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  1. SkyeRangerDelta

    SkyeRangerDelta New Member

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    Science Fiction Setting Development?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by SkyeRangerDelta, Jan 28, 2017.

    Hello,

    I'm new to these forums, but I decided to sign up because I've hit a bit of a wall. I've been tumbling an idea around in my head for quite a while now, I'm not one for writing a whole lot, but I have what I think is a pretty awesome idea for a story. My main question is this; how does one develop a sci-fi setting? I've never been good at describing setting, how does one do it? My story as of right now, the starting setting is aboard a Captial Frigate known as the KFV Mercadon. How does one describe the interior of a ship...I already know that you guys probably have different ideas to mine, but if you shoot me some pointers on describing environments and stuff, that'd be fantastic!

    Thanks!
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    The problem isn't describing the interior of your ship, it's describing it in a way that sounds believable from the point of view of your characters. Your characters are likely familiar with the interior of their ship already. They're not walking around thinking Holy crap, look how cool our ship is! To them, they likely have the same attitude toward the description of their ship as you would have to the interior of your car. Although we the reader have no idea what the ship looks like, your characters do, so if you write it in a way that has too much explanation and "naked" description your characters will not appear believable. They will appear to be acting in a way that is beneficial to the reader and not to themselves. This is the key to sci-fi/fantasy in my opinion, making crazy, fantastical shit appear normal to the characters who live in it.

    I would recommend writing the story (at least the ship parts) as if your characters were in a car. If somebody "cracks the window" or "adjusts the headrest" in a story you don't need to explain what a window or a headrest is. Just like if a SFF character "primes the haptic drive" you should resist the urge to explain what a haptic drive is. You may be thinking it's terribly important for the reader to know what a "haptic drive" but it isn't. We're going to be focused on the characters if you do it right. As another example "the grompticon stretched his dorsal-talon" should be written with the same level of explanation as "the dog licked his paws." Just as we Earthlings know what a dog is, the denizens of Planet X are already familiar with grompticons. This is not true in all cases, there are obviously some things you absolutely have to explain, but if you get too caught up in describing settings, ships, and gadgets they'll be no room for characters or story and we will have probably stopped reading by the middle of the second page. I'm not saying you're likely to neglect characters or stories or anything like that, only that I wish someone had told me 20 years ago that readers don't care how cool your ship and gadgets are because all ships and gadgets in SFF are cool by virtue of them being featured in a story.
     
  3. SkyeRangerDelta

    SkyeRangerDelta New Member

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    Wow, that's actually pretty insightful. Because right now I've docked the Mercadon at a new state-of-the-art station and I'm trying to describe the shape of the station. *similar to the shape of the station described in Star Trek: Beyond*. Palm trees in the center of most walkways, interesting water features, Tetranium-Tennal Alloy which is a white metal, really cool looking. I dunno, maybe I'm doing alright for right now, I'd copy/pasta some of my work in here, but not sure if it'd be particularly useful.
     
  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    I just differentiate between the med/surgical bay and the rest of the ship. While the med-bay area is made of
    seamless ceramic that sits in the inner hull of the ship, to keep up a sterile environment. The rest of the ship
    is pretty much a dull metal grey of the alloy that predominately makes up the ships hulls, walls, floors, and
    other basic things (including the coil bolts they use in weaponry).
    The other is a bright white unknown alloy that makes up another more advanced species ship hull, body/war-frame
    armor, and the inside of their ship.
    Though to be fair they are military vessels, so very little interior descriptions are really needed.
    There is a brief description of the interior in a bit more detail of a civilian orbital outpost that functions like a
    floating getaway hotspot orbiting around Saturn.

    So it just depends on how much detail you want to put into your ships interior. Just don't go overboard describing
    every little thing. Just give up just enough for the reader to get an idea of how nice and lavish, or simplistic and
    Spartan the ship is. Allowing them to get on with the main point of your story, where they can see the characters
    moving about it. :)
     
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  5. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Welcome to the forum @SkyeRangerDelta.

    A trick that I've picked up is instead of the "naked description" that @Homer Potvin talked about, you have the characters interact with the setting. Through character action, you can cast a light on the fancy setting that you've created. This sort of setting development feels natural because we aren't just being told it's there. The plot is moving. The characters are acting, and we're merely seeing the setting as the characters see it when they use, touch, hear, see, taste it.
     
  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    Yep, you got five sense... use em!
     
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  7. SkyeRangerDelta

    SkyeRangerDelta New Member

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    So, incorporating more than just sight...so basically, if I try describing it visually and if I were blind creates really good settings. Well, how do I avoid going overboard with it. I've hard about something called an "infodump" that appearently people try to avoid, not sure what it is...but I'm assuming that its probably talking about something too much.
     
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  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    @SkyeRangerDelta an infodump is where you explain something at length and great detail, that has not much to do with the main point of the story.
    Like over describing a chair for example.
     
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  9. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    You avoid going overboard by editing the shit out of what you write the first couple times, haha. Description never comes easy for me, so I usually just let myself over do the banalities in a first draft, then I go back and pick just a few interesting, original details.

    And like I said, if your characters are interacting with the setting, you tend to more easily avoid the info dump.
     
  10. SkyeRangerDelta

    SkyeRangerDelta New Member

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    Alright cool, I'll keep working on it and hopefully I'll get a decent first chapter. :D
     
  11. Thom

    Thom Member

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    When I was describing the interior of my Pegasus for a sci fi story, I was just keeping in mind the interior of modern warships. Unitarian, but with comfort in mind for her six month patrol time. She's not a cruise ship, so the interior can be cramped, but she's also not coffin-like like a submarine. Like most people, I treat the ship in the story like one of the characters, and an important one, and I give a general layout as I go along, just so people reading will know the confines of the 'universe' they are in. And of course trying not to get too lost from the story.:rolleyes:
     
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  12. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    @Thom Really? That must get quite messy. Either that or you like dissecting Pegasus (Pegasai?). :supergrin:
    AnatomyPegasus.jpg
     
  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    You know, this would really mess butchers up. Usually the tenderest meat comes from the upper spinal area. The muscles have less connective tissue because they don't have much work to do... until you give it wings.
     
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  14. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    @Homer Potvin I did not know that. Very interesting. :superthink:
     
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  15. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    Was it this Pegasus, @Thom?

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    And the rump is the cheapest because it's active and loaded with sinew. Ribeye has the most flavor because of the marbling, but it's getting closer to tenderloin in price now. I think we could sell pegasus wings. There's probably a great cut just below the shoulder. We'd need a shit load of dipping sauce of course. And napkins.
     
  17. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    "We're gonna need a bigger grill."
     
  18. Richard M. Williams

    Richard M. Williams New Member

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    It depends on the sci-fi you want to write. Is it military science-fiction? Hard Science-Fiction? Or something else. However you write it you have to make the setting believable to the readers and the Characters. For instance, in a Military Science-Fiction your standard combat infantry or even a pilot isn't going to understand the concepts behind FTL travel if there even is FTL travel. That doesn't mean that you can't explain it to the readers as the narrator.

    In hard sci-fi, you need to know your science and mathematics. Also don't be afraid of using a McGuffin, but not too many. One is enough and that is usually your method of Faster-than-Light.

    As for ships, it depends on the faction, are they military? If so their ships are going to be in better conditions than your average civilian ship and purpose built. What I mean by purpose built is, military ships are rarely built for anything other than combat. However, the ships can be modular. So for example, the Mercadon depending on mission could have its modular weapons bays replaced with troop berths and vice versa. Look at pictures of the interior of modern military ships for some inspiration on the inside of those ships.

    As for civilian ships, that is entirely up to the character that owns that ship. A lot of merchant marine in real life that ship is their home-away-from-home if not their actual home so a more messy homely appearance is necessary fill those ships with personal affects like pictures, sports balls, bats, anything of import to the characters. Have conduits, ducts, wiring tacked to the walls or hanging down from the overheads. Also terminology is important, if the crew is human it is very likely they'll have a strong naval tradition. So walls are bulkheads, doors are hatches, staircases/ladders are ladders, etc.

    As for aliens, what ever you do, don't make them human like. Get weird with it.
     
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  19. SkyeRangerDelta

    SkyeRangerDelta New Member

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    I like that, very descriptive. It's not exactly military sci-fi, I guess it leans more on hard sci-fi. Not all ships are military nor are they all civilian. The main character of the story right now is on a capital frigate, a government vessel...not fit for combat, but also not for civilians. Yea, terminology is very similar. The main characters in my story are not exactly humans, they aren't from the United Federation of Planets, or from the Alliance/Rebellion peoples...but from a civilization I created that is very similar to humans.
     
  20. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Look at some movies and documentary TV about real, watergoing ships and see what fits. For example, ship's quarters are pretty much universally cramped, even for passengers on the nicer ones, while crew are often forced into coffin-sized beds. This is a cruise ship passenger cabin:

    [​IMG]

    And this is the sleeping space for crew on an American aircraft carrier:

    [​IMG]

    If it's a spaceship, it should be cramped, since the designers don't want big, open bubbles of air without support or means to be sealed off in case of an emergency. Star Wars gets away with those huge hanger bays and bridge spaces, but they bug me every time I see them. If there were a hull breach (or a field breach, since they also have open doors), imagine all the oxygen that would rush out of a space like this:

    [​IMG]

    Heck, imagine all the Storm Troopers that would rush out of a space like that in a breach.

    But you don't have to tell the reader it's cramped, just say that Smith's hand was hanging over the edge of his bunk, and Johnson accidentally stepped on it while climbing down from the fourth tier, waking him up. Then Johnson had to squeeze past Murphy on his way to the head, where he took a sponge bath in the sink, bumping elbows with Jones, who was doing the same thing. Boom, cramped ship established, and not a single word spent on dimensions or details.
     
  21. SkyeRangerDelta

    SkyeRangerDelta New Member

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    Lol, I love it. However, I like the giant hangar bays. Then again, mine are a bit more realistic in your case. I don't have a force field stopping a giant breach, I'm pulling from Star Trek in the case that gigantic breach doors open and close when a ship nears for docking/leaves the starbase. That should give you some comfort. xD

    But I also don't care for cramped quarters too much, I understand that space is a tight issue out in space, but for a space fairing empire which has control over a large amount of space, we can build bigger vessels, because we have bigger amounts of resources. If you catch what I'm sayin. If you're going off of describing the environment from what the description of a cruise liner cabin looks like, then yes that actually some really good insight and I'll probably do that.
     
  22. PilotMobius

    PilotMobius Member

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    For spaceships, you're going to want to make it 90% fuel and 10% cargo. Combat shouldn't even be an everyday concern simply because of how large space is. You'd have to calculate your course perfectly to even get close enough to see another ship, and even then, you'd be flying too fast to engage in combat.

    Also, see space stations for reference.
    image.jpg
    image.jpg
     
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  23. SkyeRangerDelta

    SkyeRangerDelta New Member

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    Well, since I don't seem to have written this anywhere in the post, let me see if I can slap down some more details. I understand that space is cramped, but luckily the character of this story is only on a ship maybe 3 times. Each a different ship. I do have the use of a stardock though. The stardock is stationary and doesn't move around, not sure if it requires 90% fuel.

    To put the story in perspective, I'm trying to get down the essentials of good setting design and description. You guys have been very helpful with that. Let's see if I can sum-up what I have planned.

    The story is the story given by a commander of a rim-world frontier outpost operation. He is sent with a menial crew to a far out waterworld to setup a frontier outpost and extend the reaches of the Kadeshi Federation. During mining operations and whatnot, a catastrophic seismic event wreaks havoc on the small base and destroys most of it when the main Primene core suffers a breach and cannot be contained. The commander is the only one that survives due to his situation when the event occurs and the story is that of his survival.

    Given that, it's definitely sci-fi, but not military all starships sci-fi, more of sci-fi survival. I want the outpost to be setup on a tropical island obviously since it's a waterworld, and I'm going to throw in different life forms because...well, this isn't Earth we're talking about here. How given that current human technology and pictures I can grab environmental examples, how can I go about describing new life and what it looks like in comparison to the landscape. I think I may have gotten the ship part down, the only scenes I have left to describe are pretty much the tropical island, the interior of the outpost base, the interior of the mining operation, and any small underwater scenes I might throw in there.

    I really do appreciate your guys' help. I hope that at any point I didn't sound like a dirtbag for some reason, but I just want to try to throw that into perspective and see what assistance I can get from it.
     
  24. Richard M. Williams

    Richard M. Williams New Member

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    Its all good man! I see what you're doing. sci-fi survival. Thats a toughie. I tried writing one when the new Tomb Raider came out and failed miserably, probably cause I wrote two paragraphs and got distracted by food and never came back to it.

    The base isn't going to be as cramped. You need to determine what constitutes small, for example "small" in Warhammer 40K is a couple kilometers or something the size of Jamestown or Plymouth in the 1600s on earth. Obviously, if they're rational there is going to be a security detail they'll need a barracks and defense from wildlife or indigenous peoples. Miners will also need a barracks or a collection of homes and the administration staff needs their infrastructure as well.

    Mining, no matter what level of technology is still very much dangerous. Some of that danger can be taken out with telemining (mining drones like Mass Effect or KOTOR). However, I'm guessing your basing this on Star Trek technology so they'd have people down there doing the mining. Mines are built as either surface, sub-surface, or high wall. Surface is obvious clear-cut mines like what we use on earth. Sub-surface is your stereo-typical mine you see in movies where its underground. High Wall mining is where they take a huge bucket excavator, like Bagger 288, and attack a mountain with it.

    Surface mining is safer, think of a big hole in the ground that looks like an upside down wedding cake, possibly put a pool of water down at the bottom. Sub-surface mining is is more dangerous and the most difficult, the miners first start by digging a huge hole straight down then installing an elevator with multiple levels of mining operations. They'll have exposed support beams of steel or other alloys possibly even a dense wood like oak (the Zinc mine near my house still uses wood supports). They'll have an onsite ore crusher to separate the ore from the rock and could either have an on-site refinery or small port or elevator for crushed ore to leave to a refinery. You'll also need some sort of tech that can tell the miners the wall the want to blast is holding back the ocean. The miners will literally fear a water breach. High Wall mining doesn't seem viable in your setting, so nix that one completely.

    As for the survival aspect, you need to figure out what survives. There's an explosion? Okay not everyone is going to die, I've watched insurgents get up from 500lb bombs and walk away perfectly fine. However, for story purposes, you might want to kill off most if not all of the colonists except your main character. After that you can either have him go tribal using things like spears, bow and arrow, the natural resources and weapons of the island he is on at least until he is rescued. Or he finds some tech that survived the blast.
     
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  25. SkyeRangerDelta

    SkyeRangerDelta New Member

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    Yea, you got it. I was thinking of your sub-surface mining actually (didn't know it was called that (if it isn't what its called in my book now)) where the support beams are visible but nothing is seen from above ground except ventilation like effluent release and air intake. We're going deep planet mining in this, so it's going to get pretty darn warm down there.

    Speaking of size...ummm....(*looks at google earth*), I'd have to say about the size of the island from the first Crysis game. And if you havn't played that, maybe Moloka'i, Hawaii. One of the smaller islands with some still versatile growth zones and hill top ranges.

    Looking at survival, I'm anticipating having him find techbology and tools in some of the non "irradiated" (Primene core fallout) rubble. maybe at some point he actually finds enough of some EV suits to patch them together and enter main engineering which is pretty much next to the core.

    But looking more at the details of the mines; I can see a bit of Fallout 4 kicking in with the "Vault-Tec Workshop" addon with Vault 88. Vast underground excavated regions that have systematic catwalks, stairways and whatnot. You'll have to find some screenshots.
     

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