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Building a universe

[Note: This is a follow-on post to "Tools to build a universe", and will probably be utterly boring to people who aren't into role-playing games, SF, or writing.]


I haven't done a whole lot of writing on Blood Red Skies lately, mostly because I've been obsessing over the details of the universe my characters are living in. That universe owes a lot to the old GDW boardgame Imperium, which eventually evolved into the seminal SF RPG Traveller, and which in its turn generated an entire library of supplements, modules, Internet mailing lists and web pages devoted to the Third Imperium, where most of the action in the game takes place, and the periods before and after the Imperium. The GURPS Traveller sourcebook in particular talks a lot about the wars between the Terran Confederation and the original First Imperium and the Second Imperium/Ramshackle Empire/Rule of Man that follows those wars. It would be logical, given a once-over-lightly plot summary of BRS, to assume that it's just another piece of Traveller fanfic with some odd bells & whistles thrown in, but that would be wrong.

As much as I use the revelatory method of writing (scenes come to me, and I transcribe them) there comes a point at which the visions stop coming and you have to knit those raveled sleeves of inspiration together into a coherent story. I think that's where the David Drake approach of sitting down and writing out the plot, the characters, and the background with as much detailing as possible comes in handy. Once you've done all that, you have a good feel for who the characters are, what the times they're living in are like, and how they're going to respond in a given situation. That's why I'm spending so much time trying to puzzle out the world of Reiko Honjou, Julie O'Meara, General Richard Wayland, and Colonel Larisa Volkova. It's not just a fusion of the Official Traveller Universe (OTU) and Revolutionary Girl Utena with different uniforms and the serial numbers filed off, it's something different that draws on both of those stories to create a unique story about a clash of cultures, both on the grand societal scale and the gritty interpersonal scale.

The reason it's not a fusion is because the timeline and technology are all wrong. In the OTU, only twenty-three years go by between the time UN scientists discover the jump drive and the time war breaks out between the UN and the Imperium. In Blood Red Skies, that time is tripled to 72 years, with a bloody civil war in the middle. Perhaps more importantly, in the OTU everybody is using the same fusion powerplants fueled by H2 and using the jumpdrive. In the BRS universe, the ships of the Terran Directorate run on nuclear-electric fuel cells similar to the ones frequently seen ni H. Beam Piper's books The Cosmic Computer and Space Viking. The C-plus drive is also different, and affects the way Terra expands among the nearby stars.

This isn't to say that I can't use Traveller to help build my little universe. Quite the contrary; a lot of the tools are useful. But, it's important to remember that this isn't the OTU...or even my Traveller Universe.