We’re exploring the final frontier.

I’ve been catching up on the first couple of seasons of Through the Wormhole.  We’ve not had this show in the UK, at least I’ve never seen it here and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  My parents always loved science type shows and I grew up having to watch them and now I love them too.  I can’t imagine anyone not being interested in how the universe works.

I saw one episode earlier this evening about what first contact would be like, and the bottom line was that as all the substances essential to life seem to be uniformly spread throughout the whole universe, any life is likely to be very similar to us.  This pleased me for one important reason; in all of my books, my aliens are very much like us.  As I said before in this post,  I have a real problem with sentient life forms that resemble a puddle of blue gloop or tentacled beings who eat nothing but living human flesh flying sophisticated space ships across the galaxy.  So, my aliens are recognisably humanoid.

The other thing this show brings home to me is how soon it is likely to be that those things I write about in my novels will be commonplace, and that is awesome.  It means that, in a way, I’m predicting the future.  There are so many wonderful and varied theories about how this or that aspect of life, the universe and everything works and it’s so damn exciting.  From a infinite universe, to multiple universes, string theory, mulitiple dimensions and all manner of other mind bogglingly complicated shit, people are really starting to think outside the box and reach out with their minds.  We are living in a time of real exploration, not just physical but mental and it’s amazing.

Personally, I tend to agree with Stephen Hawking on the point of first contact.  He said that any race capable of crossing the vast expanse of space just to come here, aren’t going to go to all that trouble just to say “Hi there y’all, how ya doin?”  If they make all that effort to come here, then the likelihood is that they want something we’ve got and they probably won’t be too keen to take no for an answer.  As Professor Hawking said, in the case of meeting alien life, we’d be wise to keep our heads down.

By the way; a nod to the title of this post.  That is probably the only thing about Star Trek that I hate.  When they say “space, the final frontier,” I get so annoyed because it isn’t the final frontier at all.  There can only be one final frontier and that one is about as final as it gets.  Death, the final frontier.

One Big Universe

I’ve never blogged about this before and only ever really discussed it with my mother.  I don’t know quite why that should be, I guess it’s never occurred to me to mention it before.  It seems so obvious to me you see that I never thought I was being unusual or unique.

My characters all live in the same universe.

“So what?” I hear you yell.

Well, other books I’ve read don’t seem to make a point of that.  Let me explain.  At the moment I have one complete 4 part series out called The Lilean Chronicles and the first of a new series called The Sinclair V-Logs.  I also have one other stand alone novel finished and in the process of editing.  I’m halfway through writing a second Sinclair V-Log and have 2 other stand alone novels planned for the April and July Camp Nano’s.

All of these novels take place within the same universe.  You’ll meet characters in one series that you first met in a previous series.  For instance, a peripheral character in the last of The Lilean Chronicles series has become the main protagonist in The Sinclair V-Logs.  He is also a peripheral character in one of my stand alone novels and the main protagonist in one of my stand alones has a couple of mentions in one of The Sinclair V-Log novels.  From book to book, series to series to stand alone, you’ll hear planets mentioned that have been visited before or mentioned before in previous series’ or books.

For me, this gives added cohesion to my books; a sense of familiarity that ties them all together.  After all, we actually do live in the same universe, so it makes sense that my characters would too.  It makes me smile when reading one of my books and I come across a name I know from a previous book or series, or hear a character talk about this planet or that planet.  I think to myself  “Oh, I’ve been there in such and such a book.”

When meeting a character that I’ve already met in a previous book, I immediately feel a sense of connection which I feel helps the reader to feel at home in my universe.

I’d be very interested to know your thoughts or observations on this.

World building for fiction – when is enough, enough?

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m compiling a new page on this site which I call the Intergalactic Guidebook.  I decided a little while ago that it would be fun to create some kind of encyclopaedia of The Lilean Chronicles.  In it I would write a kind of mini wiki all about the worlds and peoples we meet in the series.  This is going to be a herculean task, as I’m finding out but it’s fun to do and I don’t mind it taking a while.  I’m uploading each page when it’s complete and will blog when there’s a new page for you all to peruse.

It’s called world building or rather in my case, galaxy building and I actually did this when I wrote the books.  I built the words, the galaxy as I wrote each volume of the series.  What I’m doing now is putting all that information together in one place, but I’m finding that something interesting is happening as I’m putting it all together.

I know the worlds contained within The Lilean Chronicles very well.  I spent a year writing with my characters and I know all about their worlds, their culture etc so writing it all down again for the guidebook is not hard.  What I’m finding though, is that I’m actually writing stuff I never wrote in the books.  There are things in the guidebook that you won’t read about in the series at all.  The back stories in the guidebook are way more comprehensive and complete than the information in the novels is.  This got me to wondering why I’m feeling the urge to go so much further with these back stories, when some of the information isn’t in the books.

The answer is simple really.  I love doing it.  World building is such huge fun and it’s a total pleasure to invent a whole world, a race of people, their beliefs and culture, even their diseases and sports.   I also feel that the fuller the back story is, the more believable the novel becomes.  When you can find out everything about the world a character comes from, it helps you identify with them more closely and understand them more deeply.  Besides, it’s interesting shit to read..!

So how much is too much?  Should I go so far as to include geological information about the composition of the land masses?  Should I document the changes to air purity over the past thousand years and cross reference this with a graph showing the increase in population perhaps?  Maybe I need to include a political history, complete with list of the last 10 years worth of import and export figures?

No, I think not.  For one thing, it would bore me rigid to write and therefore, probably bore readers too and secondly, it teeters on the edge of OCD.  Readers have enough imagination and sense to know that stuff isn’t necessary for a work of fiction.  Yes it would make it totally comprehensive but it wouldn’t add anything to the story as a whole.

I’d love to one day publish the Intergalactic Guidebook as an actual book to accompany the series but it would involve massive amounts of artwork and I don’t have the money to pay my hugely talented art guys enough to cover the time they would need to devote to such a project.  Who knows what the future holds though; I may win the lotto one day and then I’ll be emailing them..!