1. Mallory

    Mallory Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,269
    Likes Received:
    196
    Location:
    Portland, Ore.

    What would make a new planet terrifying? (Plot concepts in addition to worldbuilding)

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mallory, Feb 25, 2019.

    So in the new story I'm developing, some post-Earth settlers have colonized a new planet. A very small colony of world-leader billionaire types have brought a larger number of lower-class Earth citizens as slaves. (This isn't divided up by any demographic like race/gender/orientation or anything like that, purely on tech-determined fitness to work. The fascist class administered tests to find out who was most competent at the types of labor they needed, and hauled them off when they left Earth.)

    The planet has a dome over it to make the oxygen/pressure/etc like that of Earth, so people can live and breathe normally.
    The fascists live on a mountain plateau on the new planet, in luxurious huge mansions completely safe from the rest of the planet.
    The slaves live below the mountains, forced to do the labor based on areas/specific skills, but deprived of resources so they can't rise up (sort of how the 13 districts are in Hunger Games)
    Eventually, they start a revolution, which launches the main plot.

    In addition to the fascism and injustice of this whole system, what else would make the planet a really scary place for the people who live below the mountain? In terms of resident alien predator animals, geographic features about the planet (like Bolton Strid-style rivers, or frequent severe earthquakes, or volcanoes) or plot issues?

    In addition to the oppression and bad quality of life, what features about the planet itself would make the lower class's life on the planet scary, in a horror/action type of way?

    Also, whatever is formidable about the planet could ideally be used against the fascists somehow in the revolt. :)

    Thanks for any ideas!
     
  2. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2019
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    596
    What is the air like outside of the dome? Perhaps the dome itself is imperfect, and they have to constantly repair it or risk some ill effect of the outside seeping in.

    Large apex predators are good. Tiny killing machines also good, see blue ringed octopus. Bugs. Maybe there is some mosquito like thing that can dry out your eyeball and leave you with an eyeball raisin. Maybe a wasp that bites you and gives you some kind of palsy.

    Perhaps some kind of sun-based danger? Overexposure = something bad. Acid rain that melts the dome?
     
  3. Mallory

    Mallory Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,269
    Likes Received:
    196
    Location:
    Portland, Ore.
    Yeah, that's one of the slave functions -- working nonstop to fix the dome, under high pressure and in bad conditions, with no breaks, etc.
    And thanks - there will definitely be apex predator animals, and I love the mosquito-equivalent bug idea.

    I'm also thinking another big thing would be mining. The mines on the other planet have some kind of element needed by the fascists, maybe something crucial to maintaining the existence of the dome. and mining is dangerous because there's monsters/aliens that live in the mines and don't appreciate having their home invaded. (Not in a "The Descent" type way, they would be wild animal creatures and not humanoid).

    Any more ideas for making the landscape/geography/daily life scary and dangerous?
     
  4. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2019
    Messages:
    375
    Likes Received:
    596
    The first thing that comes to mind is something like asbestos so the material itself could pose a danger.

    What things scare you on earth and how could you mod them? For me I just keep thinking of bugs *shudder* like take a centipede but make it worse, or a scorpion. Make it huge. Make it spray acid. Stuff like that. Also, sinkholes are terrifying in terms of terrain.
     
    Mallory and Cave Troll like this.
  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,474
    Likes Received:
    26,331
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    A tidally locked planet would be pretty bad, if you happen
    to be anywhere, but in the habitable zone. Side toward the
    sun would burn you alive, and the other side would freeze
    you solid. So to be nice and say you have a 100 mile wide
    strip that is habitable, and you can have different terrains
    in such a narrow strip around an entire planet.

    There are lots of ways to make a planet 'hostile'.
    Raining rocks, or mecury.
    Acidic breathable atmosphere with breathing apparatus.
    1.5 to 3 times normal gravity.
    Plants that eat the wildlife.
    Intense radiation.

    Good luck. :superidea:
     
  6. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2017
    Messages:
    376
    Likes Received:
    521
    Magnetic rocks or electromagnetic interference from solar storms can do weird things to communications. Most of the time, it's just white noise, but every now and then it sounds like words in an alien language, or fingers drumming, or an electronic scream.

    An unusual day / night cycle (like Venus, where a day is longer than the year, or maybe the planet has an extreme tilt that means the days vary wildly in length across the year). If you look up the accounts of polar explorers or people who live in the far north, you can find accounts of how having an unbroken week of sunlight or darkness can mess with your mind.

    Trace gases (or spores from plantlife) that cause hallucinations or mood swings. In certain areas, if you get a puncture in your suit or your breathing mask is malfunctioning, you're going to start gradually seeing and hearing some weird stuff. On the plus side, if you can bottle these, they make an effective nonlethal weapon when the revolt comes around.

