For several years now, I’ve been tinkering with a space-opera setting for original fiction, under the working title of The Human Destiny.
I’ve gone through several concepts along the way. At one point I was thinking in terms of humanity expanding into interstellar space on its own resources, eventually encountering a much older and more sophisticated alien empire. Astute observers may notice a similarity to the Interstellar Wars setting from the role-playing game Traveller. I was the lead author for an Interstellar Wars sourcebook, back when I worked for Steve Jackson Games in the early 2000s.
Sometime in late 2013 or early 2014, though, I started thinking in terms of humanity being conquered by an alien civilization long before we could emerge into the galaxy on our own. We would then be faced with the challenge of maintaining our identity as humans, and finding a way to become relevant on the galactic stage, all while under the tutelage of a far older and more mature civilization. I began tinkering with maps, and character art, and timelines.
In early 2015, all this crystallized when I saw that Tor.com was accepting unagented novella submissions for a limited period. I decided to attempt to write a story placed in the nascent setting, and submit it for their consideration. As it happened, the novella I wrote (“In the House of War”) didn’t quite make their cut . . . but it was the first piece of completely original SF I had written in a long time, and I was happy with how it turned out.
Since then I’ve continued to work on developing the setting, and more stories are starting to emerge. What follows are parts of my emerging setting “bible,” the notes I’ve assembled to keep in mind as I write. Much of this is written in terms of the role-playing game GURPS, published by Steve Jackson Games. GURPS was the product line for which I wrote and did editorial work for several years, and it’s still my go-to game system when I want to quantify things during world-building.
Literary influences here include:
- David Brin’s Uplift novels, in which humanity must mature and survive in a galaxy full of ancient alien civilizations, many of whom are hostile to the new upstarts. Dr. Brin’s stories assume (so far) that humanity will be able to maintain its independence. I’m not so optimistic about our chances, if there are any Elder Ones out there. On the other hand, I’m willing to work with the possibility that the Elder Ones would prove much better rulers than, say, the Soro or the Tandu . . .
- C. J. Cherryh’s novels, especially those in the Chanur, Faded Sun, and Foreigner sequences. Cherryh has a real knack for writing believable, well-developed aliens, and stories in which lone humans must adapt to the requirements of an alien culture.
- The Mass Effect series of video games, in which humans have just emerged into the galaxy, immediately finding themselves embroiled in conflicts and mysteries that emerge out of very deep time.
© 2016 Jon F. Zeigler