Thursday, January 17, 2013

Worldbuilding in Science Fiction

Buy Mako's Bounty HERE

by Diane Dooley
One of the most enjoyable things about writing science fiction is the opportunity to create brand new worlds out of figments of your imagination. When my kids were younger one of my favorite things to do was take their enormous box of lego and build a world for them to play in.  Some of their favorites were: Jurassic safari park (just add dinosaurs), high rise city (just add King Kong) and alien worlds (just add broken toys for aliens.) I kinda miss those days, so now my extraneous imagination is focused on building worlds in words.

In Mako’s Bounty, my 1Night Stand novella from Decadent Publishing, I create two different worlds. One is the tough and gritty world of mining colonies in the asteroid belt, from which my two protagonists hail. This world was inspired by the mining and steel town where I grew up in Scotland. At one point I lived in a flat where the view from my bedroom window was a futuristic-looking steel works: blast furnaces, massive buildings, cooling towers and a strange purple-orange glow to the sky. It didn’t take too much of a twist to imagine it as a far future industrial space colony, one in which industrial production is the only view anyone sees, even if they don’t have such a thing as a bedroom window.
The other world I create is Earth - as experienced by someone who was born and brought up in a mining colony on a large asteroid. Earth, as experienced by Mako, is based on a trip I once took to the Caribbean. Even for me, an Earth-dweller, the sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean was an alien experience. How much more so would it be for a person more used to cold rock, darkness and low-gravity? How could water be that impossible shade of blue? Those torrential downpours every afternoon that left the air wet, heavy and succulent. The incredible ferocity and tenacity of the biting insects. These experiences were hard for me to absorb; for Mako, they threaten to completely overwhelm her underdeveloped senses.

Mako Dolan is a bounty hunter, who has been unsuccessfully chasing the space pirate, Vin Sainte, for months. She has finally lured him into a trap - a honey trap. In this excerpt Vin reminds Mako where they both come from, while gently introducing her to the pleasures of the senses:

“Do you remember? In the colony school? When the adults set a new production record or discovered a rich vein to mine, do you remember how the kids would get a treat?”
“Oh, yes! We got a Chocoflava Bar. I used to break mine up into tiny pieces and try to make it last as long as possible.”
He half smiled. “I did, too. Open up, Makiko. This is the real thing. Chocolate.” She took a small, brown square between her teeth. “Don’t bite down. Let it melt slowly.”
Flavor drenched her mouth in thick, rich bursts of creamy deliciousness. “Mm, so good.” She swallowed and licked her lips, wanting more. “I’ll never eat a Chocoflava Bar again.” Soft fabric wiped her chin.
“That’s enough for now.” He pulled her to standing, then sat back in his chair, tugging her onto his lap. “You’re lucky, you know.” He kissed her. “It’s a thing for Earthers, to try and catch a spacer on their first visit. They like to introduce us to the pleasures of the senses. Some of them go too far. Spacers have gone into comas, even died, from the overload. One lost his mind, I heard, getting fucked by a beautiful woman near one of the pyramids in Egypt after drinking a bottle of the world’s most expensive wine. It was too much for him.”
Not the worst way to go. Better than an asteroid collision. Better than getting stabbed trying to take down a bounty. She rested her head on his shoulder, listening to his soft voice, wishing there was more time to talk with him and hear his stories.
“Earthers dine out on their tales of what they do to us. I’ll be much gentler with you, sweet Makiko. I won’t give you more than you can handle.”

World building starts with an experience, whether it be a memory, an image or a first taste. What was the view from your bedroom window? Have your senses ever been overwhelmed by an experience? These things are important. For from such things, entire worlds can be born.  
Mako’s Bounty is available here, from Decadent Publishing, and from all the usual e-book stores.

Diane Dooley writes romance, science fiction and horror; short stories, novellas and novels. You can catch up with her on her blog, Facebook or Twitter. She also blogs at Contact: Infinite Futures and is a regular contributor to The Galaxy Express.
Her website is the best place to find her books and their buy links. Her blog is the best spot to find her short stories. They are listed here.


  1. I have endless admiration for those who can world build whether its sci fi or fantasy. It's not my strong point. BUT - you're right about looking out of the window as a trigger. I once looked out and thought - what if a space ship landed on my lawn - and that spawned my only sci fi story!!

  2. Now that's what I'm talking about, Barbara!

  3. Sounds like an intriguing read, I love your ability to "paint with words."

    May you sell many many copies!