Ever since I was in elementary school, I've had some idea or another for a sci-fi story. Back then, it was the Rainbow Fighters against the Evil Emporer King Kamikaze. (Stop snickering, I was 9 or 10 at the time.) Brave pilots in plastic compass fighters fought for freedom against the Kamikaze menace. Pens and pencils and their parts have been made into ships, cannons, guns, robotic limbs, and whatever else my mind came up with ever since.
Fast forward to Junior High and this is where you begin to see the beginnings of this setting. I won't bore you with the details, but I've had some elements of this setting in my head for fifteen years and I came around to it every now and then as I dreamt up new stories to tell. Gaming has only given me more incentive to come up with worlds and stories to tell. The problem became that I never finished anything, or even really got started in some cases, before I got distracted or discouraged and moved on. That is what this post and the ones after it are about. I want to finish a story and I'm hoping that knowing people are seeing this will provide the incentive for me to keep with it.
What can I say? Knowing people like what you write is a powerful motivator to keep at it.
Starting can be the hardest thing of all to do. Whether it's a drawing, a story, or writing a blog post that maybe 100 people will read, actually putting thoughts to words or the first lines of the image in your head can be hard, even terrifying. Making bad worse is that it can be hard to even know where to begin, and this is where I find myself right now as I write this.
So, I guess I'll start with the what and the why. What inspired this? Why am I doing this? The why is fairly easy. I want to write a story. I want to prove to myself that I can stick with a long term project and see it through. It's as simple as that. If I make something that people like and want to read, then great! I've done my part. I may even get back into the groove of drawing and modeling things as I move forward with this because I want people to see what I have in my head.
The what is harder, much harder. There have been so many influences and inspirations over the years that I can't possibily list them all. I think I can do the main ones though. Star Wars and the anime Banner of the Stars/Crest of the Stars were the original inspirations. the Homeworld games, and the sadly defunct webcomic Our Intrepid Crew were later inspirations, and there's probably dozens of others including Dune and Mailanka's Psi-Wars setting that will crop up as I explore and build this setting.
1. The Barest of Bones - What am I after?
Or another way of putting it, what is the core of the setting?
This is tricky for me to answer. Partly because most of the setting is vague and nebulous at the moment, but mostly because I have some clear ideas already. I have clear ideas on what some of the aliens are. I know that I want at least one huge merchant city. I want there to be a sense of wonder and the fantastic, and I want it to be deep.
I suppose that could be the core of the setting, my barebones to flesh out, but I kinda feel like that's not quiet what the core is. Then again, it's likely I'm overthinking it, like I am wont to do.
So, we have a setting where there are dozens of alien species and scores of worlds trading with each other. Great merchant cities are hubs of activity as people from all walks of life come to find their fortunes. Grand fleets vie for dominance in epic clashes as noble houses and criminal cartels wage silent wars on each other. All of this amid the ancient derelicts of a long forgotten civilization.
A bit long for an elevator pitch, but I think it gets what I want nicely. :)
2. Fleshing things out
We have the core of the setting, but we are lacking in details. The danger here is getting into too much detail too quickly. In the real world, everything's interconnected and changing one thing depends on dozens of other things and changes dozens of other things. This is a trap I fall into a lot, but I'm going to try my best to avoid it here.
There are a couple of options here. The first is to figure out what kind of story we want to tell and fleshing things out based on the needs of the story and what it touches. The second is to build out the world and see what stories suggest themselves to us. In my experience one leads to the other, but it's useful to start with one of these methods just to get the ball rolling. My initial inclination is to say that we want stories where the fate of worlds are in the balance, but I don't think that's quite right. This leads me to ask myself what kinds of stories do I want to tell?
After thinking about it, I started to wonder what I liked so much about Banner of the Stars, David Weber's Honorverse novels, and Dune. Surprisingly, it's the complex politics and seeing how the characters deal with them that intrigues me the most. I know next to nothing about real world politics and political systems, but I find the scheming and maneuvering to be fun to read, or listen to in the case of my Audible collection. In any case, we have a place to start.
2.1. Scheming Vizers and Doddering Kings
It'd be easy to jump in and start making nations and factions, but I'm still thinking in terms of generalities. We can start laying out major players on the Galactic scene that we will flesh out later, though. We can also decide how factious the galaxy is. Having a very factious galaxy allows for all sorts of political maneuvering, opportunities for misunderstanding, and webs of lies and alliances, but it also reduces the scales of conflicts between powers or groups of allies. A less fractious galaxy has the advantage of allowing for major conflicts, but at the cost of those opportunites already mentioned. I think having something in the middle would work best. A few large powers, several medium powers, and a whole host of smaller powers. For a bonus, we can still have conflicts between the smaller powers for lower stakes while still having the option for large scale conflicts between the larger powers.
We'll fill out what those powers are like in later posts in this series, but for now, it's enough to know that we have a few large powers, several medium-sized powers, and a mess of smaller powers. We'll also start working on their interactions and how they see each other then as well. The point of this part is to establish the framework that we'll be building off of.
2.2. The People of the Galaxy
As part of building both the sense of wonder and the depth of the setting, I want to include several distinct alien species. I've got several ideas, but those can wait for a later post. As I have been trying to remind myself, the point of this post is to establish the framework for the setting. I do have a couple of them that I want to include, however.
Humans are out in the Galaxy at large, but how the rest of the galaxy sees them is up in the air. Among the aliens, we have the Syrens, a race that is so similar to humans that there are all sorts of theories and rumors flying around. We also have the Morsk, who are among the most fearsome warriors in the Galaxy. There are dozens of other races out there that populate the spaceways, and some of them are truly bizarre to us on Earth.
Unfortunately, who populates the Galaxy is more detail-oriented and will affect the powers to some extent, so I'll have to leave it at that for now.
2.3. There and Back Again
The last part I want to touch on is how the people of the galaxy get around. Easy interplanetary travel is a given since this is shaping up to be a space operatic setting, but what about travel between the stars? Taking a step back, I did mention that one of the things I wanted was a backdrop of a lost, ancient civilization. A network of gates between stars would be a nice relic from that civilization, and it also has the advantage of eleminating the issues with regards to warfare and faster than light travel. It doesn't help with some of the other issues, but those can be handwaved away. A network of gates also has the advantage of giving us shipping routes and making space piracy plausible since a pirate can lay in wait at a gate for prey to ambush.
We have the beginnings of a setting here. I'm going to be working on this while I also work on the Delta setting, so expect to see posts form both appearing here. I'm hoping that by having two projects I can bounce between, I can avoid getting burned out on either and have a chance to use ideas that might not work in one of the settings.
I should probably not be writing posts while I'm tired and in a bit of a funk, but hey, I gotta work past that block some how.