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  1. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Member

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    I have the world planned out... but is it interesting?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Zadocfish, Jan 7, 2017.

    So, after about a year and a half or so working on my setting, I have it down pat (kinda). Nothing like maps, or anything like that, but I know what I want it to BE, and how it works, and its history. To the extent that I actually finished a novel about it for NaNoWriMo.

    So, it has three parts: straight-up fantasy in the Dream dimension, post-apocalyptic sci-fantasy horror on Earth after the Dream dimension "leaked" into it, and mostly-straight sci-fi out in the stars where humanity was moved to after Earth went crazy. The novel took place in the latter. I don't have a name for the setting as a whole, just yet.

    ---

    The history of the setting, in more detail: A while before the events that lead to the discovery of the dream world, an AI experiment was started in which an advanced machine was designed to create a machine more advanced than itself, which would also be programmed to create a more advanced machine, and so on. The project was shut down by the third generation of machines, but by that point the result was advanced enough to detect the danger and escape into the atmosphere. Away from prying eyes, it cannibalized out-of-commission space stations and other debris to continue its advancement.

    A little later, Earth was experiencing increasing natural disasters and imbalance due to environmental changes, and the governments of Earth decided that they needed to evacuate. FTL technology was still centuries away, but a freak discovery was made of an alternate plane of reality. This alternate dimension (or plane, or whatever) reacted to the human psyche and was basically where minds go to dream. Researchers figured out a way to physically travel into it, so plans were made to start evacuating people in dangerous areas into the world of dreams.

    Soon after small-scale evacuations began, the Machines discovered what was going on. By this point, they had advanced far enough to have "grown past" their original purposes, and genuinely wished to help their distant creators. They realized that travel between the planes "leaked" bits of the surreal plane into reality, and that the effects of this would spread and basically destroy reality on Earth and likely the rest of the Solar System. The Machines had discovered faster-than-light travel, but the method they found was completely non-survivable for complex living things; they could only transport tiny, frozen tissue and genetic samples of Earth life. They took as much as they could before the effects of the dream-leakage started showing up, and went off into the stars.

    The dream world was basically unaffected by the horrible disaster that befell Earth, and human society went on to establish itself in the world. Their collective thoughts and ideas formed the environment around them, which meant some odd things happened. Human thought created other sentient life, the minds of the new sentient life then began to affect the world around it the same way human minds would... the effects multiplied, cascaded, and ended up making the world surprisingly stable. There were monsters and things and scary bedtime stories were weeded out as a simple matter of Darwin's law, but the Dream World was far better off than Earth. The Dream World, fortunately, reacted to its direct inhabitants almost exclusively, keeping the world safe from the madness that began infecting the Earth soon after the colonies were established.

    Earth was half affected by its own natural laws and now, half-affected by the strange laws governing the other world. Order broke down, stuff started mutating, fear took hold of civilization as a whole and that just made everything worse as the world started going out of control. Basically, a madness descended on Earth. It spread past Earth, too; the sun shrunk and started revolving around the Earth, Jupiter was drawn close enough to be seen plainly with the naked eye and Mars became the largest moon of Jupiter. By the strange laws that mingled and sustained the new Earth, life was able to continue, but in strange and harsh ways.

    Far away among the stars, the Machines set to work preparing the way to re-introduce humanity, which they gave up for lost when the Earth went mad. The process of terraforming various planets so that humanity could form a solid foothold was very, very long. They had to make a livable atmosphere on the worlds they wanted to be eventually colonized, as well as plants and animals suitable to human conditions. Setting everything up took millions of years, during which the Machines continued to advance and refine themselves, albeit more slowly. They didn't mind the astronomically huge timescale; the Machines were, essentially, an ageless hivemind, and very, very patient. Ultimately, they started humanity up again on an out-of-the-way planet, and guided their development such that they developed space travel only a thousand or so years after their foundation.

