In previous entries in this series, I’ve been a bit vague, or thrown together a few ideas spur of the moment as I’ve been writing. This time around, I want to look at specifics, going over the actual world building I’ve done for Conquest of the Sphere, a setting I write about and have run a couple roleplaying sessions in.
Previously, I’ve been fairly coy about some truths behind the setting, thinking my readers might be more interested in discovering things through reading. Yet, I don’t think these truths will spoil the mysteries of individual stories. Just because you know the Force exists and there are aliens, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy finding out the individual stories of characters in Star Wars, right?
I wrote about thinking large and small. For Conquest of the Sphere, thinking big means coming up with the overall concept of the universe. First, the genre is Science Fiction. This means that I’ll try to have some level of realism, some type of scientific explanation for strange things. It means that creatures and plants are the result of evolution, either natural or intentional. It means, at least as far as I’m concerned, that there are no gods or devils, not spirits or magic. There may be some hand-waving when it comes to some physics (faster-than-light travel, artificial gravity, etc.), but the explanation will never be ‘magic.’
That’s genre taken care of, but what about the actual setting? Are we talking about grand star-empires or dystopian hellscapes? Not this time around. Conquest of the Sphere takes place on the inner surface of a Dyson Sphere. It’s a concept I fell in love with a long time ago, and one I’ve wanted to explore. I’m absolutely aware that a Dyson Sphere is an unlikely reality. It’s part of the hand-waving I was talking about. If you were trying to achieve the obvious goals of such a monumental structure, you’d be better off with a Dyson Swarm, or some similar, more malleable, more manageable mega-structure. Yet, the Dyson Sphere was my choice. In particular, the events of the stories I’ve written so far take place on the surface of a single, hexagonal segment of the greater sphere. This hexagon is massive, covering more territory than the entirety of the Earth’s surface if it were flattened out. And it is just one of countless such worlds.
Still thinking large, this Dyson Sphere is many, many millions of years old, perhaps even a billion or two. I wanted the world to be enormous to think about, but I also wanted there to be an element of a time abyss about the whole thing. It’s not just unthinkably huge, it’s unfathomably old. Yet, I didn’t want it to be a broken, degraded object, like Larry Niven’s Ringworld (an obvious and profound influence).
Something I want to explore is the idea that on this one world (as with countless others), many species have risen to dominance, flourished, and ultimately burned out or faded. The world that Baal, Seph, Mele, Inoke, and others know is simply the latest iteration. Their ancient myths hint at the previous. Yet, the truths behind those myths, the previous ‘generation’ of sentient masters of the world were themselves nothing more than another link in a chain that goes back eons and ages. When they stumble upon a ruin, it’s likely to be from an earlier civilization. Yet, it might be from an earlier species. Is it ten thousand years old, or one hundred thousand?
That’s some thinking big. Next time, I’ll try thinking small as we narrow it down to one time and place, a city at the center of a whirlwind of History.
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