Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Geography of a space station

So, does a space station actually have a geography? Well, Tiberius Base is pretty big, so, yes, it does. It’s a space city, really.

This is a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays blog hop. Join us!

The Core

The core of the Base is a hollow-out asteroid donated by The Diggers. The Diggers are a True Alien race— not humanoid— and they are classified as Fernal Aliens. In other words, they can’t or don’t communicate with humanoids normally. But in this case there is another alien race, the Tsanan, who are Bynal Aliens— they do interact with humans— and they are able to communicate with the Diggers.

The Core is the center of the Base but it is covered in artificial constructions. The Base is in levels and has artificial gravity emanating from the bottom of the sphere. I might mention that in my current WIP Tiberius Base is in the late stages of construction and a lot of the interior is still being build or adapted for its intended used. Tiberius Base is built and owned by the corporation Fortunate Dragon, which is based in the Terran Empire, in a subdivision ruled by Chinese people.

The Docks

There is a double-ring of docks around the ‘equator’ of the station, where ships can refuel, undergo repairs, or trade cargo. At the Docks level, most of the facilities are related to trade or repair, as well as lodgings for those who are visiting the station. There are also security officers aplenty, because there are also some spacemen’s bars being set up and trouble is anticipated.

Topside

This is the ‘top’ of the station although designations like ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ are arbitrary. Topside is where the well-to-do will live and work when the Base is fully operational. A home in Topside is considered very exclusive. The rooms don’t just have many rooms. Most have their own gardens build in— and they are not practical gardens, but are filled with difficult-to-grow exotic flowers, usually. Though one eccentric grows nothing but varieties of day-lilies in his. A few of the more posh spots also have a second garden for the practical purpose of growing herbs and vegetables for the kitchen. The Topside shops and restaurants are the most desired locations and people of all levels of the station use them.

Midside

The levels just above and just below the Docks level are devoted to the homes and workplaces of the middle class. The homes are not luxurious but are nicer than those in most space cities. The ‘downtown’ shopping district is also located in upper Midside. The great ‘street’ which makes up the shopping area has streetcars. It is also where the Base’s forest is located. All Bases and starships have a forest, but the one on Tiberius Base is larger than any forest previously set up by Terrans. During mushroom season, mushrooming in the forest is a popular activity, but one heavily controlled by the authorities. On other stations there have been murders over poaching mushrooms (they were morel mushrooms so it was justifiable homicide.)

The Dome

It is a tourist attraction really. There are a lot of transparencies (like glass but tougher) so you can see out into space. There is also a grand colored transparency like an abstract stained glass window. My main character Ping was in charge of the project of installing the transparency. The Dome area leads into Midside’s ‘downtown’ area. It is also the entrance to the ship’s forest.

Bottomside

Bottomside is dedicated to the most practical operations of the base, like the sewage system. There are also the homes of the menial workers. These homes are NOT posh and there are actually barracks for the unmarried workers. The only shops and restaurants at the Bottomside level are a few cheap places that cater to the poorest. Most Bottomside residents shop and eat at Midside. The station management makes shop spaces available there at low-enough prices that most folks locate businesses there.

 

How story ideas happen and what to do about it

Today I want to talk about story ideas—- my ideas, your ideas, anyone’s ideas. To do this I will talk about my most recent story idea as an example.

The idea happened like this: I thought about how a space station would get started. A really big space station that will one day have thousands of people living on it. Maybe even a million.

I expanded: some people would want to live on the space station to operate a business of some kind. But what about lower level laborers? Someone needs to sweep the floors, or move boxes of cargo from docked ships to the station  and such.

I thought about the station administrators who were responsible for finding such people. And how they would have to mold such workers, along with other station inhabitants, into a community.

I decided the administrators would be Chinese, and atheists. Scientific atheists. And their worker pool would be speakers of the German language, and Catholics. Why Catholics? I decided my atheist administrators would want to use Christianity as an instrument of social control. They wanted workers who could be pressured into obeying the more socially useful of the Ten Commandments, like Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal.

But Christianity isn’t about being good, it’s about having a relationship with God. And the priest brought in to control the faith of the new workers is more interested in winning souls than in aiding administrators.

OK. Now, the first step in turning these random ideas into a functional story is to write things down. So I picked out a nice new composition book for the project.

I already had notes for what I call the Destine universe and so I set my story there. That’s how I came up with the name of the space station. Or space city. Tiberius Base. And, yes, it is named after James T. Kirk’s middle name.

I had been reading K. M. Weiland’s books Outlining your Novel and the Outlining your Novel Workbook, so I started answering questions from the workbook into the composition book.