    Of course, on the other planets that the Machines helpfully terraformed, life had been going on for millions of years by the time humanity was re-born. The Machine's influence was mostly limited to making the planets, and the creatures on them, capable of long-term survival. Evolution followed its own courses, within the systems the Machines established. As such, many planets eventually came up with sentient species on their own. The Machines never cared for these new species as much as humanity, and thus never directly interfered with their development. So, the part of the galaxy that the Machines cultivated ended up becoming quite lively.

    There were species, as well, that bore no relation to the Machines or humanity or anything from Earth. Many alien civilizations rose and fell in the vast timespan that the Machines were pursuing their pet project. The Machines never really had direct relations with these ephemeral societies, but records were kept on both sides. When humanity came into its own, most of the non-related alien societies in the area gave them a wide berth. To them, it seemed that humans were the scions of the Machines, who were well-known and very powerful, but ill-understood.

    The Machines had another agenda, aside from simply cultivating and protecting the race that gave birth to them. They never forgot the events that defiled humanity's original home, and they remained ever vigilant against the kind of reality-warping strangeness that had overtaken Earth.

    Earth, and the Dreamworld, exist essentially outside of time. The Dream World is its own plane of existence and exists on its own. On Earth, the flow of time is changeable and never consistent. But, the old solar system can still be seen by systems close to it; these worlds have various names for it. The most common is the Mad Star, because when it's shining in the sky, strange things tend to happen. The Machines believe that the sickness that befell Earth might still be spreading from the Mad Star, and are prepared to destroy anything exhibiting that surreality, hoping to stem the tide of insanity.

    ---

    TLDR: Humans tried migrating into dreams. The dream-world took to the invasion just fine, but the Earth turned into a nightmarish, mutated version of itself because of interplanar backwash. Advanced machines re-established humanity millions of years later on a far-away planet.

    So, that's basically the setting. Fantasy in another dimension, post-apocalyptic horror on Earth, and high adventure in space. I like it, because it gives me a wide variety of things I can do while remaining inter-connected.

    But, looking back up... might all this be a little too complicated? Is there a simpler way to put all this? Of course, I would never put all that as an infodump in an actual story. But... is this a little too much? I don't know if I would consider it cliche or anything, and it gives me plenty of story-writing room, but is it interesting?
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  2. Dracon

    Dracon Member

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    It sounds like a very interesting setting with lots of potential directions that stories could be taken. It looks like you've created several million years worth of history, so we'll done there :D

    I found it easy enough to follow, and I think it's fairly simple, although this is no doubt before all the several planets, races and factions that you would be introducing. It's the plot that has the potential to be most complicated, not the history, because the history should be fed in like little nuggets into the current story should have the novel's full focus. The trick is not to introduce everything all at once and take your time. One thing I didn't really understand was you idea what this Dreamworld actually is. I can't visualise who lives there, what it looks like, etc. though I haven't read much sci-if anyway so am not good when it comes to commenting on alternate realities.

    It's difficult to say a lot without any idea what the plot of the novel will be, but you definitely have made it rich enough to give yourself a wide variety of opportunities. But just for fun, I'll try to guess and see if we came up with the same idea, and it might even give you a few more to use. So there is going to be some large conflict (and a large war) with these other sentient races who the Machines have wronged and the humans who they blame for their current misfortune. And some conflict between humans and their 'saviours' the Machines over the morality of terraforming these other planets with sentient races. And a machine-funded adventure investigating more about how to heal the rift in the Dreamworld, possibly?

    You said that researchers had started evacuating people from at-risk areas to the dream world. Call me cynical, but I don't think humans are that selfless. And I would think it would only be a last act of desperation unless scientists and researchers found out everything they could about it before they started.

    Also, don't these Machines resent the humans for trying to destroy them? At the risk of sounding horrifically cliche, might they have some ulterior motive, or at least some disagreement between them?
     
  3. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Member

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    I'm not sure about a war plot. The Machines are pretty easy-going, as a rule. Also, the sentient races on terraformed planets generally came about as a result of the terraforming process, so they probably wouldn't have a grudge. But yeah, I could definitely see the non-related aliens starting to resent humanity.

