The second Worldbuilding Wednesday continues to focus on my first world: Muirin. The focus today is on how I went from the conceptual phase I described last week into something that I could actually tell stories about. Please be aware that there are some vague spoilers for the stories here–nothing specific to any one tale but this does discuss background that might change how you read the events in my Matriarchies of Muirin books.
Here’s the map of Muirin, just because I wanted to share it and forgot to last week:
As of my post last week, I’d created the map and I had some general ideas of how humanity had gotten to Muirin and how they’d changed once they got there. Which is lovely but it’s not specific enough for me to be able to write stories. There were far too many unanswered questions and unknown details that needed to be addressed before I could start writing.
Such as, if they came on space ships then why didn’t they just call Earth and have them come get them? Why didn’t they ever leave Muirin? How did their technology level decline so much that they more or less forgot that they were a colony world? Twenty thousand years is a very long time. Why haven’t any other human ships come to Muirin?
Answering that questions meant dealing with one of the basic issues of science fiction. If you posit that humanity achieves travel between the stars you have to address how they do it to be able to write a valid story. You end up with completely different stories if faster than light travel is easy, quick and possible compared to travel between stars taking generations of time.
In Muirin’s case, I wanted the humans on Muirin to have time to evolve into their new environment and their new social structures. That meant that I couldn’t have space travel be as fast and easy as boarding a commuter train and reading a novel for a couple of hours. Space travel had to be slow, very, very slow. It had to be dangerous to make it unlikely that people would follow them. And it had to be something that allowed enough time between star systems that there was no thought of going home again.
That meant generation ships, huge ships that people lived on for generations as they traveled between solar systems.
If I’d gone with anything else I wouldn’t have gotten the isolation and time that I needed for Muirin to develop as I wished. Even so, that wasn’t enough to ensure that the colonists stayed on Muirin. If their ship had been strong there was no reason why they couldn’t have told the Ladies ‘oh sorry, we had no idea this planet was inhabited. We’ll just go find another one, thanks.’
So their colony ship had to be on its last legs; barely limping into the solar system with power failing and life support going out and everyone desperately scrambling to find anything even vaguely habitable to settle on. That would keep them from sailing onwards and completely missing the stories I wanted to tell.
What I decided that to be true was that Muirin is a third-generation colony. Earth sent out a wave of colony ships that scattered through the galaxy with no expectation of communication or connection back home. Some ships found worlds. Other ships were destroyed along the way or when they arrived at their new solar systems.
Among those that found good worlds, one world was so perfect for humanity that they were able to set up a highly successful colony where the people prospered. Eventually there were enough people, adventurous daring people who wanted to explore the galaxy, that they sent out three ships of their own.
In this case, the three ships traveled together instead of going in different directions. They came to a new solar system after several generations with a world that appeared at least reasonable for human habitation. The colonists cannibalized two of the ships and stripped much that was useful off the third to make sure that their colony was successful.
And then about a generation later a wandering planet that they’d noted but not really considered got closer and closer to their world, named Morrigan because of reasons, causing geologic chaos and upheaval. Their entire colony was about to die when three leaders, named Chin, Tahira and Ragna, got the old shuttles working.
They got the sole remaining ship, named Muirin again because of reasons, working but it was a duct-tape-and-bailing-wire fix held together with chewing gum kind of thing. They saved maybe one third of the people on the planet before they just couldn’t save anyone else without risking them all. Then they searched for a close solar system with a potentially viable planet.
That was where the curses ‘Morrigan’s Hell’ comes from and where the Goddesses came from. The colonists called their Goddesses after their three saviors generations before. And those were lovely little details that added to the stories I wanted to tell but it wasn’t enough for me to start writing.
So I posited that they arrived on Muirin in a ship that was falling apart around them. The Ladies saw it and, as they were posited to be something more than two million years more advanced than humanity, easily saved the ship, allowing them to land on the planet. After all, the Ladies live in the oceans. What do they care who or what lives on the land? It’s mostly irrelevant to them.
Now, I hadn’t worked out exactly what the Ladies looked like or how they communicated. Having gotten humans to Muirin, I now had to develop the Ladies in more detail. I knew I wanted them to be cephalopods because they’re highly intelligent and able to manipulate objects with a great deal of precision. I also knew that I wanted them to have very advanced abilities to manipulate water, weather and the genetics of everything around them.
But what did they look like? Did humanity react to them with excitement or revulsion? What about my vague ideas telepathic communication? How did my humans react to that? And why did the Ladies alter humanity so that men and women had identical strength, size and endurance?
Once again, that’s a tale for next Wednesday where I’ll explain how I developed the Ladies and their effect on humanity. Hopefully by then I’ll be able to explain how I started writing in the Muirin ‘verse though I might need another week to get there given how long these columns have gone so far. *grin*
I hope that this was interesting. If you have any questions please do comment. I’ll be very happy to talk about all of this further.