Sunday, April 21, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: When Worlds Co-Exist

So, having read about the two habitable planets closer to each other than Earth is to Mars you immediately start world-building.

But where do you start? When will your story be set?

It has to be post-crossworld-contact or what's the point? But is it at the beginning, when they start becoming aware of each other - which could be as early as the first Renaissance-quality telescopes? Is it at first physical contact? Is it when us humans stumbled across them? Is it during a period of peace, or a period of war?

Actually - if the two intelligent species I am assuming for each of these planets are enough like earthlings for us to write stories about them, periods of peace are probably non-existent. Everybody is always fighting somebody; and how each individual tribe/nation/state feels about interplanetary contact is probably vastly influenced by where in the war/truce/peace/annoyance cycle it is.

You could, of course, decide that only one planet has intelligent life, so there's no interspecies conflict, just a larger-scale colonization period, but that's underutilizing the setup and making it far too easy to fall into simplistic accidental allegories of the Discovery of the New World, without acknowledging the agency of the people who were already in the New World. I want different-but-equal. I want some real basic exploration of the idea of personhood, detached from biology; I want some really different stories!

What is each species like, for starters? What basic difference in the evolutionary histories of their planets shaped them?

What if one intelligence evolved in the oceans, complete with opposable thumbs or whatever other dodge full manipulation requires of their basic anatomy, and one evolved on land, not necessarily from primates? The vaccuum of space would be equally intimidating for both, but the technical problems presented by space travel, and probably the motives for space travel, would be different. A zero-G environment would not be half the adjustment for a cephalapodian intelligence that it would for an ursid one; but holey cheese wouldn't life support be complicated? The ocean-based species would probably regard long-distance sensing and communication as the easiest and most natural way to deal with extraplanetary activity; might lack the terrestrial urge to go there.

The ocean-based species could colonize the oceans of the terrestrial planet and the terrestrial species could colonize the continents of the oceanic planet - before either one became aware that the other was intelligent at all!

Oh, man, my head's exploding already and I don't even have a character yet.

Speaking of characters - this'd make a great RPG setting.

Help...drowning...sea of possibilities...

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