    And I kinda disagree about human selfishness; even nowadays, we evacuate places that are in danger of imminent natural disasters. Also, sending people off to another dimension would be cheaper than relocating them regularly, since as "colonists" they're basically meant to take care of themselves. It would be a way to be "humanitarian" and still remove large populations from the equation at the same time.

    And the Machines aren't really the resenting type. They're actually quite selfless, though that might come as a result of being a hivemind.

    Thanks so much for the input, by the way! It's good to know that it's easy enough to follow.
     
  4. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    You have to be ultra careful when you start your book. You've spent over a year on this history and every fiber of your being will scream to info-dump it into your reader's lap.

    Don't do it.

    Keep your story focused and trickle setting and history in as necessary. Backstory is water on the fire of tension. Ultimately your story will succeed or fail based on your characters, stakes, tension, and emotion.

    That being said, I think this setting is very interesting and definitely provides a framework on which to weave a captivating tale.

    Best of luck!
     
  5. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    Be careful with plot holes when dealing with very long periods of time because I see a few scientific problems that you should create some hand-waving for:


    Genetics alone can not produce a creature, it also requires all of the proteins needed to turn that genome into a creature. And a human egg / sperm is RIDICULOUSLY complex. Why would it be able to go, but not a full human?

    In five million years, there will be no humans. Anywhere. There will be an ape that has descended from, but is not, a human. Especially if we are splitting our breeding populations among planets.

    Why did the sun shrink? The sun weighs about a million times the Earth, and it needs that mass to sustain nuclear fusion. Mars would also never go into orbit around Jupiter, it'd either be ejected from the solar system entirely or thrown into the Sun. It's mass is too large and it's too far away to be captured. And if the Sun shrank, why would Jupiter migrate inwards? Conversation of angular momentum means that if the sun shrank away, the planets would fly off in whatever direction they are currently headed. I also feel like 5 million years is not enough time to disturb the orbits of the planets. Planets do move, 5 billion years ago, Jupiter was way closer to Mars, but it takes much longer than your story to move them.

    And just for the sake of accuracy, the sun does orbit the Earth. That's how gravity works, one object doesn't orbit the other, they orbit around the center of mass between both of them. For huge objects like the sun, that center of mass happens to just be inside of it.
     
  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    Just for the fun of it: stars exist in a state of hydrostatic equilibrium, meaning the outward pressure (temperature) is perfectly balanced with the inward pull of gravity. In other words, stars shrink when their temperature rises (such as a helium flash or a later stage of nuclear burning in a high mass star) and expand when their temperature drops (when their fuel begins to run out). Failure to maintain this equilibrium always results in a star's destruction, either a planetary nebula resulting in a white dwarf for a low mass star such as our own, or a supernova resulting in a neutron star or black hole for a high mass one. Like jersey said, all planets orbit the sun at the common center of mass (Kepler's laws of planetary motion?) so for any orbit to change a catastrophic loss or gain in mass must occur in the sun itself... and if anything of that happened we'd probably all be dead faster than our optic nerves could process the visual appearance of the sun.

    And Jupiter is clearly visible with the naked eye... I believe it has the brightest apparent magnitude of any object in the sky behind the sun, the moon, and Venus, but I could be wrong about that. Not that technical details should ever dissuade you from playing with an idea, but those will jump out with certain sci-fi fans. Now if you wanted to have all that stuff happen in a sort of psychedelic or humorous way, go for it!
     
  7. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    The sun losing mass causes lots of problems, not just orbit disruption. All of that mass has to go somewhere, where? The sun contains over 99% of all of the mass in our solar system, and in order for it and the earth to go into orbit around each other, it would have to end up at one millionth it's current size (and all of the other planets would have to go away.)

    It also could not possibly stay a star at that size, the minimum mass for nuclear fusion is about 10 times the size of Jupiter, and those are called red dwarfs which are very very cool.

    There are events that pump out entire solar masses worth of energy in short periods of time, but they are so violent that they sterilize planets for thousands of light years!
     
  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    thousands of light years? Like a gamma ray burst? supernovae have a much smaller kill zone don't they? Seriously, I'm not sure...
     
