Filed under: livable future, Real Science Content, science fiction, Speculation, sustainability, Worldbuilding | Tags: Apocalypse, Deep Future, science fiction
I’ve gotten rather tired of the Mayan apocalypse, and being a contrarian, I’ve been thinking more about the deep future instead of the end of the world.
At some point, I made a sarcastic remark about wanting to write about a world “after the 34th apocalypse, except that I’m too lazy to come up with 33 separate apocalypses.” Now, as 12/21/12 comes closer, I’d thought it might be fun to crowd-source the other 33 apocalypses.
The idea of this is to provide future worlds for SF people to play with. Right now, I feel like SF is suffering from “aging white myopia” in that it’s mostly about the fears and fantasies of aging white people (often men), and myopia because most of the serious SF predictions are in the near future, not the deep future. I’d rather start thinking about 21st century problems, which are more about “how do we deal with this crazy world the Baby Boomers left us” than worrying about the death of the dreams we had as teens.
Want to play? Since I’m hoping to crowd source the apocalypses, I’m perfectly happy if people swipe ideas from here. This is about thinking creatively about global crises, and what comes after them.
Anyway, let’s get to the apocalypses
Here are the end points
1. The First Apocalypse is happening now, with a 5000 gigatonne release of carbon into the atmosphere over the next 200 years (this is the IPCC extreme scenario discussed here. This is the path we’re currently on. Temperatures (and extreme weather) peak between 2500 and 3500 AD, with global mean temperatures peaking 9 to 16 degrees F (6 to 9 deg. C) above today. Sea level rises about 230 feet (80 meters) above today, but it reaches that maximum in 3500 AD (almost all rise happens by 3000 AD). Conditions take 500,000 years to get back to what we have today, and we can assume the fall back towards normal in an approximately linear fashion. Thermal gradients between the arctic and the tropics largely disappear at first, but gradually reappear.
2. The 34th Apocalypse happens 525,000 years from now, when the next ice age starts. This is by fiat, from eyeballing the insolation graphs on Wikipedia. At this point, the last remnants of arctic and high mountain civilization are plowed under by the growing glaciers (antarctic civilization finally disappeared in 400,000 AD under the resurgent southern ice cap). This cycle looks a lot like the last Wisconsin glaciation. Due to the profligacy of the 1st Apocalypse, there is no fossil fuel left to rewarm the earth to avoid the ice.
Those are the end point apocalypses. Here are some ground rules:
–What’s an apocalypse? It’s a global event that causes massive change, global migration, and the end of civilization as we know it, although not necessarily a return to the stone age. It does NOT cause human extinction. It can be natural (an ice age, megavolcano, asteroid), or manmade (our current Gigafart).
–Apocalypses have dates attached, but they aren’t necessarily instantaneous. The Gigafart will take 1500 years to reach its full ripeness.
–Apocalypses have stories attached. Where does Apophis land, and what happens during the impact and afterwards?
–There’s time between apocalypses, time enough for human cultures to recover. In 525,000 AD, there will be enough history, myth, archeology, and paleontology, for the people of that time to know that 33 apocalypses have happened before them, and that they are facing the 34th. This means that the people living between apocalypses have to leave a traces. What do they leave behind that survives?
–The Rule of Narrative Conservation: people will be recognizably human 525,000 years from now. Yes, that’s a long time in human evolutionary terms, but this is for our personal fun. “Recognizably human” means that future people will be close enough to us that it’s no stretch for writers to write about them and readers to emphasize with them. They’re born, live, love, and die, and have recognizable conflicts. There is no end of history, and there is no point at which people stop being people. It does not mean that people will be the same as they are today, and it especially does not mean that they will have the same races as we do today. Races change over the course of a millennium or two, and 525,000 years is an enormous time for racial change.
–I’m tired of reading about zombies, werewolves, and vampires. If you want a monster pandemic apocalypse, be more original.
