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Failed World Building or Failed World Building - RonO's Ramblings

Aug. 17th, 2009 06:04 pm Failed World Building or Failed World Building

When I had time by myself, mostly while wandering through the Underground City (Rèso) in Montreal, I spent some time thinking about creating a SF world that would have a nearly truly underground city as the major population center. However, after I thought some more, I'm not sure if I have a good one or not.

On the other hand, I suspect that I have something that were I so motiviated, I could use as the setting for a story or game.

I started with a broader setting that I've used for other head-based world building exercises -- a galaxy or universe connected by a set of naturally occurring wormhole like tunnels that allow rapid transport between many Earth-like planets (comparable gravity, rotation and orbital distance from a similar star).

I then decided that to really need an underground city on a practical colony world, it would need extreme weather of some sort. I finally landed on the idea of a world with a severe axial tilt -- well over 45 degrees. If I did my head figuring correctly, having that high of a tilt (probably 60-80 degrees) would result in a large area that was both tropical and arctic -- so that it would have the sun high in the sky for the entire day in the summer and it is dark at night in the winter. This would result in most of the habitable area being limited to the sub-arctic tropics. So if the planet then had only a few areas that were otherwise useful, this could make the planet's surface too valuable to be wasted.

Then, I came up with a twist on the tunnels that I at first would give a good reason to build the colony. Instead of having the tunnels open to allow mass to transit regularly, I would limit it a few times with a long break. I finally decided on three windows, each a month of so in length, within a year or two followed by a 80 or more year break. I then decided to allow information to transit freely at all times. This would force the colony to need to be self sufficient.

To allow this colony to be part of the galactic economy, I decided that it could do information work, including banking, software development and other kinds of engineering.

So the way the world will come about is that there will be two missions sent. The first one would contain a mix of large and nano-scale autonomous machines that would build the infrastructure, and the second mission would contain the colonists -- including the agricultural and other plants and animals.

The world would be built with most of the ground for the colony city area dedicated to agriculture and recreation. Homes and offices would, for the most part, be in above ground towers. But the commercial and industrial areas, transportation, and support would be all under ground. I've envisioned that most of the agriculture would be carried out by automated machines, but there would still be farmers who would probably live nearer the farms.

Later, I realized that this was going to be the Achilles heal of this plan was that the internal and external economies would not mesh nicely. The workers for the off-world data industries might be well paid in galactic money, but that would be of little use on a day to day basis. What good is money that is sent in from off world, when it cannot be turned into anything useful.

But, I finally concluded that this stress could, in fact, be a good basis for some sort of story. One possibility would be to set the story near the time when, for a while, shipments could resume. Now you would have had an underclass of workers paid mostly in off-world funds, who suddenly can use those funds to buy stuff off-world for the first time in a couple of generations. This change in status might be a good source of conflict.

On the other hand, I could simply see the external economy simply collapsing, and everyone after a generation or so just not having any interest in working for the off-world companies. This could also, at the time when transportation reopens, be a source of conflict.

So, my final conclusion is, did I build a failed world, or did I just fail in world building.

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