Saturday, January 11, 2020

The science in science fiction, and other world-building considerations

I love science! I've always loved science. But I got my degree in business administration. (There's something you might not have known about me.) Maybe that's why I've always been more drawn to science fiction than fantasy, although I do enjoy that too.

I love logic. I love to know the why's and how's of everything. I get a little high when I figure out a connection that's always consistent. I had a tough time in geometry when I first started learning proofs, but once I got it, the whole world made more sense to me. There are always steps that lead from one thing to another, and that actually works in writing a story too.

There's a certain logic to how things are connected. In world-building, you have to be able to see the broader picture of how things develop and why they are. In my Starfire Angels universe, I had to create a world where beings would develop wings, but more than that, I had to figure out an ecosystem that would make it plausible and lead to the society they have. To make them seem like angels to humans, I had to give them the powers described of angels and a history; that led to the Starfire crystal. Then, I had to figure out why that gave them powers and how those powers worked in very specific ways and where that crystal came from. It was all interlocking. I developed that while writing the young adult beginning of the series, Dark Angel Chronicles.

By the time I started writing the latest stage of this series, Forgotten Worlds, my Inari angels were fully developed, but I have had a LOT of new species to consider. I jumped into the deep end of the species creation pool while writing THE RULE OF YONDER. However, there are even more to come, and don't forget the main species (different races of humans, the Inari, and the Issan). By IN DARKNESS, LIGHT, I reveal the face of the bad guys, the Issan. I knew they had to be particularly tough, but I had to figure out why they were so powerful, and not just for their war machines and purpose. Outside their armor, they are as much of a threat as within it.

In IDL, I introduce a new character that intrigues Nik, the xenobiologist in my group of characters. Because the planet they are on has a lighter gravity, L'Ni's abilities go even further than they might on other worlds with heavier gravities. Lighter gravity also works to Nya's advantage with flight, although she doesn't always make the wisest of decisions. (Nobody is perfect, especially under pressure.) Nik's only explanation is one of biological facts that he understands of humanoid species, yet even he is perplexed by the greater density of tissues of L'Ni's species. He does in the end realize what L'Ni is, but not how he evolved that way.

(I know the answer, but I can't reveal that yet. It will come in time as the characters figure it out. I can't reveal everything up front!)

Language is another area that I know develops with culture and from culture. It is as intertwined as the environment and physical development of species. In fact, all of these are so intertwined that they cannot be separated. I had to figure out a way for all of these species to communicate and considered the many science fiction reasons of other series--translators, babel fish, etc.--and looked at our world. In our real world, we have to learn to communicate through a shared language, usually English, or through translators, although also with computers. In fact, we have computer programs that can translate statements from one language to another, but they need to "learn" the languages. Science fiction allows a little more advancement on this idea, limited only by one's imagination.

In this series, I use both mechanical translators and individuals with language skills to translate. Many of the species who interact with other species learn two or more languages. However, by far, the easiest method is to use one common language for all interactions, so I decided that they had developed the galactic standard trading language, or Standard for short. There are still species (ie Oolans) who have a hard time speaking it or simply can't be understood by many, and not every being has learned it.

Another factor of language development is that there may not be one language for a whole species. I haven't yet had a reason to explore that, but it could come up, just as on Earth we don't have one language but dozens. Also, language changes over time, as Nya has realized with the jewelry piece given to her on Yonder (which will be explained in a future book). The Inari may have been space-faring for a very long time (see CRYSTAL TOMB (Dark Angel Chronicles #3)), but they went through periods of change.

There are nuances to language that also must be kept in mind. I try to create expressions appropriate to the beings of this universe, some shared by those who get around the galaxy and some unique to species or specific groups based on cultural norms. They may not make sense to our real world experiences, but they do to the characters in their setting.

As the story goes on, you'll see a variety of known science touched on, as well as plausible explanations that aren't known science but are a part of this world-building (Starfire crystal and all that it brings to the story, for one). Everything here has a logical, plausible explanation in the setting of this world-building, even if it wouldn't be possible based on what our science understands. It is science "fiction", after all!

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