–Science rules. Don’t bother with Cthulhu, Godzilla, alien invasions (cf the Fermi Paradox), or fairies coming back. Similarly, don’t bother with nanotech or synthbio disassembler plagues, unless you can explain in detail how the damn things work from a biochemical and energetics point of view. Otherwise, they’re magic fairy dust, and that ain’t science.
Those are the basic rules.
One Prebuttal: The simplest way to come up with 32 apocalypses is to assume that global technological civilization is a destructive bubble that pops. All we have to assume is that it takes about 500 years (on average) for global civilization to grow and collapse, and it takes an average of 15,000 years for the Earth to recover enough to support another global civilization, during which people are stuck living as hunter-gatherers, dirt-scratching farmers, and similar Arcadian folk. This idea has been done by Larry Niven et al (The Mote in God’s Eye) and Charles Stross (Palimpsest). I don’t mind the idea of civilization as a cyclical irruption in history, but you know, I’m really hoping for something more original. Future history as a drunkard’s walk, rather than a wheel of time. What about two or more cycles of history, spiked with various and epic natural disasters? Or are there 32 totally predictable global catastrophes lurking out there? Or some mix of both?
Come play Edward Gorey with the future. If we get 34 separate apocalypses, I’ll put it all together and send it out to everyone who contributed.
Filed under: livable future, science fiction, Speculation, sustainability, Uncategorized, Worldbuilding | Tags: grim meathook future, science fiction
Okay, not quite in the original sense; However, I thought I’d play with a simple idea. In the future, we can build a starship, specifically a slower-than-light starship that obeys the laws of physics as we currently know them.
What will Earth look like in this case?
Let’s unpack this scenario a bit. For a starship to work, we will need to have developed a bunch of technologies and practices that we currently don’t have.
–small biospheres that can support people for long periods of time without breaking down. Remember what happened with Biosphere 2? That’s what I mean by break down.
–light-weight shielding that can deal with debris hitting it at absurdly high velocities.
–Either cheap, compact, very, very safe fusion that can burn continuously for decades (for a torch ship), antimatter that can be cheaply made and safely stored for centuries, rather enormous lasers that can fire for decades, and can be aimed with nanometer precision (for a laser sail), or some form of highly accurate, high-powered linear accelerator and “smart particles” that can be cheaply made, fly at relativistic velocities, and steer themselves with nanometer precision (for a beamrider).
–The social engineering to keep small groups working together for multiple generations, or the ability to store humans in some form of stasis for centuries. Remember what happened with Biosphere 2? We’ll have to do much better than that.
The thing about this is that the world will have these technologies, as do the starships. While the technology will be unevenly distributed, bits and pieces of it will be in use all over the planet. For example, if we have fusion, we likely won’t be using fossil fuels for much of anything, because most large metropolitan areas will have fusion plants. They likely will use these energy to power desalination/water purification plants, so that we can all live by the coast and not worry about continents drying up. As I noted in a previous post, we’re stuck with climate for millennia, regardless. I’m not sure where the waste heat goes or how one maintains one of these magic power plants, but based on current experimental plants, it looks like it requires precision engineering at a scale we can’t yet match. This, in turn, implies a stable infrastructure of some scary-good engineers.
In fact, all of these require a lot of really, really good engineers, which means there will be the infrastructure to educate those engineers, whether they are humans, computers, or both. What does that mean for, oh, consumer electronics, aside from having stuff that’s much more complex than what we have today? Who knows?
But let’s look at the other new technology. Small biospheres implies that arcologies are possible. People can build floating “sea castles,” live in domes in the Arctic, on the sea bottom, or in Saudi Arabia’s empty quarter, or anywhere, and live off whatever they can grow in the domes. If they have enough money, that is. Cities will likely use this technology to produce more food within bounds, while wealthy separatist groups flourish wherever they can set up their biosphere.
