3. Deeper Dimensions of World Building

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A Tale of One Universe
Remember, I said earlier that you don't start out knowing all the answers — that you have to learn the answers as you work — that turning an idea into a story is a process?

Well, the same is true of world building. There are many ways to do it. Some authors start by creating the physical setting in great detail, designing a planet from the ground up. Other authors create their characters first, and then decide what sort of world they might live in. Still others do a little of this and a little of that, in no particular order — and gradually the whole picture emerges.

To illustrate, and to show that you really don't need to know it all when you start, I'm going to describe how one of my own worlds came into being.

This is the story of the Star Rigger universe.

In my second published short story, I first imagined a galactic culture in which vast collections of worlds are joined together by starships whose pilots are called riggers. Now, there was something different about star-rigging from other means of star travel we'd experienced in fiction — and that was the fact that riggers steer their ships by a deliberate harnessing of the imagination. They reach out through invisible sensory nets into a kind of hyperspace called the Flux, where space moves in streams and currents among the stars. In the Flux, the light-years are greatly compressed, enabling the riggers to bypass the distances of normal-space. To navigate in this realm, the riggers depend not just on technology, but also on human intuition and the ability to create images that conform to the streams of space. In this way, they ride the streams from one star system to the next.

Star Riggers WayI wasn't trying to create a whole universe when I came up with this; I was just writing a short story.That story, "Alien Persuasion," became my second professional sale, and it appeared in a magazine called Galaxy. But the matter didn't end there. A year or two later, that story became the jump-off point for a novel called Star Rigger's Way. By the time I wrote the novel, I pretty well knew what starship rigging was all about, and also what kinds of people tended to become star riggers. That last point was crucial, because for all that I was traveling among the stars, I was most interested in the people in my stories. I learned, as I went, that star riggers tend to be very creative and sometimes vulnerable individuals, whose imaginations are rich and fertile, and who can spend long hours in what we might now call a kind of virtual reality.


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