I found that the basic story when written into a short description sounded dull, so I added a love subplot and a troublesome-aliens subplot that raised the stakes on the main plot— if my main character failed to build a viable community on Tiberius Base, the base might have to be handed over to some aliens who were claiming it.

So, that’s how I got one idea and how I’ve been developing it. Have you had any good writing ideas lately? Tell us in a comment, if you like.


Some coming attractions:

Wednesday: Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop is on.

Saturday: I will be sharing a recipe for low-carb/ketogenic Dutch Baby Rolls that I have been working on.

Creating alien languages in #Worldbuilding

Recently I found again some notes I thought were lost on some alien languages I was creating for one of my WIPs. I thought I’d write a little about how I create alien languages.

Why even create alien languages? Well, your alien characters need names. As do places on your alien worlds, and alien concepts. Creating alien-sounding words is better than naming your aliens Tom and Bill.

How I do it is I pick out 2  real languages, such as Indonesian and Dutch for my language for the alien Lizard race, and mingle them.

For example, I pick a word from Dutch, slang, and a word from Indonesian, ular. I take the front half of a word from the one language and combine with the back half from the other. I come up with ‘slar.’ Reversing the process, I come up with ‘ulang’.

I like ‘ulang’ better than ‘slar’, so ‘ulang’ becomes the native Lizard name for the Lizard race. I randomly add ‘-in’ to it to form the plural, so ‘Lizards’ is translated ‘ulangin’. So— the ulang language has a plural.

I make a list of something like 15 Dutch words and 15 Indonesian words and create a list of some 30 words in Ulang-pa, the Lizard language.  They include some of the following: Alliri, sendeen, beggup, sangwaam, gunerg, hoopala, kefd, sednig, baper, and hoepi.

Any time I need name an Ulang character, I pick a word from the list to be his name. If I need a word for a concept, I pick one from the list— such as ‘sendeen’, which means an Ulang tribe or sept.

If I wanted to create words and phrases in the language, I have to make some decisions about the words of Ulang-pa— the nouns, verbs, adverbs and pronouns. And if there are any useful affixes that Ulang-pa uses. We already seem to have -pa for ‘language of’ and ‘-in’ to mark the plural. I then pick out words from the list and assign those words meaning, and can use the words to form phrases and sentences in Ulang-pa.

The multilingual dictionary pictured above, ‘The Concise Dictionary of 26 Languages,’ is the book I used to create the Ulang-pa  language. But it’s not the only source book I have used. When I created a language for the alien Menders, I used ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian as my 2 languages.

I use for my reference book for Greek the book ‘Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible’, which contains a dictionary of all the Greek words used in the Protestant Bible.  For ancient Egyptian, I have a book on the ancient Egyptian language I bought at the Egypt museum in San Jose, California, when I was a teenager.

The Mender language is somewhat more developed. I have a list of male and female given names, and a list of 24 names of noble Mender houses. I also have a few Mender words, some of which are derived purely from the ancient Egyptian language. There is ‘saret’ meaning ‘philosophy, theology, wisdom, science’ — a key concept of Mender culture. I have ‘ireepat’ for ‘prince’.

Some of the constructed Mender names I currently have are Epes, Oktsep, Mavret, and Hapas, all male names. And Reri, Meketi, Netari and Yatros, all female names.

The idea of using two different real languages and combining them the way I do is to try to be able to create a set of unrecognizable alien words that have a similar ‘flavor’. Since each alien language has a different set of two languages at the source, each alien language will have its own set of characteristic spellings borrowed from the original languages.

Creating languages, not necessarily for fictional worldbuilding purposes, is a hobby of its own. Invented languages are usually called constructed languages or planned languages. Some famous constructed languages are Volapuk, Esperanto and Ido, along with lots of others, created for international communication. Other invented languages, such as Tolkien’s Elvish and Star Trek’s Klingon, are the intellectual property of their creators and cannot be used without permission.

Time to shop for composition books

Like other writers I tend to use composition books for outlining and planning my fiction. It just feels different to sit down with pen and paper to write.

The problem with composition books is that during most of the year it is hard to get the kind you like. I prefer colorful books so I can easily tell one from another. And if I can get it, I prefer college ruled over wide ruled.

During the back to school shopping season, there are a lot of composition books available at good prices. I got some at Walmart for 50 cents each. I got some prettier ones for $1 each.

I stock up on composition books during back-to-school shopping season. When the season is over the prices are higher and the selection is down, down, down.