Things get really interesting when you look at the shielding issue. I don’t know if the shields on a starship could withstand a nuclear explosion, but I do think they’d be impervious to almost all conventional arms. In other words, for the first time since the Middle Ages, defense becomes an option, and castles make sense. They make even more sense if you can live inside one indefinitely, treating it in effect like a starship without an engine. Of course, this radically changes the face of war. I don’t know whether the great powers will go in for castle-busting munitions (terawatt lasers, perhaps?), or more covert action, but basically, every evil genius with plans for world domination now gets his impregnable secret fortress, fully staffed with loyal minions.
Scary thought, isn’t it? We can also ponder the lives of the people who choose to live inside such fortresses. Presumably, it will be possible for them to live in there indefinitely, or to hold themselves in stasis “until the stars are right,” but I doubt it will be what we lazy, middle-class Americans consider to be a Good Time.
Does this sound like an appealing world? I’m not so sure. It’s likely more Neuromancer than Star Trek. That’s the thing I wanted to bring out: a star-faring culture would look very different than what we normally see in science fiction. It will have a technical infrastructure far beyond what we have today, but there’s no particular reason to think that it’s going to be a utopia where domestic robots attend to our every whim. It could just as easily be a weed-infested world dominated by the domed and armored cities of the wealthy and powerful. The only good news will be that people are willing to live that way.
So here’s the question: what did I miss? Any other easy extrapolations?
Filed under: Real Science Content, science fiction, Speculation, Worldbuilding | Tags: interstellar colonization, science, science fiction, worldbuilding
Let’s assume, for the moment, that interstellar travel is possible. Let’s further assume that there’s no magic wand of teleportation or FTL, traveling to another star takes a looong time, and it basically means colonizing your starship (or gaiaspore, if starship is too passe for you). The ship may be Charlie Stross’s hollowed out asteroid, or a comet, or something similarly large, but whatever the ship looks like, the basic idea is that people don’t put their lives on hold for the duration of the trip. Rather, they settle into their ship, and then they (or their distant descendents) settle another world elsewhere.
The two-step is an environmental filter. Many technologies that are ubiquitous on Earth, such as cooking knives or internal combustion engines, are non-starters in free fall (where scissors work better) or in small biospheres (gasoline engines). Consequently, interstellar travelers will abandon quite a lot of Earth’s technology when they live in space. They’ll also certainly invent lots of uses for vacuum and all sorts of high energy particles, but that’s another story.
Anyway, once they’ve made the first step of abandoning Earth tech and its associated culture (no car culture in space), once they get to another planet, they’re faced with a new environment where they have to adapt again. Suddenly they have dependable gravity and a huge biosphere to draw on (or at least, a planet’s worth of resources). In the second step, do they simply adapt spacer culture and technology to meet the challenges of the new place, or do they read through copies of the ancient Wikipedia and start experimenting with, say, gasoline engines again?
There’s a real-life analogy to this process: Polynesia. As the Lapita peoples settled the Pacific, they abandoned things like pottery, weaving, and flaking rock (and possibly bronze metallurgy) as part of their adaptation to living on coral atolls. Once they colonized places like New Zealand, they didn’t spontaneously pick up their ancestor’s technologies, even though they had the resources (such as clay) to do them again. Instead, they adapted their Polynesian tool kits to new surroundings.
There are some subtleties here: for example, Polynesians didn’t just abandon pots because there was no clay on atolls. They were abandoning them before they got to the atolls, because they were switching from cooking over an open fire (where pots are useful) to cooking in an earth oven (where pots are useless). Moreover pots are more fragile than wooden bowls, coconut shells, and gourds. Similarly, they switched from flaking rock edges (on obsidian) to grinding, because grinding works on all sorts of materials, including the giant clam shells used for adze blades on atolls, while flaking just works on glassy rocks. The thing is, adzes work better when they’re ground rather than flaked (whatever they’re made of), the Polynesians also had bamboo (which can be shaped with an adze to make a nice sharp knife), and Easter Islanders figured out how to flake knives on their own in any case. The bottom line is that loss of technology isn’t just about losing the tech, its involves a whole shift to other tools and practices that sometimes makes things superfluous. A society on electric cars won’t be exactly the same as a society built around gasoline cars, because the two vehicles have different strengths and weaknesses.
