Murder over mushrooms — plants in Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding? Thinking about plants? Sometimes a plant can play an important role in a science fiction or fantasy novel. Remember the nightlock plant in The Hunger Games.

A feminist-fantasy stereotype is an herb that works exactly the way feminists wish birth control pills would work. To signal even more feminist virtue, it may be accompanied by an herbal version of the morning-after pill or RU-486— something that will do in an unborn child once its life has begun. There are of course no side effects, not even the normal depression that can come with the ending of a pregnancy in even the best circumstances.

Plants are a major food source, even for carnivores like me. And of course to get the eggs, cream and meat I need for my healthy low-carb diet, I have to feed chickens and sheep lots of good plants, such as stinging nettle. Stinging nettle may sting you when fresh, but if you cook stinging nettle plants they are like spinach. Only better tasting.

Dried stinging nettle plants are a good fodder for sheep, goats and other critters that eat grass and hay. My goats and some of my sheep are willing to eat any fresh stinging nettle I pick for them, but they ignore the stinging nettle plants growing in their pens unless I pluck it for them.

My chickens also eat fresh stinging nettle. Right now a big group of my chickens is in a non-movable pen with no access to fresh greens, so they get very excited when I bring them a fresh bunch of stinging nettle.

In my WIP Tiberius Base, plants are a major influence for the people in starships and star bases. Scientific studies show that people who have regular access to plant-rich environments are happier. And so it is customary to provide these plant rich environments.

A human-constructed forest is at the heart of all Terran-flagged starships. Ships’ crews brag about the size and intricacy of their ship’s forest. Star bases have even larger forests, and an actual space city usually has more than one.

Tiberius Base has a larger forest than any other constructed by Terrans so far. It contains a wide variety of trees and plants from both European and Asian environments. Mushrooms spores are well represented in the mix. And this leads to a problem.

Mushrooming is an amazingly popular activity among Terrans in space. The formal food-growing facilities on Terran ships and bases don’t traditionally grow mushrooms and so it is a highly sought-after food. Canned mushrooms are a staple in trading and many worlds without much interplanetary trade have a small facility in which to can mushrooms.

A forester is placed in charge of an artificial forest in a starship or base, but people hiking through the forest for recreation often come upon newly sprouted mushrooms before the forester is aware of them. People often have certain mushroom-rich areas of a forest that they look upon as their personal mushroom-hunting space. The problem arises when more than one person claims the same space.

Usually there are a few rules. Residents of a base or starship have a higher claim to a bit of the local forest than do transients or guests. Well-off people who have a garden area incorporated into their quarters must give way to the lower-income workers. But when 2 people of the same status claim the same mushroom ground, it can get difficult.

There was a famous case of murder over morel mushrooms on one of the older starbases. Since this base was owned by the Menders, an alien race, and Terrans were only using the base with permission, it was quite the scandal. It has since been established that murder over mushrooms, even morel mushrooms, is in no way considered justifiable homicide. It is also customary to grow some morel mushrooms in the cultivation rooms to render them less rare-and-hard-to-come-by.

Another way plants are important to star bases and starships is the provision of Schreber gardens. A Schreber garden is a custom which started in Germany. There are small garden plots provided to those who live in apartments or small houses with no gardening space.

In the spacegoing world, Schreber gardens are provided to anyone living on a space base who do not have a garden area as part of their living quarters. Gardening together with your Schreber garden neighbors is a popular pastime. Even in starships sometimes Schreber garden plots are provided to interested crew men, especially men who are drafted into the service.

Certain drug plants are forbidden crops on any space station or ship, as drug plants may be taboo in our world. Use of drugs for other than medical necessity is considered a sign of weakness, and drug users are likely to be identified and deprived of employment opportunities. However, the usual punishment for a convicted drug user is time spent in a locked-door rehab facility, so at least the convicted have a chance to shake their addictions.

Some plants may be mild spices for one species and deadly drugs for another. This creates conflict when the spice is a beloved one and the users of it don’t want to give it up to help aliens remain drug-free. Sesame seeds are a plant item of this class, but roasting the seeds denatures the drug effect.

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WW: A Sci-Fi military must know that it’s the military

Our Worldbuilding Wednesday topic is: Military. More information on the Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop below.

The one thing your fictional Sci-fi military must do is know that it is the military. None of this crap they put out in the recent Star Trek movies ‘I thought we were explorers.’ What did you think the Enterprise’s phasers and photon torpedoes were there for? What about those military ranks? And the fact that disobeying an order can result in a courtmartial, not just getting fired as in the civilian world?

Star Trek is stupid on these points because it’s a brilliant idea ruled over by whiny Leftists. You can’t expect better from them. That’s why I didn’t bother to watch more than a few minutes of ‘Star Trek Discovery.’ I knew it would suck and it did. So I spend my time seeing if Ice-T could solve the murders of Tupac and Biggie. (I think he needed help from Mariska Hargitay.)

A military uses force for the common good of society. Yes, they kill people. And that’s sad. But when you have an enemy army pouring over your nation’s borders, you need to kill some people to stop it. Probably most of the people you kill will be nice people who are only doing what their government tells them to. But if you don’t want your nation ruled by a Stalin or a Hitler, you will need to get your hands dirty.

A police force also uses force for the common good. Sometimes good police officers shoot and kill a dangerous looking person that turns out to be young, or unarmed. But the problem is that you can’t always tell if that dangerous or defiant guy is young or reaching for a stick of gum instead of a gun. What would happen if officers failed to stop a dangerous-looking guy who went on to kill 10 school kids?

In my WIP Tiberius Base, there is a Fleet which was once answered to the Terran Council. Only the Terran Council disbanded years ago. The Fleet goes on, protecting Terran worlds and doing a little trading on the side to fund themselves. Because they now no longer receive funding from the taxpayers as they once did.

The space city Tiberius Base is owned by Fortunate Dragon Company, which is a part of the Interplanetary People’s Republic. The IPR has a political/economic policy called Alliterism, which has a bad reputation on many worlds. So Fortunate Dragon hires the Fleet to provide people to operate the Base’s weapons, and some to function as a local police force. This requires them to create laws that are a sort of hybrid of what the IPR wants and what the Fleet will stand for.


This has been a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop, sponsored by Rebekah Loper. Visit her blog at: https://rebekahloper.com/

Worldbuilding Wednesday: When Darwinism is hidden ‘knowledge’

Wednesday again and time for Rebekah Loper’s Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop. Visit her blog to learn more or join up.

Today’s topic is knowledge, and that’s a big thing in the world of my WIP Tiberius Base. There is even an interplanetary institution which stores knowledge from various humanoid worlds. But knowledge or perceived knowledge does not always travel well between worlds, languages and cultures.

Take the example of the theory of evolution and its associated philosophy, evolutionism or Darwinism. During the lifetime of Charles Darwin there were humanoid aliens living on Terra, most notably the Menders, who were there to steal horses. They were charmed by Terran cultures and folklore as well. When Darwin’s book was published and got talked about, the Menders thought Darwin’s story of the possible evolution of Man was a charming fable like the Frog Prince. They conflated the two stories and spread it throughout the galaxy that Terran humans thought that their kind originated by someone kissing a frog or an ape— or maybe from an ape kissing a frog.

When Terran humans developed our own science enough to travel in space, Darwinism was often used to mock them as unscientific. Since other intelligent races didn’t have their own theory of evolution and some had been observing for longer than Earth had existed, the theory was quietly excised from scientific training.

However, the life philosophy of evolutionism, where evolution functions as the Blessed Hope of Man, was kept alive by some cultures that had an old-school secularist/Darwinist philosophy. But it was not taught to young school students who might blab about it to aliens. It was something like the secret at the heart of a mystery religion— taught only to those who were properly initiated.

Now I must point out that this controversy is kept alive as an attempt to downgrade Terran humans. Humanoid races are classified into groups by the Interplanetary Humanoid Archive, and only certain groups are considered advanced enough to claim a planet for colonization at the Archive. So most humans pretend not to know about or believe in evolution or evolutionism.

The questions from today’s blog hop theme:

How much does each culture know about your fictional world?

Those involved in the story have a great deal of knowledge, with the exception of the True-Alien Diggers. They are non-humanoid aliens of a class known as Fernal Aliens. They can’t communicate with humanoid either through language or telepathy, they don’t live in our kind of environments and the best humanoid wisdom is to leave Fernal Aliens strictly alone. There is another race of True-Aliens of a type call Bynal Aliens who CAN communicate with humanoids, and they have communication with the Diggers. Or so they say. But it is really not known how much the Diggers know about humanoids and their worlds.

How is that information stored?

Both computer systems and books are used to store knowledge. Some races carve lists of their kings or presidents into stone since that will last longer. The Interplanetary Humanoid Archive tries to keep copies of it all. Information is also stored in archives on humanoid worlds, usually following methods used at the IHA.

How is that information passed on?

This varies from planet to planet and from region to region. Tiberius Base itself does not have formal schools for children because children haven’t been born or imported yet. College level courses are available over computers at the station, and more can be downloaded over the ansible system (interplanetary radio/television/internet). These courses are used by the inhabitants of the Base to upgrade their skills. The main character of the story, Ping, takes a course in the German language to communicate with new workers, and one in the Korean language to impress his Korean girlfriend’s father.

Trade Languages:

Knowledge must be passed on in languages. And learning the language of another humanoid race is much more difficult than learning a different Earth language. The solution that has been developed is to learn a Trade Language. Trade Languages originated on the planet Terra. They are languages which were simplified for international use, and they also proved useful in interplanetary communication. The primary Trade Languages are: Esperanto, Volapuk, and Universalglot. A dialect of Esperanto called Ido is also in use. (These are all real made-up languages. You can google them.) The Interplanetary Humanoid Archive very early on adopted Volupuk as their primary cataloging language. And regretted it, since the moment they got done with that project the language Esperanto was invented which was easier for most humanoids to learn.


So, this has been my random worldbuilding thoughts for this week. I hope it has been of some interest. Feel free to comment— about my worldbuilding or your own!

IWSG/Worldbuilding Wednesday: Original Enough?

Insecure Writers’ Support Group: Original Enough?

Have you ever felt that your worldbuilding wasn’t really original enough? I’ve read some works like that: a sci-fi where people had phasers and answered to ‘The Federation’ and had transporter beams that were called transporter beams…. It was really just a Star Trek fanfic without the beloved Star Trek characters.
But what if you try to be totally original on every possible aspect of worldbuilding? To the point where your characters are wearing their shoes on their heads, as hats? That goes past the point of ‘too original’ all the way to ‘peculiar stuff no one will read.’
What a reader, particularly a genre reader, is looking for is a reading experience that will be ‘the same, but different.’ What produces that, in worldbuilding, is to have some things that are familiar from other stories in the genre, some things that are similar-but-different, and some things that may well be unique to your work. That reduces the burden on those would-be writers that feel they aren’t original enough.
In my own work, I have a Terran space fleet sort of like Starfleet in Star Trek. But the civilian authority they answered to— a disaster similar to the United Nations— disbanded and the Fleet is on its own. No civilian authority, no taxpayers to pay the bills. So the ships of the Fleet carry cargo and escort cargo ships to earn their pay.

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Judicial System

In my world for my current WIP, this comes out to being about interplanetary law. This is not a nice-and-neat category. One major authority is the Interplanetary Humanoid Archive. They classify the different humanoid races and their classification determines whether a humanoid race is able to colonize a planet by themselves or just a part of a planet. They keep records on claims made by the different races. This is useful since some humanoid races have been exploring space for a very long time and records can show whether a planet occupied by humanoids is its own thing or a failed colony from long ago.
Another authority for interplanetary law is the Fleet. The Fleet uses certain space stations and planets as regular stops for their ships. They insist on certain things in the law of these space stations and planets. They don’t want to do business with a place that thinks it’s OK to steal their stuff.
Tiberius Base, being a space city under construction, does not have its judicial system fully put together yet. Right now Fortunate Dragon, the corporation building the station, makes its own rules. But Fortunate Dragon is under the authority of the Terran interplanetary national entity called the Interplanetary People’s Republic which has a system similar to modern-day Communist China. Since business is important to them, they don’t enforce communist policy in free-trade districts as Tiberius Base will be when completed. They look to having freedom of speech and freedom of religion on the Base even though these conditions don’t prevail in other parts of their interplanetary nation.

This has been a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. AND in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays blog hop. Please visit the links for more information on the blog hops in question.

Book recommendations: I have been working through K. M. Weiland’s Outline Your Novel Workbook, which has been very helpful in getting to know my characters and my story. I have also purchased K. M. Weiland’s Structure Your Novel Workbook and hope that also will be useful. As I have Asperger Syndrome I am VERY disorganized and have not had much success in organizing my ideas into a complete novel. (It’s why I write poetry.) I am hopeful these books will help me upgrade my outlining and structuring skills.

Do I really need to learn Chinese to write this character? & Celebrate

Right now I am occupied with outlining a science fiction novel, Tiberius Base. I’ve written some 51 pages, by hand, in a composition book. I’m following the instructions in K. M. Weiland’s Outlining your Novel Workbook, and so far it has been useful in developing characters, particularly the main character, a junior administrator at a starbase-under-construction, Ping Yuan.

I’ve been having an impulse to learn a little Chinese as a result. Chinese is the character Ping Yuan’s native language though he is fluent in interplanetary Trade Languages like Esperanto and Volapuk.

Foreign languages are kind of a Special Interest of mine, and I try to keep them under control— ‘you can’t buy a beginning Italian book until you have finished the beginning Serbian book.’ But I’ve also come to understand that starting a language project is one method I use to relate to fictional characters.

As a kid I was a massive Star Trek TOS fan—  before Star Trek needed initials. I particularly liked the junior officers, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov. As a result at various times I tried to learn Japanese, Swahili and Russian. Not a lot of results, but I do know the Swahili word for toilet and learned to identify Japanese writing from Chinese or Korean at an early age. I even know a few words of Russian, including one naughty word.

I have at various times used similar approaches to characters of my own creation. I have also deliberately given characters a certain linguistic background to match a language I was at the time interested in.

In my current project I’ve done some of that. Esperanto, a language which is a long term interest of mine (I have read books in it), is the Trade Language most used in my setting. I made some characters native speakers of German, which is my own ancestral language and one I studied in college. I can also read in German.

The character Ping Yuan was made Chinese for story-related reasons— he needs to be a communist-style ‘scientific atheist’ because another major character is a Catholic priest. But I think that learning a bit of Chinese does help— I’ve signed up for the Chinese lessons on a free language learning site and ordered the book that goes with the 50Languages free audio lessons.

Question: Do I think language learning in general is a good way for writers to relate to characters? It depends a lot on the writer. And on the character. But the language learning process can help you relate, and you will probably learning bits and pieces of your character’s culture as well. You might give it a try especially if your character’s culture is different from yours. (Or if you are a German-American like me, your character is too, and you’ve never tried learning a little German.)


This is also my Celebrate the Small Things blog hop post. As of this week it still seems like blog hop host Lexa Cain is not feeling well enough to participate, so prayers for her are still in order.

My celebration this week is about the 50 Languages free language learning materials. I discovered this years ago. It is sponsored by the Goethe Institute which used to encourage people to learn German. The 50 languages thing is really quite clever. The lessons are translated into the languages, and the learner picks out two— his own native language and the language he wants to learn— and can download the paired two-language audios. So— I can download some Chinese lessons with an English translation, but some Dutch speaker who wants to take Arabic lessons can get audios for that, too. It’s very helpful and great for homeschooling families who want to teach a language.

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Interior Design

It’s our worldbuilding bloghop day, and these week’s topic is ‘Interior Design.’ To see more about the blog hop visit Rebekah Loper’s blog at: http://rebekahloper.com/

Interior design. Well, my space city Tiberius Base is full of interiors. The characters COULD go outside and play but they’d have to wear spacesuits to avoid unfortunate consequences and no one wants to wear spacesuits.

The culture of Tiberius Base has not yet been established. Most of the people on the Base at story-begin are hired construction crews who are about to move on, and an administrative staff who works for Fortunate Dragon company.

Our main character, Ping Yuan, has a rather spartan apartment. He is lucky to be high enough in rank to have his own quarters. Lower-ranked unmarried persons are assigned to a communal dormitory. Since the company wants everyone working on the station to marry and have kids, marriage will provide an employee with the right to larger quarters.

The living spaces on the station are quite plain until a finishing crew works on them. They handle ‘interior design’ tasks as well as putting up walls to divide larger living quarters into rooms. Ping has not bothered to have his own quarters ‘finished’ since he hopes to marry sometime in the near future and will be changing quarters.

The Base is about to obtain some 400 low-level workers to do various tasks for the company and for the private enterprises beginning to be established on the station. These workers are pre-sorted by the labor provider so that groups of workers with the same native language and culture can be obtained. It is assumed that the workers will bring their own culture along with them. The company approves of that. Culture helps unite the inhabitants of a space city.

Individuals who arrive at the Base early in its existence can have their quarters fitted out to their own preferences by the finishing crew. Computer designs are available reflecting many cultures. It is also possible to purchase home decor items from shops, most of which are on the Dock level at the early stage.

There are some aliens living on the Base. Some are Tsanans who mostly look like balls of colored light. They can teleport, and no one is quite sure where they live or what they eat. There is a family of Mender merchants who have quite fine quarters and offices for their business, made out in Mender cultural fashion. There is also a Lizard and his staff. He has been assigned quarters which he decorates to his own specifications. He has an interest in Terran history especially the American Civil War. One of his ancestors was on Earth at the time and fought for the Confederacy. Other Lizards fought for the Union. When the South surrendered at Appomattox, the Lizards on the two sides wanted to keep fighting. The feud continues to this day.

Most of the workers about to be obtained at story-begin are Catholic Christians. Fortunate Dragon company is cool with this even though atheism is encouraged among their own people. The company provides a crucifix for all living quarters of these workers. They even turned a half-finished structure that was intended to be a museum of atheism into a Catholic church. They were very disappointed when they discovered they could not plant audio ‘bugs’ in the confessional.

Businesses also use the services of the finishing crew to create a unique look. There is an Asian vegetable-noodle shop that has a lot of Korean-style artifacts on display, based on the culture of the owner of the place. Ping, our main character, spends a lot of time at that noodle shop, because the girl he likes works there.

The Base is in a stage of transition right now, and the story, among other things, tells the story of how the people living on the station manage to form a functional community.

Foreign influences: alien artifacts are sometimes collected as a hobby. American artifacts such as American flags and portraits of most-admired presidents like Washington, Adams, Lincoln and Reagan are displayed by Terrans of many cultures to signal admiration for American-style democratic republics and American-style multiethnic nations. (Many America-admirers can sing the American national anthem in their own native languages.)

My current effort on my writing projects involve creating an outline using author K. M. Weiland’s book Outlining Your Novel Workbook. The Workbook is full of useful questions to answer to explore your proposed story in enough depth to know what to put in an outline. I have written 45 or so pages in a composition book so far doing this and I have made some useful additions to my story idea as a consequence.

 

 

Celebrate the Small Stuff: minor characters

Fiction authors all want us to identify with the main characters. But we don’t all do that. When I read Harry Potter I identified with characters like Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood. And Snape. I always thought Snape was misunderstood and not the bad guy Harry assumed he was.

Every character in a book is possibly a character that a reader will like the best. And that’s why great authors spend time on smaller characters as well the big ones. Sometimes a well-thought-out secondary character is what makes a book unforgettable.

I have always picked secondary characters to latch on to in fiction. Melanie in Gone with the Wind, for example. She was such a good and loving person. Scarlett needed someone like that in her life.

And then there was Valentine in the Ender books by Orson Scott Card. Not quite good enough for Battle School. And then her little brother Ender was chosen, so she spend her childhood with the brother she hated instead of the brother she loved. Her life turned out to be more about Ender than it was about herself. And Ender normally had bigger things to deal with than his sister.

Sometimes we get lucky and an author writes a book about a minor character we like. I love Bean in Ender’s Game, and then Orson Scott Card wrote some books that told Bean’s story.

Have you ever liked a minor character as much or more than a main character in a work of fiction?


This has been a post in Lexa Cain’s Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. Lexa has been ill and not able to participate for a while but others on the list have been doing it every week anyway. Visit Lexa Cain’s blog to see the posts— her Celebrate the Small Things participants are in her sidebar under a couple of other blog lists— scroll down. http://lexacain.blogspot.com/