Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Science Behind One Sunny Night

Enough of these silly awards for now. Back to the business of writing science fiction. When I started writing in the fictional universe where One Sunny Night and all its sequels takes place – I’ll just call it 3748 for ease of reference – I realized I had to do some worldbuilding, but first I had to do some world destruction.  Then I built a future on top of it. 

For the world destruction phase most of which takes place centuries before 3748), my main doomsday scenarios had to do with:

1.       Climate change, featuring ocean acifidification
2.      And a meteor that destroys Central America, and causes some volcanoes, which cause tsunamis (probably a little bit smaller than this one).

I realize all science fiction writers probably claim their big list of foundational hard science was eaten by wolverines, or succumbed to a computer virus. Mine may still exist, but I can’t find it. All I have are some secondary notes with lists like:
            Different O2 composition in the air leading to rapid oxidizing of metal;
Extreme turbulence = no more airplanes (even if you could make them out of something that doesn’t immediately rust and fall apart);
Variable oceanic Ph due to released oceanic methane following rise in temperatures;
Let’s throw in a super plague too, because why not.

All of this information kind of melted into the text as it underwent a great many revisions on its way to becoming a story. I reduced the earth to an uninhabitable mess, and then I added some wise, clever, brave humans that survive all of this, nonchalantly. Hundreds of years ago. They have totally moved on, and yeah, yeah, in 3748 everybody understands overconsumption is bad, although it’s not like you can really do it any more.

I gave them some mighty bioengineering, that allowed them to fix it so their skin didn’t blister in the fierce warmth, or sizzle away upon contact with deoxygenated seawater.  They can make preservative to keep metals viable as long as you keep slathering it on, and they can farm all their food in hydroponic vats. They build everything out of “composite” – I’m not entirely sure what that is, but it’s durable and flexible, and you can use it to build ship hulls that’ll last up to three years before dissolving.

Of course, the mighty bioengineering also gave me an excuse to throw in some evil bioengineering, such as the circuitry-eating microorganisms and the oxygen-farting pliosaurs (I figure once you start allowing technology that’ll let doctors field-repair shattered spines, your characters are going to need some powerful counterbalances). Not to mention that one guy, this really irritating supersmart arrogant ultra-competitive guy, who happens to be so gifted at all this tech wizardry that he cloned himself hundreds of times and called it a corporation, er, country. Most of them are harmless and a couple are actually saintly. Good luck sorting them out from the rest.  

If you couldn’t tell from all of this, I’m an optimist. If you gave me the option of bringing back sea cows and thylacines and velociraptors and even pliosaurs, I’d do it. In a red hot minute. Since they won’t let me near the laboratories due to this potential … zealousness, I’ll just have to do it in my fiction.

And then there’s anthropology, which is also a science, or at least some of it is. My rule of thumb for human behavior 3748 was “were they doing it 2000 years ago? When the pyramids were being built, when the Romans were going the house, when the druids danced around Stonehenge? If so, I threw it in. Drinking alcohol and coffee, flirting and having relationships (although there is lots of cultural variation as to what’s acceptable, just like now), parents raising children, communal eating. Dancing, listening to music and enjoying stories. Having pets. Getting into stupid pissing matches that escalate into wars. Being jerks to each other over money. Reading science fiction stories. 

Economics is a humanity, not a science, and since there seem to be competing visions of future economies (with accompanying moral baggage), I included several of them, ranging from commies to voluntary simplicitarians to caste-oriented free market maniacs to gold-hoarding agrarian preppers (or maybe they’re actually closer to being posters than preppers). And none of my characters care about economics, even though some of them are rich and some are poor, and that changes. 

Religion isn’t a science either, so while it does exist in 3748, sometimes in surprisingly subtle ways, I’m vague as to the details. All my characters are too busy staying alive to attend any services. And politics is definitely not a science, but nevertheless, I came up with a world where people manage to not be mean to each other most of the time while spying on each other to make sure everything’s nice and sustainable.

On my first few drafts I had info dumps that explained all of this, but they kept getting in the way of the excitement so I edited most of them out. I’m putting them all here, because that’s what blogs are for.  


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