Getting back to the interstellar two-step, it’s a fun to play as a thought game. If you were leaving Earth for space, what would you abandon? If you were planning on getting your descendents to settle elsewhere, would you have them do: resurrect Earth culture, adapt spacer culture, or both?
Examples of adapting spacer culture might range from using scissors and shears in place of knives, to using air guns instead of gunpowder, to using various cooking techniques that work regardless of gravity, but not gravity-requiring methods such as frying. How about transportation? Art? Agriculture? For example, if they kept goats in space, would you have them bring along cow embryos and the means to grow them to re-establish cattle, or would you rather give them the biotechnology to engineer a giant goat that fulfills most of the cow’s roles in terrestrial agriculture?
What do you think? How would you do the Interstellar Two-Step? I’ll say right off that there’s no right answer. This is a thought game, pure and simple.
Filed under: livable future, Real Science Content, science fiction, Speculation, Worldbuilding | Tags: science fiction, starships, sustainability
On Charlie Stross’ blog, I think I called starships gaiaspores, because apparently the term “starship” is passe among the cognoscenti. Or something like that. Gaiaspore does have a certain endearing clunkiness, so use it if you wish. I’m mostly calling them starships here.
But I’m thinking about something a bit different. What comes before the starship? If you remember James Burke’s Connections from the late 1970s, you remember that no invention comes about without a long chain of preliminary discoveries. For living in space, we’re going to need a lot of precursors. What are they?
Let’s start science fiction: how do others see us getting to the stars? The science fiction answers range from, well what we have now (Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, where Ohio hadn’t changed at all in 200 years, except that the elderly now emigrate to the stars) to planetary destruction (Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, where the living, moon-sized spaceships basically ate planets down to the mantle before departing). Charlie Stross seems to break on the large side of the spectrum, talking about hollowing out asteroids and putting slow motors on them. That would require us to digest a few large cities, at the very least.
Assuming a starship is even feasible, it’s going to demand some things we’re currently really bad at, like living at close quarters with nuclear or fusion plants, living sustainably, and living in free fall or microgravity. No culture on Earth lives this way now (although people try it for a few years as an experiment).
So culturally, how do we get there from here? Cultural evolution tends to be path dependent, so it’s not as simple as re-educating the people we have. Imagine turning a Tea Partier into an 18th Century Japanese farmer, or a Papuan highland farmer (both picked because they lived fairly sustainably), and you’ll see the problem. Because of the path dependence, it’s fun to think about where we need to be going before our culture evolves to the point where it can live in space.
What do you think? What do the predecessors to the stars look like? Remember that a pre-starfaring culture has to work on its own merits. Like a bird ancestor, it can’t “half fly.” Those too-small wings have to perfectly good for something else first.
When I wrote Scion of the Zodiac, I cheated on this question. I assumed that we’re going into a post-oil dark age first, and that somehow in that unrecorded time (heh heh) we learned the critical lessons of sustainability that allowed us to go to the stars after the next Renaissance (spurred, I think, by discovering a readable copy of Wikipedia and translating it. No sarcasm there). However, I’ll admit that I was more interested in low tech terraforming than star flight, so I spent more time figuring out how you could survive in an alien biosphere at a low tech level. That last stipulation was so that I couldn’t use magic tech boxes to make life livable. For my “barefoot gaiaformers,” I used three books as my primary references: Bill Mollison’s An Introduction to Permaculture, Jim Corbett’s Goatwalking, and Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running. Those three books are ones I’d recommend for any post-oil bookshelf, but there’s a lot of good material in there for how to run a gaiaspore. Note that none of these books are mainstream, which is why I think path dependence matters. As for the mechanical side, I’m only starting to think about it.
Obviously, I can babble about this for hours. But what do you think? Can we get to the stars from here? If so, how do we make the connections, and what do the intermediate culture(s) look like? If not, what’s standing in our way?
Filed under: fantasy, fiction, science fiction, Worldbuilding, writing | Tags: novels, science fiction, Time travel, writing
Oddly enough, I’ve been meaning to put this up for over a week. Originally, I was going to wait until I had the book ready for sale, but you know, reality has it’s own agenda. All of a sudden, a bunch of things suddenly erupted onto my schedule like post-rain mushrooms. Smashwords takes a bit of time to publish things, so I thought I’d put the teaser up now.
It’s my second book, and this one is in the spirit of Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol. The title is The Ghosts of Deep Time, and the book contains a novel and a short story.
From the back cover:
“A consultant finds a fossilized pack in the desert, then finds himself back in the Miocene with a criminal gang.
A game warden busts a group of trespassing druids in a wildlife sanctuary. They vanish in a green flash and he loses his job, only to be recruited for something much bigger.
This is the big secret: time travel is easy. There are over four billion years in Earth’s past. The deeper one goes in time, the more alien the Earth is. Still, people have settled most of Earth’s history. Of course they live without a trace, for that is the law of deep time. To do otherwise could create paradoxes, bifurcating histories, even time wars and mass extinctions.
Where there is law, there is also crime. When crimes span millions of years, law enforcement takes a special kind of officer. An ex-game warden can be the perfect recruit. At the right time.”
Here’s a sample. Enjoy! The Smashwords version will be available in a couple of weeks, and a paper version will be available through Lulu late next week. I’ll add links as things progress.
Update: It’s now available as an trade paperback from Lulu in electronic formats (Kindle, Nook) from Smashwords. Amazon is coming in a bit. In the meantime, you can purchase it from either of these two fine companies.
Filed under: livable future, science fiction, Uncategorized, Worldbuilding, writing
Simple topic. A few months ago, I self-published a SF novel called Scion of the Zodiac. I just dropped the price and made the first half free. Check it out.
I posted about it on Antipope, where John Meaney guest-blogged about world building. Since I spoke up about it, I figured I’d better provide a venue, in case anyone wants to comment on it.
Criticism is fine, and constructive feedback is much appreciated. Note that “It’s okay,” “I liked it,” and “it sucks,” don’t really qualify as constructive feedback. I’m trying to make the next one better, after all.
Filed under: fantasy, fiction, livable future, science fiction, Worldbuilding
Wow, I haven’t posted since…Um yeah. Where did April and May go? Right. Living in my secret identity.
Anyway, random short-ish thought. I’ve been finishing up a time travel manuscript, and now I’m figuring out how to sell it.
The one thing (as I’ve noted below), it’s set partially in deep time. This isn’t the killing-Hitler type of time travel, this is getting back into the Paleocene and other parts of the Cenozoic. While I like human history, I see no need to show off my modest knowledge of the subject, besides which, people with real history backgrounds have been embellishing human history for decades. It’s not like there isn’t, oh, 400 million years of other time to explore.
So I’ve been thinking to myself, “Self, one of the biggest problems I have is getting anyone to believe that a livable, sustainable future isn’t, well, chunky, and funky, and terribly earnest, and only available in a limited color scheme, and…well, not much fun, really. We all “know” after all, that dysfunction and sex are what sell, and if everything functions well enough and people know how to keep their zippers zipped, where’s the fun in that?” It’s that whole eating your broccoli-sprouts feeling about a sustainable future. It doesn’t matter how cool and hip the solar decathletes are, how much we know we need to do it. It’s just missing…something.
At least, that’s my thought. So no, I’m not trashing the past, exactly. What I’m thinking about is the question of where do we find our sustainable inspiration. I think it comes from the past. Perhaps from Eden, or Shangri-La, or the hunter/gatherer paradise, or even Lothlorien. Just think about these places, and those long, glorious green shadow of the past reach out and romantically embrace us. Right? As a society, we’re steeped in the mythology of the fall, of paradise lost, of how things used to be better back in the first chapter, the golden age. Even the silver age.
So what better place to put the sustainable future than the deep past, before humans even evolved. There’s something like 400 million years of livable planet back there, long enough for thousands of civilizations to rise, live, and fall. The only catch is that, if such places existed, they must of been masterful environmentalists, because they’ve erased every trace of themselves from the world.
Of course, this only works if time travel is easy. If time travel is easy, they must be hiding it from us, right? What better inspiration to environmentalism than to live the good life, keep the riff-raff of the unenlightened future out.
So that’s my question: not how one goes about hiding a civilization (I figured that one out already), but does it feel better to have that livable future back in the past, hiding from the fossil record? Is it a cute conceit, or could it actually be inspirational for those of us stuck in linear time?
Filed under: pseudonyms, Real Science Content, Speculation, Worldbuilding, writing
So now I’m not content with the Paleocene, and I want to deal with the lower Cretaceous?
Actually, this comes from a blog discussion I got sucked into on at SVPOW, on a really interesting Sauropod reconstruction by Brian Engh. As I noted over there, I’m posting some first thoughts on dinosaur-plant interactions over here.
For fun, I’ve been writing a time travel story set in the Paleocene, and so I’ve gotten interested in the weirdness one runs into going back in time. It’s another facet of worldbuilding, except that, instead of setting it on an alien planet far, far away, I’m trying to figure out the deep past.
The central problem is, I think, one of modern perceptions. To demonstrate, I’m going to choose three very different ecosystems: redwood forest, Midwestern prairie, and California needlegrass grassland. The redwoods have been around for a *very long* time, and even into the Paleocene, they were dominant in a lot of places, with ferns growing in the open fields around them (grasses didn’t really show up until the Oligocene, if I remember correctly). Most people’s view of the redwoods is this quiet place where the biomass is 99.9% plant and the herbivores are mostly absent. Fire is mostly absent too: they call the redwoods “the asbestos forest” for good reason.
Contrast the redwoods with the prairie, where the interaction between grasses and grazers pretty much dominates the system. Prairie grasses tolerate grazing and fire, usually much better than other plants tolerate grazing and fire. But it’s really about grazing, and when you remove the grazers, it’s hard to keep the woody plants from taking over. It’s a neat trick: everything gets eaten, but the grasses simply regrow better.
Contrast both with the California grasslands, where there were few (if any) grazers for the last 10,000 years or so. California native grasses are horrible at tolerating grazing. They can be mowed once per year, and that only about 1ft. off the ground. More mowing than that, and they die. But they tolerate fire just fine.
Getting back to the sauropods, I criticized Brian’s reconstruction of the great beasts knocking down the forest, and he (quite properly) took exception. But to me it is a paradox: why would there be a coniferous forest there at all? All those enormous dinosaurs, which ranged from the size of hippos to medium-sized whales, were living on a diet of conifers, possibly ferns, and possibly cycads and cycadeoids. If you think about this for a while, you realize how very bizarre it sounds. From the fossil evidence, it appears that conifers and ferns are good food, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sure, deer go after arborvitae and yews, but they kill the conifers. And ferns are full of fascinating carcinogens, while cycads are possibly even more nasty and tough. And very slow growing. If animals don’t routinely eat conifers and ferns today, why were the biggest land animals of all time chowing down on them 24/7 a hundred million years ago?
So, how do you grow a sauropod on such a crappy diet? The best answer I can come up with is that, back in the Mesozoic, there must have been another guild of plants around. These were conifers and ferns (if not cycads and gnetales) that used the prairie grass trick. They tolerated browsing, because it killed off their competitors and they could regrow. With the dinosaurs extinct, the plants collectively switched to a strategy of repelling smaller herbivores (mammals and insects), just as the native grassland species did in California. This is the Paleocene environment I’ve been researching, and we still see it in places like Papua New Guinea.