    A native creature that's harmless in itself, but which mimics sounds and voices. It's bad enough that Mary was killed in that landslide last week, but one of them was in the area when she was dying, and now if you go there, you can hear a perfect copy of her voice calling for help which will never come.....
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
    Mallory and flawed personality like this.
  7. crosswolf

    crosswolf New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2018
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    18
    The oldest and greatest fear present in mankind is the fear of the unknown. After all, we're a smart and rather murderous bunch. If there's a threat we can see and learn to understand then we can find ways to counter it - even if they're not always successful. Farmer's in Africa have started protecting their crops and farms from elephants by placing beehives around the perimeter. We're learning how to build earthquake proof buildings, and getting better at it all the time. Mosquito nets protect against malaria, and the warning signs of tsunamis are getting more and more well known to allow for faster reaction times. If the environment is so lethal and dangerous that the slave class don't have the time to find adaptations like this to common threats, then they don't really stand a long term chance of survival. Eventually something will get them all.

    But if you come up with a danger that is rare enough to allow for continued, large-scale survival, but powerful enough that it can't really be protected against, then you have a good recipe for terrified populations. If you'll permit me, I'll give an example of something I might use, and the thought process behind why I think it'd work. Hopefully this'll help you think about things in a similar manner (why are things scary, what types of fear work best for my story). And who knows, maybe you'll like this idea. :p

    Consider this. During the summer, perhaps a particular breed of plant releases a pollen which is highly toxic. But the plant is weed-like, or fungal - if you don't eradicate the whole thing (roots and mycelium underground, all the spores) then it'll grow back eventually. That gives a way to fight back, but makes it nigh-impossible to fully neutralise the threat. Then, when the pollen (or spores if it's fungal) gets released it has catastrophic consquences if you come in contact with it. So now people are terrified of leaving their homes - they need to, or the masters will punish them. But they can't tell if the air is clear. Is that a cloud of spores, or just fog? The air is thick with pollen, but is it the normal variety or does it come from the death-plant? Did they successfuly get rid of that patch of growth, or are some of its roots still deep within the soil beneath them? For added points, fungal spores produce rapidly and constantly. Plant pollen tends to be seasonal. If you go for the fungus variety of this scenario, people who come into contact with it could be contagious - the spores cling to them, flourish, and then the person starts shedding spores themselves. Now family members are worrying that their daughter might have been exposed - do they let her back inside and risk contamination? Or do they quarantine her outside the house - probably guaranteeing that she gets infected.

    You could do this kind of annual/bi-annual/whatever length cycle threat with lots of things. There's a type of cicada which appears in huge swarms (over a million per acre at times) every 13 or 17 years (depending on the species). So you could use bugs that appear even less frequently - the people can live normally for 4-5 years at a time and then "Next year comes the swarm". You can have the swarm be mosqituo like bugs, or full sized Xenomorph type things like in Alien. Either works. Or you could use bears (or another large animal) that hibernates for long periods of time and when it wakes all hell breaks loose while it breeds/feeds/gathers food.

    Give the population something they can't properly prepare for, and don't truly understand. Make it intermittent but utterly horrifying in its threat. Maybe try for a fate-worse-than-death type thing for extra credit. If it's cyclical rather than constant then there's the slow, dreadful build up which gnaws and people. The actual event is the release, the 'jump scare' as it were. Then there's a short period where they can relax and reset, let their guard down....before the cycle begins all over again. That relaxation period is crucial, because being on edge all the time is exhausting and they could grow numb to the danger. This "build up - release - relax - reset" cycle is pretty ubiquitous in horror, and with good reason.

    But above all, introduce uncertainty - how many cicadas managed to breed and are going to be around next time? Did we kill all of that plant? How long do we have left before next time? The oldest and greatest fear present in mankind is the fear of the unknown. Play on that.
     
  8. ThunderAngel

    ThunderAngel Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2018
    Messages:
    553
    Likes Received:
    1,114
    TrES-2b; the darkest exoplanet yet discovered; it's atmosphere is so black that it's basically a light-eater.

    TrES-2b1.jpg
     
  9. flawed personality

    flawed personality Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    6,236
    Likes Received:
    13,866
    That is both cool and creepy in equal measure. :)
     
    ThunderAngel and Cave Troll like this.
  10. Mallory

    Mallory Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,269
    Likes Received:
    196
    Location:
    Portland, Ore.
    This is perfect. Thank you so much.
     
  11. Mallory

    Mallory Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,269
    Likes Received:
    196
    Location:
    Portland, Ore.
    This is really helpful! Thank you!
     
    crosswolf and flawed personality like this.
  12. Harmonices

    Harmonices Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2019
    Messages:
    418
    Likes Received:
    490
    Location:
    East Anglia
    There could be toxic gases in the lowest part of the atmosphere, that rise up from cracks that occasionally appear in the earth in regions the poor have to work in. These induce horrific hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. Then everything becomes scary and dangerous, especially the behaviour of those effected.

    The lower orders have to wear gas masks all the time. But they all have cheap shitty kit, risking exposure. The terrifying process of ongoing low levels of exposure destroys some of the rebels, leaving them catatonic, locked in their personal nightmares, but it also makes others more resistant to the brain bending effects of the hallucinogen.

    Because the elite are completely protected high up in their super pads, they remain vulnerable to the toxin when the rebels eventually deploy it as a weapon against their masters, risking the entire planet's sanity in the process.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  13. flawed personality

    flawed personality Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    6,236
    Likes Received:
    13,866
    Cave Troll likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice