Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Building Better Worlds

Greetings friends,

So I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a little bit of background on how the world of Honos, the events that lead up to it's terraformation and everything afterwards within the First Law: Override universe came to be.

Perhaps it is presumptuous of me, but a lot of the feedback I have received either from the general fluff or the short stories is based on how the stories make sense, they create a lush world that is believable within their own parameters.

Now firstly I have always said that I do not write these stories, that they write themselves. This is as true now as it was when I wrote it initially.
- Remember last year's WetWare? Remember that twist at the end? It took me as much by surprise as it did you! But even with this 'self writing' approach, there are certain rules that are always focused on and I believe makes a world all the more believable.

1). No absolutes
How often do you watch a tv show or a film set in a fantasy or SciFi background and they claim that every member of X race follows Y religion? It's insanely common largely because it's easy to schema. It's also idiotic.

I live in a town near London. This town is referred to as a Commuter Town. What this means is that it is by and large mainly inhabited by people who live within it's boundaries but travel away to work. In our case it's almost exclusively to work in London. I am one of those commuters and my experiences on most of the days of the year are of that commute. From my eyes between 0700 and 1900 there is no town and the people within it might as well not exist. But common sense says that they do.

This is where the use of absolutes breaks down the believability of a story. In many of these SciFi stories they would say that as a Commuter Town, everyone commutes to London. Ok so what about on the days that I'm on holiday? I pop to the shops to by myself some lunch, all these local shops staffed by people. Where'd they come from? If everyone commuted to London there shouldn't even be any shops here because there wouldn't be the staff.

But wait! Is it not part of sentience to try and exploit our environment when an opportunity presents itself? Is that not why our monkey ancestors picked up those bones and sticks and used them as tools? It is within the presence of a vacuum that ingenuity presents itself. In this case we have a town where everyone commutes to London, so I open up a local shop. This makes me the only shop in town which anyone who's off work for any reason will want to spend money at because it's the only one available.

More than that, it means that it is inaccurate to state that everyone commutes to London.

See what I'm saying?

2). Focus on the person

How often do you read the fluff of worlds and they talk about sweeping movements where entire armies conquer worlds, or multi-national organisations controls an economy by itself.

What about the individual people?

Even in the case of these multi-national companies you still have people from Mr Big Wig at the very top to the sand-boy at the very bottom. But we don't like doing that do we? We prefer to summarise events and groups into faceless organisations.

A law is passed and we don't thank/blame the individuals involved, we blame the political party as a whole. Even if we do refer to it by the name of the leader, we are not referring to them as an individual person, we don't know them. Instead we are referring to them as to the position they hold. Why?

Blame. That's why. When you start assigning blame to individuals it has to be assigned appropriately. More often then not when a law or policy is passed it is not a single person making that decision, but a group of people. A group of people who we put in that position. So who is really to blame? The people passing the rule, or the people who chose for them to be in that situation in the first place? So no, we say it was a party or an organisation. We remove the face from the action so that we can sleep at night ignorant of our own involvement.

This is powerful stuff. A single person can be seen as a tyrant or a saint. An organisation that is politically neutral in it's actions can suddenly become evil personified if you have a total tyrannical bastard at it's head. It also has a lot of deciding power over how others seen and when applied to narrative can conjure images and suggestions.

Let's look at First Law: Override for a second. We have two political factions, the benevolent Accord who just want to protect people through peaceful methods where possible. Which they do via the armed might of the UEF, the monopolising HMC and the subterfuge of the Wraiths. They speak of peace but it is at the end of the gun with nothing more than company logo as a point of reference. Yet on the moral board they are traditionally seen as the Good Guys.

Then you have the Reavers. The faction who want power and when it is not given freely demand it with the spear. By all intents and purposes they are terrorists, making demands which when are not met respond with violence and death. They do this through the brutal might of the Red Claw, the illegal hacking at the hands of the Raiders and drug money supplied by the Trydan. They are the quintessential Bad Guys. But they have Lady Tramn. The face of both the Red Claw and Reavers who spreads a message of love, equality and peace.

In these situations it's hard if not impossible to really say if any side is good or bad because that is how things are, for starters there is no such thing as a bad organisation (in the sense of bad-guy sort of way) but there are bad people. Same with good organisations. But then even these good/bad people are not polar. Even the most evil person alive still has some good parts to them.

Remember even a single person's actions can have almost global implications in the current world. Just look at the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

By focusing on the person you are showing all of this and how really everything is just a slightly different shade of grey depending on the opinion of the observer.

3). Remember who the observer is.
This is possibly the last and maybe even most important part of it all. If you are showing a story from the viewpoint of someone, then you need to portray it from their viewpoint. If they are a Red Claw loyalist believing that they are setting free the enslaved under a just cause, then that is how they must view things, even the death and murder of potential innocents. Yes they will have doubts and the like, but they will still believe their cause is righteous!

If however they are on the other end, perhaps a citizen of Nova Casa, bombarded by continuous influential propaganda about the evils of the Reavers and the noble steps that the Accord and UEF are taking to protect you, then that is probably how you will see the world. Sure you may have doubts, you may even have sympathy for the Red Claw cause, but would you actively jump to defend a Red Claw warrior who mercilessly murdered your brother simply because he had a job as a security guard at a HMC controlled factory in Anchorage Falls? I seriously doubt it.

And these are pretty much the only rules I follow, but by doing so I would hope that I keep the stories grounded in plausibility.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and until then stay safe and be excellent to each other.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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