Further down the Rabbit Hole.

posted in: News, Writing | 4


You might think that writing Sci-fi would require little research. Most of the things you use haven’t been invented yet, you can just do what you want.

Wrong!

You need to base all your world-building on scientific principles and known facts or accepted theories.

Way back in 2015, I started writing the Andorra Pett series. These stories were set in the near future, when mankind is starting to explore the Solar system. The first book takes place on a space station, orbiting Saturn.


Although they’re amateur detective stories, you need just as much authentic world-building as you do for the hardest of Military Sci-fi.


I had to do a lot of research to determine just what might be possible. To my surprise, I found that a lot of what I needed for an authentic and functioning space station already existed. All that was required was a bit of adapting and stretching to make it fit together.

I wrote a sequel, set on Mars. This one required a bit more work, I had to do a lot of reading to construct my colony in the caves of Tharsis, which are actually where I said they are. Everything that I use on Mars either exists or is a logical development of something that does.

So it went on, Andorra has had several other adventures, each involving a lot of world-building. Now, in her latest adventure, she’s returning to Mars for another visit.


Coming soon.

In the time she’s been away, things have moved on and Mars is getting more developed. Which means I have to update and introduce new technology, just to keep things fresh.

The trouble is that once you start looking at what your story needs, you get sucked into a research loop that pulls you ever deeper as you build the world. The story becomes secondary to making sure that what you build is correct.

For instance, the story requires that a canyon on Mars is turned into a housing project, with a glass roof and a monorail connecting it to the underground settlement at Tharsis.

It’s only a simple thing but it has to be right. The world-building needs are extensive, they led me to a two-day binge of internet articles about just what might be possible locally.


First, the practical ones. We can build such a thing now, on Earth. So that’s alright. We can easily make it airtight. Another plus.

Next, the materials. It’s a lot of effort to ship everything from Earth. Even with the advances in ship technology that I’ve introduced.  There’s a metalworks on the Moon and plenty of transport ships. That might make things easier but again, it’s a lot of work.

That’s probably how it was done when the original caves were developed. I never talked about it much in the other book as it wasn’t integral to the plot. It already existed when Andorra arrived. And it was on a much smaller scale than this new project.


Back to the research. Are there minerals on Mars that we could mine?

According to my reading; yes. There’s everything you need. Mars has deposits of Iron, Titanium, Aluminium, Copper and Silica. All you have to do is dig them up. Then you must assemble a suitable factory and you can process them. It’s still an effort but once it’s up and running, you can be self-sufficient.

Plastics can be recycled and bioplastics can be made from crops grown on the farm which I developed ages ago to grow food for the inhabitants. Versions of these farms in space are scattered all through my stories.

As for power, well there’s solar and conventionally generated electricity using methane, a farm by-product. I’ve also discovered that there is enough wind on Mars to generate power from wind turbines. These can of course be manufactured in the factory I’ve just built.


This leads us to the next problem, where do you put all the people to build and run the factory, then build the housing in the canyon? Where will the water come from to keep people alive? How do you set up a farm on a planet where nothing grows?

And so it goes on, you solve one problem and find another. It’s a big job, building a world. And all so my amateur detective can swan around, being clumsy and solving crimes.


However, the bonus is that everything I’ve learned and invented can be used elsewhere. As it’s all valid science, it can take its place in any one of my universes.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of world-building.


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4 Responses

  1. Darlene Dale Foster

    Well done you. Research is time-consuming but fun. And as you say, it is never wasted as it can always be used somewhere else. I can spend an entire morning researching something and only writing one short paragraph using the info I mined.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks. I can get lost in research, there’s so much I don’t know. And nothing I learn is ever wasted.

  2. Sim Sansford

    Amazing how much detail you go into. Great stuff.
    It must be fun to write and research the elements you work with.

    • Richard Dee

      I’ve read so many books where the setting doesn’t make sense. I think it detracts from the story. I’m obsessive about creating a world that’s believable in every respect. World-building is as enjoyable as writing the story that takes place in it.

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