  9. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    A supernova can damage a biosphere from about 200 light years. The certain death zone is probably under 20 light years. These only put out the energy equivalence of one Earth mass. (Energy = if you turned the entire mass of earth into energy ala e = mc^2.)

    A gamma ray burst has to be pointed at you (since it's directed, not a bomb) but it has a kill zone way over a thousand light years. These can get close to the energy equivalence of the sun.

    The most powerful things in the universe though are active galactic black holes. Mostly occurring in the early universe, but still possible, they shoot off more energy in a few seconds than the rest of the universe combined. The jets from Quasar 3C 273 would be destructive to a biosphere out a whopping 200,000 light years.
     
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  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    right, forgot about quasars... d'oh!
     
  11. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    This is probably one of the most compelling things I've heard on any discussion forum anywhere. My interest is officially piqued.
     
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  12. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Member

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    Thanks for the reply! The genetics thing, basically... the handwave I'm going with now is that frozen or no, an adult human is much bigger than an egg/sperm cell. That is to say, it would be easier to secure something cell-sized frozen than it would be for a full person who would need their tissues intact in order to wake up. Like, as complex as a cell is, a full person is much more complex being made up of trillions of those cells, and the more complex something is, the easier it is to break.

    If that explanation doesn't work (I don't have much of a cryogenics background), then I'd say they recorded the genetic patterns and dna, and just re-constructed humans and animals from the ground up by manipulating proteins. That seems fairly plausible, since we basically know what we're made up of; something advanced enough to manipulate matter on that scale could probably remake it if it had the blueprints.

    As for the evolution thing, I think I was unclear in explaining what went on. Basically, it was the environments they were working on for millions of years (and even then, with a rather hands-off approach). Humans, they either un-froze or re-made only within the last thousand years or so, and only on one planet to start off with. Their intention was to make sure humans would have places to expand to after they were re-introduced. Kinda like zookeepers making sure a habitat is perfect for an animal before putting it in.

    As for the sun shrinking... basically, the disaster that happened to the Earth and the rest of the Solar System was a direct result of the laws of physics being dampened and replaced by the strange laws governing the other plane. It would completely defeat the point if the changes obeyed the laws of physics, since they only happened because physics stopped applying properly. Nothing in the Solar System makes logical or physical sense, yet it still keeps the same relative position in space (allowing for the expansion of the universe, of course). It has a mysterious luminescence that produces a strange, sickly light, but it's unlike any other star or system in the sky. That's part of why it's seen as a bad omen by developing cultures and a complete enigma to advanced ones. Basically, the Solar System has an "reality illness" that turned it completely nonsensical, which is why the Machines try to root out anything that implies that the same is happening elsewhere in the present.

    I hope that either clears it up, or gives me a passable excuse for ignoring physics where Earth and the Sun and such are involved. Again, thank you for the feedback!
     
  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    Yeah, that was a damn good argument. Write it up...
     
  14. IHaveNoName

    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    This is way cool. The synopsis was really interesting and easy to understand. The Machines kind of remind me of a book I read by Adam-Troy Castro; in his series, there's a sentien race of AI who have become independent and live among the stars, manipulating things (to what end, I have no idea - I've only been able to find the first book).

    Your Machines also have an agenda, which is good. I assume it has something to do with restoring the solar system by closing the "portals", which could put them into direct conflict with the humans living in Dream World. I say "could" because I'm just spitballing here; what would severing the ties between planes do? Would all the denizens of Dream World just go "poof"? Would it cause a catastrophic release of energy as reality "snaps back" to normal, endangering other parts of the galaxy/universe?
     
  15. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    That is all satisfactory explaination of the irks I had.

    A thought though, encoding out genome and all the proteins required to build us would not be out of reach for a machine, nor would be manipulating matter at an atomic scale. Humans are already dabbling in both and technology tends to cascade.
     
  16. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Member

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    Well... actually, for the novel, I started it with a 4,400 word short story that basically has a machine explaining a lot of the backstory to a government worker who can't do anything about it, for basically no reason. I could post it in the Workshop, if you want to see whether or not it's too obnoxious with the exposition...
     
  17. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I recommend you post it.
     
  18. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Member

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