I also like to use gel pens when I write by hand. I prefer different colors of pens, particularly purple. These are a little harder to get at a good price. Most colorful gel pens are sold in an assortment that includes useless colors like pale yellows and pinks— too hard to use for anything I want to be able to read later.

Each writer has certain writing supplies that mean far more to him that makes good sense. Do you have any special writing items you use to keep the writing going smoothly?

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Food

Yet another post in Worldbuilding Wednesday, a blog hop sponsored by Rebekah Loper.  This week our topic is food.

Food supply is an essential for many worlds, yet authors don’t often think about all the difficulties involved. Our culture discourages involvement in food production. I read about a promising farmer’s son who was told in high school he would be ‘wasting his life’ if he studied agriculture in preparation to take over the family farm.

In my WIP Tiberius Base, the setting is a space city— like a space station but much larger — which is called, not surprisingly, Tiberius Base. The city is still under construction, but it needs to support the needs of a crew of builders and of some administrators supervising the project.

Tiberius Base is very large. It is built around a hollowed-out asteroid which was given to the human base-builders by the Diggers, a true alien race (not humanoid). The humans don’t understand the Diggers and cannot directly communicate with them.

Given the large size of the base they can do a lot of food production on their own. Since the population of the base are meat eaters there is no question of imposing vegetarianism. There are large facilities which grow hydroponic grasses which are fed to cattle of various sorts, as well as artificial pastures, which are rotated almost daily. A small number of pigs are kept in order to recycle food waste. Chickens are kept along with the cattle and they clean up spilled feed and provide eggs. Some ducks are raised also.

The base was started by Asians, mostly Chinese, from Earth. So rice is grown on the base on a large scale. The straw from the rice plants is used as cattle bedding. When a large group of Catholic workers are imported, a small amount of wheat must be grown so they can make their own communion wafers.

Sprouting is a vital food source. Sprouting seeds are imported from various worlds and sold nearly at cost by the station administration. Most households on the base do their own sprouting both of salad sprouts and of bean sprouts or lentil sprouts. There are also commercial operations which supply sprouts to restaurants and cafeterias.  The sprouting habit is the major source of vitamins and minerals to the average station inhabitant.

Hydroponic facilities grow a variety of vegetables, including oriental veggies that most Americans would consider exotic. A few orchards on the base provide fruit.

Every space city has at least one transplanted forest at the heart of it. Tiberius Base has an exceptionally large one, as well as three smaller parks. The forests/parks are traditionally seeded with mushroom spores so there are many inhabitants of the base who go mushrooming regularly to supplement their diet. A mushroom growing center will likely be added to the base at some point to supply those who had bad luck mushrooming.

Lower income people on the station have a rather boring diet of beef or pork, rice, and locally grown veggies. Higher income people can pay for imported canned food or frozen meat grown on a relatively local planet. The richest can buy exotic meals from many different cultures specially preserved for the high-income consumer.

The hydroponic growers and the meat producers are sensitive to the desires of the consumers, even low income ones. If they import a group of workers who want more cauliflower or more chevon (goat meat) they are likely to look into ways to produce it. The employers of the low-wage workers, who do such things as move cargo from docked spaceships or do menial tasks around the station, think it very important to provide their workers with decent food to keep their morale up.

Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop: DEATH!

Death is a part of life. The last part. It’s also today’s topic in the Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop, which is hosted by Rebekah Loper on her blog Fantasia Hearth

In my WIP series Revenant Nation, which is a near-future political dystopia with zombies, people start out with attitudes on death that are pretty much that of Americans today. They leave death and the handling of bodies to morgues, funeral homes and churches. The Rosa party, the faction which is making it a dystopia, prefers cremation and party-dominated secular funerals. The Settlers, a rural faction, has members who experiment with do-it-yourself burials, cremations, and eagle-burials on their own land. (Eagle-burial is when you tie a corpse in a tree and leave it for the eagles.)

The spread of zombie infection changes burial customs. Corpses have to be handled promptly in case they were infected. In the Rosa party dominated cities they are disorganized and most infected corpses rise as zombies. In the area dominated by the Settlers, smashing in the skull of the dead person with a sledge hammer becomes part of the death rites. In Catholic families, on the order of the current pope who is in exile in Northern Wisconsin, a blessed sledge hammer is used. After a while, this becomes a part of the death rites even for people who are known to be uninfected. (It’s not like TWD where everyone is infected.)

Large numbers of zombie corpses are killed (or should that be re-killed) by shots or blows to the head and are then left somewhere— often a paved area— to dry out during warm days of summer. When they are dried out somewhat the corpses are burned.

