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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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.

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.

 

 

Worldbuilding Wednesday: Your world needs history

History shapes us all. Even though I was born after WW2, I was affected by the events of that conflict. And so I know that fictional characters will also be affected by their world’s history.

In my worldbuilding for my WIP Tiberius Base, the Terran Empire that most of the characters are part of is not a real empire with a central governing authority. The planet Earth is called Oldearth with a certain degree of contempt, because the world has gone silly due to the continuation of anti-overpopulation measures into a time when the planet is facing an underpopulation crisis. The Terran Empire consists of a bunch of different authorities based on different colony worlds. The Emperor of the Empire, called the Asian Emperor because he unites the royalty of several Asian nations in his family tree, is a figurehead and knows it, but ‘rules’ out of some royal palaces on Oldearth. The pope also is based on Oldearth but most men who rise to that position worked on Terran colonies before becoming Cardinals and later Popes.

Terrans are part of a very loose group of humanoid races that maintain the Interstellar Archives. The Archives rate differing races as to their dominance level. A race that is considered submissive is not allowed to colonize whole worlds but must be content with being given a continent to settle on some other race’s world. The Archives determine which colonization projects are allowed/accepted but have no warships to stop an unapproved project.

There are two humanoid races that play a part in the story. The Menders have been visiting Terra since the days of ancient Egypt, usually to buy horses to add to their own breeding stock. Terrans and Menders are usually allies.

The Lizards, also called Ulangin, are a problem. A Lizard is making a claim to the whole of Tiberius Base, because the Base’s core is a hollowed-out asteroid provided by a mysterious true-alien race called the Diggers. The Lizard has permission from the Archives to study Digger artifacts and so he claims the whole Base.

Ping, the main character, and his boss, Master Liang, are from a political entity which grew out of Communist China. They are ideologically Communists and Scientific Atheists, but their main business is business and their ideology isn’t allowed to interfere with that. The core of the story is that these atheist men decide to import Christianity to use as an instrument of social control over the workers they are bringing in.

The calendar used in the story is the AD calendar based on the approximate birth date of Jesus Christ. The year of the story is about 3227. I think. Haven’t worked that out much yet. Or much of the history. I do know that the United States no longer exists, but the American idea of self-government and God-given rights live on. People who believe in these ideals are called Americans even if none of their ancestors were US citizens.

The most American of the Terran worlds is called Mayflower. Some of the workers at Tiberius Base are to be imported from that world. Mayflower is divided up into states, like the United States. Some states are founded by distinct groups but the lines blur as people move to other states. Two states are full of alien immigrants, who adapt fairly well to the American way. One unique group on Mayflower is a group of German-Americans who happen to mostly be people with African-dark skin and blond, tightly curled hair, as a result of a group of children of this ethnic mix being prominent among early settlers. These are among the people imported as workers to Tiberius Base. The other workers, also German speakers, do not see anything odd about the brown skins. But some don’t like that they speak German ‘funny’— influenced by an Amish dialect.

Rebekah Loper who leads the Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop has given some suggested questions to answer and for a change I am not ignoring them.

  1. What historical event has lead to your inciting incident? The inciting incident is when Master Liang assigns Ping to obtain a crowd of workers for the station. The whole history of planetary and space station colonization plays a role in this, and not just the history of Terrans. It has become the custom for brokers to ‘sell’ groups of workers for colonization projects. The workers are tested for fertility, rated as to useful job skills, and the languages and trade languages they speak are noted. The groups are given monetary values based on many factors. Some groups, like the Amish, are highly sought after because of their primitive-farming skills and their ability to form tight-knit communities.
  2. What historical event has most affected your character’s life? My main character Ping is an ordinary citizen of the Interplanetary People’s Republic. The history that has most affected his life is the custom that has developed of providing boarding schools to train young workers so that parents and grandparents are freed of child care duties. (Today in China workers find jobs in the towns and their children are raised by the grandparents in the countryside.) Ping was parted from his parents in that way and has learned to look on his work superiors as father figures.
  3. Has your character witnessed any significant historical events personally? Ping has never been in the right place to witness such events personally. Though he has seen video footage of many historical events, such as the destruction of the Mender homeworld, and important battles of the American Civil War which were filmed by the Mender and Lizard participants. (A Lizard character had ancestors who fought for the Confederates in the Civil War. His ancestors adopted the surname Lee after Robert E. Lee. They are still feuding with Lizard clans whose ancestors fought for the North, especially the clan named ‘Grant.’)

This has been a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays blog hop. Join up here: http://rebekahloper.com/

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.

 

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Economy — Feudalism in the Zombie Apocalypse

Worldbuilding Wednesday, a weekly blog hop by Rebekah Loper, is today, and our topic is the Economy. Economy is an all-important topic in worldbuilding which is often neglected— who wonders how Frodo managed to pay Samwise? But I’ve only just written a post about the economic collapse caused by the zombie apocalypse which happens in the third book of my as-yet-unwritten Revenant Nation series.

So I’m narrowing the focus to one aspect of the new economy— feudalism. Because if you don’t own land or any form of wealth when the Zombie Apocalypse hits, all you have is your labor power to sell.

The new wealthy of the Zombie Apocalypse world are the people who control food resources— farmers. Imagine a typical dairy farmer in Menominee county, Michigan— there are a few such farms within walking distance of my house. They will still have their herds once the Z.A. hits— but lack of fuel and electricity means that they will be needing greater supplies of labor.

Human beings who survive the zombie carnage in the cities and larger towns will need work to provide food and a place to stay. It is almost inevitable that arrangements will be made, trading the labor power of workers for a place to build a cabin and a supply of food.

The workers will be at first fully unskilled— how many people know how to harvest grass for hay using a hand scythe or even a horse-drawn hay cutter? But with practice the survivors will become skilled peasants of the European type.

The farmers will be expected to supply some of the food needs of their workers, perhaps giving them a cut of the milk, butter and cheese harvested. But the new peasants will be expected to produce some of their own food through gardens and the like.

I have read that in Ireland the peasants subsisted on their potato crop plus what they got from the family cow. At least until the potato famine came along. Although a diet of potatoes plus butter, milk and cream is nutritionally horrible— too many carbs— it was able to sustain life. The new peasants of the Z. A. world will likely have to discover a similar way of basic subsistence to survive.

The wealth of the farmers will depend on how near they are to transportation of their goods to a market. Some farms— cultivated by the military to feed the troops— will be supplied with fuel and operate in a nearly normal method. Other farms, without the market, will mostly be about feeding their workers.

At first, most of the purchases people make will be in the form of barter. Perhaps some people will be able to install solar or alternative electricity in exchange for long-term food supplies. It will probably be a few years before a stable currency is reestablished.

In addition to food and/or a chance to produce one’s own food— one can’t garden without a home to garden from— a farmer will probably have to provide a degree of protection. The Z. A. world will likely be full of would-be Negans who would love to enslave other people. A farmer who arms some of his trustworthy male workers would be able to fight off most threats of that sort.  New peasants choosing a farmer for a ‘master’ would take into consideration the ability of that master to protect his workers.

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.