Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Science of One Sunny Night, Part Two

Hooray, Bill Gates is back to reading science fiction, and he just posted a review of Seveneves. Which I will get around to reading as soon as I get my free Hugo voter copy.

Three cheers for science fiction! And it occurred to me that I avoided the subject of the domes in my previous post about this. After the asteroid impacted earth there was an extended period of darkness. Most of the plants and animals died out. Humanity moved into domes, and spent three generations living in close quarters, eating vatgrown food and drinking reclaimed water, and undergoing draconian rules about birth control, not throwing loud parties after midnight and things like that. Right around the time the domes were built there had been a near-miss pandemic. Everyone was mindful of the importance of genetic diversity, and so concentrated effort was made to invite everyone into the domes and keep a good balance of humanity alive.

Some people refused to live in the domes. They died.

There were domes all over the world, and they had internet connectivity so they could keep in touch. In North and South America, the land itself was drastically changed since it was closest to the impact, and borders melted away. People formed new friendships/relationships/countries over the internet, and once they left the domes they met up and built new societies over what was left of their continents. Some wanted to live in futuristic post-cash cities, while others preferred a rural and disconnected lifestyle. Some wanted to dispense with bodies entirely. There was room for everyone.

Being optimistic, I let some of the smaller creatures survive – rodents, bunny rabbits, small dogs, wrens. In all likelihood they wouldn’t – the lack of sunlight would bring about a lack of plants, and anything that lived on those plants would starve. As a soft-hearted animal lover, I arranged for the dome-dwellers to work out cetacean feeding arrangements, so that the whales and dolphins could get through the catastrophes without going extinct, although I did limit their habitat to uninhabited areas of the mid-Pacific.

By the time my story begins humanity has been out of the domes for hundreds of years. Some strides have been made toward remediating all that planetary damage – besides the crazed bioengineers with their unearthly powers, I’ve also got some luddites living behind pollen curtains, ensuring the planet’s collection of heritage seeds survives, and some heroic cowboys who ride around checking soil nitrogen levels and like that. In some areas the seas have been restocked with delicious bioengineered fish that adjust the chemistry of the water while swimming in it. Right now while I’m writing this we silly humans have managed to murder most of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef, but in my future we not only figure out how to grow it back, we unlock the ability to use it as a moderately intelligent, self-repairing building material.

It’s a different planet, though. Not the mostly-tame, mostly-accessible one we have now. On this planet, the waves are as tall as skyscrapers and the storms rage. You might run into bioengineered monsters, assuming the sun doesn’t bake you alive. People stay close to home, unless they’re traveling along the designated paths, in large groups for safety.

One thing I realized early on in my worldbuilding is that my future people would have a completely different relationship to physical things. They have limited space, they have a tradition of recycling the nonessentials, and they have 3D printers (“fabs”) that can make whatever you need – barstools, forks, ukulele strings, chess pieces. So there aren’t a lot of collectors, or hoarders.

Am I making a prediction about what 3748 is really going to be like, or whether humans will be around to see it? No. I’m just telling a story about what things might be like if we undergo some worst case scenarios and cosmic catastrophes.

Am I making a political statement in favor of GMO? Nope. My characters live in a world in which GMO is unavoidable; we don’t. The extent to how much GMO is permissible is one of the major themes, and it’ll all come to a resounding conclusion at the end of book three.

And then I’ll go build another world and write something else.

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