What did the mesozoic browsed conifers look like? That’s another problem I’m having. I don’t know of a modern conifer that tolerates browsing well. However, there were lots of extinct conifers back then. Ferns too. Still, I’m guessing that the Mesozoic forests had more in common with prairies than they do with the redwood cathedrals of today. They were heavily browsed, and seedlings probably recruited in meso-sites where the dinosaurs couldn’t eat them. They probably also root-sprouted readily, just as modern redwoods do.
As for size, I suspect that the tallest mesozoic conifers simply overtopped even the giant sauropods. But I don’t think they got as big as do modern trees, because of the respiration problem. Plants respire just as animals do, and plant respiration rates depend on temperature. There’s a reason that the really big trees grow where it’s cool and wet. It’s easy for them to generate a huge carbon surplus for wood in an environment like that, and the wet weather and fog helps them maintain the positive water balance to keep the tree tops hydrated. A tree in a hot, dry environment simply can’t grow that big, because it has less surplus carbon to put into wood (more carbon went into feeding hot cells), and there is less water to feed the high branches. As I understand it, the Jurassic was (on average) hotter and drier than today, so I’d guess that Jurassic conifers weren’t the giants we see today. And while some of them could overtop even Sauroposeidon, I suspect that many had to live out their lives in the browsing zone, forming some sort of weird multilayered conifer fern multiprairie/savanna.
Long, rambling post, and I’d welcome your thoughts. As I noted above, I’m ultimately interested in trying to get my head around what the Cretaceous looked like. The Paleocene I understand to some degree, but the Mesozoic is a new world to me, and a very strange one. It’s fun to figure out how to do justice to it properly in art or literature.
Charlie Stross has posted another neat topic on his blog.
In other news, there’s an interesting SF Novel, Scion of the Zodiac up on Smashwords and Lulu, and the author is mumbling something about putting it on Amazon and other similar sites, unless a publisher buys it first.
If you’re interested in hard science fiction with a huge dose of biology, environmental ideas, sustainability, dragons, and neat microbes, you might like this one. Check it out.
I’ll post links to the novel as I get them.
Ah yes, the sound of silence on a blog. That was me finishing NANOWRIMO 2010. 50,000 words, finished with 12 hours to spare.
This is the third year I’ve attempted it and the second year I’ve completed it. Last year’s version is sitting in publisher’s slush piles, and I’m considering self-publishing it on Kindle for Christmas.
One thing I’m finding is that my addiction to world-building makes story telling…complicated. Much of what I wrote this year (as last year) isn’t so much story, it’s trying to figure out the world and how it works, so that I know what the characters are getting into.
Last year I had fun with the old idea of a low-tech culture on an alien planet (think Pern, Darkover, etc). But it had to make sense ecologically. When even the soil is alien, how do people grow enough food to survive? And how did they get there in the first place? And why are they low-tech? The last question was easy: the microbes on the planet think that industrial polymers and lubricants are yummy, because the local plants and fungi use analogous chemicals as structural compounds (yes, the plants are plastic. Be careful in what you burn for your fire!). The rest of it? That was complicated.
This year I decided to tackle time-travel. Learning about the past was the first challenge (I chose the Paleocene for reasons that are relevant to the story). The major NANOWRIMO challenge was figuring out a) who the time travelers are (more game wardens than secret agents, in my view), and b) the hard question: how do you go about designing a culture that is very good at erasing every trace of itself from the fossil record? That’s even less easy than it sounds, but ultimately it was fun to think out and write about. It takes leave no trace camping to a whole new level.
I still like NANOWRIMO, because having that contest helps everyone understand that they need to leave you alone and let you write. That’s not so easy, other times of the year. If you’ve ever wanted to try writing a novel, I’d recommend this as the way to do it.