The first novel I wrote started as an anthropology assignment to create a society where gender is defined differently. My mind took that prompt and a mostly forgotten nature show on bizarre insects to create a people who were born with a fertilized egg that matured through the mother’s lifetime until ready to enter the world.
While that novel is still waiting to go through the revision process, it would seem a simple enough world, right? But I just had to keep asking questions.
Why were they this way? How did it happen? Where did they come from?
The more questions poured out, the more I learned about the world, and the bigger it grew. Then, I thought a vision one of the characters has was meant for this book, but it turned out to introduce another people living on the planet surface who have their own situations to deal with. In fact, I’m planning to work on a bottom-up revision of the series starring the second people in that science fiction world for this year’s NaNo (National Novel Writing Month). Skip to the Giveaway
When Shafter’s story came into being, though, I knew Seeds Among the Stars was a separate universe…actually, I thought it was a single novel…but a comment from a friend made me realize that, like my first novel and the vision, there were many sides to this world I had yet to explore.
One of the biggest questions for science fiction is “aliens or not.” When you’re building a world, the dynamic of a human-only universe is very different than one like Star Trek where everywhere you go you discover another species at a different level of advancement (higher or lower). Seeds Among the Stars exists in a human-only universe. Yes, there are very diverse cultures, often having minimal contact with the greater humanity. There are mutations by chance, contamination, or selective breeding that make the differences significant at times as well, but ultimately they all find their cultural roots among the people who first lived on Earth.
Or do they?
My friend was talking about another author’s multiple series that were clearly set in the same universe. (Honestly, I can’t remember who it was at this point, but there are many possible examples.) The comment itself got me to thinking whether some of the commonalities between my story worlds were a hint at a greater truth. A closer examination revealed a good number of my stories belong to the Seeds Among the Stars universe all without my knowing.
A good example is The Captain’s Chair, originally a standalone short story in a one-off world. However, it includes an encounter with the same military force as is mentioned in Seeds. Sure, Samantha Marsdom operates in her own corner of the universe, and she has no interest in The Spacer Guild. Unlike Trina, she’s never searched for a place to belong. She was born and raised on her ship, the crew as much family as her father ever was. Her story follows a different path, but it’s a path the universe is large enough to embrace, and one that comes up in both Trainee and the not yet published Apprentice, that of the indie trader.
I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s a spoiler on the global scale, but doesn’t affect any of the stories. It is, in fact, the answer to that big question, and not one I was expecting.
As I pondered my stories, considering what worlds they fell into, I came to the realization of just how vast space is. Humanity in Seeds has stretched quite far, but they’re still within the Milky Way galaxy. They have encountered no advanced alien species and so it’s easy to assume that they never will.
Easy, but in this case false, though true in Trina’s timeline.
As you might guess, the circumstances are more complicated than simply a matter of never crossing paths, but the story that opened my eyes has not yet been published. Still, my second ever publication (one I want to revise before rereleasing it) touches on a theme I’ve explored a time or two of “will we know intelligent life when we see it?” The related anthology has since gone out of print, but my story, From the Ashes, won second place in The Ninth Annual PARSEC/Confluence Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story Contest back in 2004.
I’ve only mentioned two science fiction universes, but that does not mean all my stories fall into those two alone. The universe exists to answer a question in the back of my head, and those questions require all sorts of variations from the aforementioned Star Trek-like universe filled with a myriad of different intelligent species to one barren of other life, and practically everything in between. It is one of the wonders of being a writer in that the opportunities are infinite. Every answer spawns a thousand new questions to explore, and those new thoughts are as likely to require a different world in which to uncover the meaning as to delve into a previously undiscovered corner of an existing world.
A simple example of this is The Steamship Chronicles. Though the differences between that world and the historical Victorian Era are often slight, a world in which Naturals exist would not necessarily result in an over-burdened planet requiring massive colonization efforts to survive. It might be amusing to have the Natural Sam Crill as the many times great grandmother to Samantha Marsdom, but how then would you explain ships driven by solar energy rather than aether and piloted by base humans when a Natural could transform the ship itself into whatever would be ideal for that particular task.
Oops, I may just have to write a far future Natural story someday. Indie trading would never be the same.
Science fiction was once defined by the “what if” question. I think there are more questions to be asked, but that offers a good starting point, especially when you think about how that “what if” can come to be. What are the social, cultural, environmental, economic, etc. elements that would be required? It’s from those questions that my worlds spring into being and why my worlds tease at more questions to be uncovered.
If you’d like to check out the Seeds Among the Stars universe for yourself, the first novel, Shafter, is free through the end of October on Book Funnel as part of a BooksGoSocial multi-author giveaway event involving 45 science fiction and fantasy titles. Hop on over and discover a new world: https://books.bookfunnel.com/scifiandfantasy (or click the image below).