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Creating Science Fiction Worlds is one of the most important gears in the machine that is Science Fiction writing. World-Building is the art of convincing a reader that a fictitious place exists. Your science fiction world must be built upon a well-founded history and abide by fixed rules. This will help to persuade your readers to believe in the fantastic elements you introduce.
10 Questions to Ask
When Creating Science Fiction Worlds
Where Is Your Science Fiction World Located?
When Creating Science Fiction Worlds ask yourself, is it a past, future or alternate Earth, or is it another planet or another dimension? Think, for example, of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, the character John Carter discovers a passage to a Science Fiction world and is suddenly on Mars. This allows for a parallel world where there are different rules, laws and power politics.
What’s The Geography & Natural Environment Like?
Don’t fall into the trap of having mono-climate worlds (Tatooine - desert, Hoth - ice, Endor - forest). Consider the climates of your world, and where your story takes place. When Creating Science Fiction Worlds you don’t have to use the whole of your world, but there should be a sense that it’s more than a little patch of forested countryside with a city or two.
If we’re on future Earth, how has the environment changed? Has it changed? Any natural catastrophes that might have wiped out a continent or two? Any major human-induced planetary trauma? How about meteorite impacts or solar explosions?
If we’re on another planet or moon, especially one that is outside of our solar system that we already know plenty about, what is the ecological system based on? Is there water or liquid methane? Are there carbon-based, silicone-based or even arsenic-based beings? Is there vegetation? What is the atmosphere made of, if there even is any? Is the weather diverse, or the same everywhere?
Who Are The Inhabitants Of Your Science Fiction World?
Are humans the only intelligent species, or will there be different species of aliens? Maybe even species you’ve made up? John Carter in the above-mentioned series found himself captive of the savage green men of Thark.
What Standard Of Living Is Average? How Educated Are The People?
What does “educated” mean in this world?
How Do People Earn Their Living?
This ties in with geography and technology, and to a lesser extent with government. People will buy what they don’t have nearby and sell what they have or make in abundance. If your countryside grows wine grapes, someone probably makes a living exporting wine. In an oppressive society, the rulers will see all the benefits from this. In an open society, you will develop a merchant class who profits from the local resources.
What Languages Are There?
If you have more than one sentient race, each probably has their own language. However, humans developed hundreds (if not thousands) of languages on Earth, so the one language per race cliché is a bit simplistic.
What Do People Do For Amusement?
At the personal level: Card and dice games, gambling, and literature.
At the societal level: pod racing, plays and opera, sports (rollerball), and robotic gladiatorial games.
What Do People Eat?
If your world contains fantastical creatures, consider which of them are edible. If so, then there is some culture out there that considers it either a staple or a delicacy.
The first person to discover a creature is either a
scientist or an explorer; the second is always a cook.
If your world is more Earth-like, take a cuisine appropriate to your climate and adapt it to your world. You can have your characters eat seaweed and rice-wrapped fish, but the moment you call it sushi you set your story in Japan.
How Do People Dress?
People dress for their climate and practicality. However, you can also use clothing to differentiate between classes and religious beliefs, as well as profession. Also bear in mind that people will most commonly dress from materials that are readily available in their region. Don’t dress everyone in wool if sheep only live on another continent.
What Are The Most Important Values Of The Society That You Are Writing About? What Type Of Religion Do People Practice?
Does your world have organized religions? Is there one monolithic religion that dominates all others? How much influence does religion have in daily life? Consider what rituals and practices may have arisen.
Is your world made by one or more gods? If so, odds are that the inhabitants of their creation have taken up some form of worship. If your world wasn’t created by divine powers, people most likely have invented them. Having a setting explicitly devoid of both deities and worshipers makes a statement. If you’re not looking to make an anti-deity statement, include at least oblique references to religious institutions or practices existing. How do they express that worship?
What are some questions you ask when creating your Science Fiction world? You can Comment here…