As a writer of science fiction (or just fantasy/fiction in general), I am often asked, “How do you make the world of Kalijor/the future/corporate governments/whatever so rich and detailed?” The simple answer is actually pretty simple; history. Unfortunately, that rather simple answer is a sort of gateway drug to a life of world building and history writing.

 

Of course, calling it history writing is something I get the occasional flak for. Considering that most of my stories take place a thousand years in our future, or in an alternate (even virtual) world. How can I call it history, if it is in the future?

 

Well, it’s simple, really. It ~is~ history! To set the stage for my books, I had to explain how that stage came about. What led the people of Earth into the stars? How was that move financed? Did all of the world governments band together, shed their insecurities and differences of the past and collectively launch the human race into the next step of their evolution? Or did the world’s governments never quite figure things out, and suffer foreclosure at the hands of the dozens of banks and private corporations that had been supporting them for decades?

 

What happened after the corporations began taking over? How did the people of the world react? Did they roll over and accept it? Or did groups of them try and overthrow the yoke of corporate rule and reestablish some form of traditional government? If the latter, what kind of government would they choose? How would they go about usurping power from the massive, sprawling corporations that had slowly taken over control of the entire human race?

 

These are questions that I ask myself when I’m building new worlds. Without the answers, I don’t have a clear picture of what ‘present day’ in those worlds looks like; and without a clear picture of what the world looks like, how can I expect my characters to interact well with it? There needs to be, in my mind, at least, a reason why things are the way they are. Even if my readers never encounter those specific reasons, like the ‘laws’ of physics, they still need to be there, in the background, quietly working to hold the universe together. In many cases, my characters may not even know all of these details, but they are aware on some level of their effects.

 

For example: If you want a cup of decaffeinated coffee, what do you look for? How do you recognize that it is not regular coffee? Even many of you who don’t drink coffee likely know the answer to those questions, right? Why is that? How is it that we all know that an orange coffee pot or carafe means the liquid within is almost certainly lacking that thing that makes coffee the morning drink of choice for millions of people? Did you know that the particular shade of orange most often used for decaffeinated coffee pots is called Sanka Orange? Do you know why? Does it even, really, matter? Or is it just a part of your everyday world that you intuitively understand?

 

You see? Even in the real world, we are affected by history at almost every level of our lives. Even when we don’t know the history behind something, we are still affected by it, deal with it, live and breathe in it. Without it, how dull would our lives be?

Please let me know what you think, or if you have any thoughts or questions to share!
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Paul