marks. On the other hand, I didn't want tokens, so I am trying to make it all make sense and a part of that has been to develop the history from a 10 page timeline to something nearer 70. I also want to do at least one more run through and try to introduce more of a shift towards toponyms and patri- and matronymics in the aftermath of my 'this is why no transhuman evolution' reset Apocalypse, replacing to an extent modern racial distinctions with a sense of a very different cultural base.

The last run-through also saw a move away from direct SF cliche. I've known for a while that I wanted to maintain a mysterious genetic link between humans and what used to be the dog- and cat-people; something ancient and conspiratorial. On the other hand, dog- and cat- and snake-people was increasingly out of place and just kind of there 'cause it's how you do. My brainstorm was to ditch the non-mammalian examples - they'll become something else in the final pass - and say that the three races all evolved from a common, possibly engineered, primate base, but by different routes, so that whereas on Earth the dominant hominid species descended from valley-dwelling apes, on the other worlds a baboon-like primate and something more like a forest monkey took the lead.

This also tends towards losing the tails, which just works better in space suits.

I've also removed any use of actual extant religions, albeit a little bit by filing the serial numbers off. The big theocratic power is still a weird mix of Catholic and Anglican administration (I want my interplanetary church to have a curia and big hats, but also deans and chapters, and a Barchester-esque touch to its ecumenical politics) with an expansionist slant. I think I do tend to bias towards (mis)representing the Abrahamic faiths, and maybe some touches of Hinduism, perhaps because I feel that they are big enough and old enough to look out for themselves.

So, that's a rough account of the evolution of this setting. Later posts will probably expand on some details.

Oh, and at some point I got Cthulhu on it; as you do.