Mourning procedures change depending on if a person died of the infection, turned, and killed people as a zombie. Some communities ban the wearing of mourning bands for someone whose corpse killed people as a zombie.  Others use a charcoal gray mourning band for such cases. People in the Judeo-Christian faiths tend to not blame the dead person for what his corpse did as a zombie, but are concerned about the feelings of those who lost family members to zombies.

Spiritual aspects: among religious believers with afterlife beliefs, a person is held to have died and his spirit gone into the afterlife at clinical death. The zombie that may arise from his body is considered its own entity, more animal than human-like. IT is widely believed that a person is not responsible for evil actions performed by his zombified corpse. Anti-religious types like those in the Rosa party often insist that the zombies are not risen from death, that they are the same person they always were only with brain damage. They are wedded to the idea that humans have no soul and that nothing happens after death. Which is why Rosa ruled regions can’t cope with zombie infestations effectively.

This has been a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays weekly blog hop. It runs from July 26 to Aug. 1. If you are an author currently doing worldbuilding, it’s a great opportunity to get inspired to do more work. Join us at http://rebekahloper.com/worldbuilding-wednesdays/ and sign up.

 

The dollar becomes worthless when the zombie apocalypse hits

If you are a fan of The Walking Dead, here is one thing you never saw— a character pulling out a wad of dollars to buy something. And that’s actually a feature of any real zombie apocalypse of TWD severity— the dollar will become worthless. Why? Because the US dollar, like other global currencies, is fiat currency. It’s money because the government says it’s money. But when the government collapses because of the zombie threat, who is going to trade food or survival supplies for your fistful of dollars? No one.

Once the zombie apocalypse is truly upon us, we will have to rely on barter. John has a large supply of bullets, Maisie has a large supply of bags of split peas. They swap. Mike has a spare milk goat, Barry has a crossbow. And so on.

Some people may be able to trade their work for food. Christie the mom goes to Bill the dairy farmer and offers to do hand-milking and other chores in exchange for some of the milk. They work out how much work is required for a gallon of milk and make the deal. A dairy farm will probably attract quite a few laborers who will work for food and a spot in the barn to sleep. And they will need the labor once the fuel and electricity supply is out.

After people get more settled— when they know where their next meal is coming from— people will want the benefits of a cash-based economy. They will want a wage that they can spend on what they want. Most likely, the new money will be gold.

During the survival phase, no one is going to trade you a bag of corn for a bunch of gold coins. You can’t eat gold. But once people either learn the skills to hunt or grow their own food, they will want other things, and a means of exchange is more convenient than barter. In barter, the person who has the thing you need may not be willing to take what you have to offer for it.

Gold IS money, in a lot of ways. Survivalists and independent types often keep a supply of gold coins on hand in case of a crisis. So it’s going to happen that some people are going to start taking a risk on the value of gold coins. Initially perhaps on items for enjoyment, such as an antique table or a piece of jewelry. Only after gold coins start being traded regularly will you be able to buy essentials— like a new gun— with it.

The trading value of gold will fluctuate wildly at first. People who didn’t understand economics probably didn’t even take gold coins when they found them in abandoned shops or homes in the beginning. They were more concerned with finding food and ammo. But once gold coins have value, people will be finding gold coin hordes, and each discovery of large amounts of gold coins to come into circulation will lower the value of other gold in circulation.

This will disconcert those who believe in gold and the gold standard, but similar things have happened before, as when the Spanish brought home the gold treasures of the New World. That lowered the value of the gold already in circulation in Europe. But economies adjust to fluctuations in the gold supply. In time gold will become the currency of choice in the zombie-haunted world.

What about silver? They are always hyping silver on TV as being almost as good as gold. Well, it isn’t. Silver fluctuates wildly as sometimes silver is a popular investment and sometimes it wasn’t. Silver can boom and bust to an extent that gold can’t. After a gold economy is established among survivors, silver may be desirable for small purchases. But it will be difficult to establish how many 1 0unce Silver Eagles it would take to trade for a one-tenth ounce Gold Eagle coin. The exact amount will ultimately be determined by local communities of survivors. And they may not take other silver, such as historic coins, as they would take a common Silver Eagle (minted by the US government, as are Gold Eagles.)

Is there a zombie apocalypse novel in your future? If so, how will your characters deal with the probable economic collapse?


A blog post I read today

GirlZombieAuthors: Dr. Bowen Mystery, AuthorFest! The blogger, C. A. Verstraete, is the author of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter and has a new book out involving Dr. Bowen, Lizzie Borden’s doctor.