Monday, September 10, 2012

Building a Near Future World

The Outer Planets, my Near Future SFR, is in the final phases of trim down and tidy up. I’m really excited to see what kind of reception this one will get from publishers. It fills a niche that isn’t often seen in SFR—that of a future that’s within the lifetime of most readers.

Take a step into the year 2039—just 27 years from now.

And say “Happy Birthday” to my heroine. She was just born yesterday. Literally.

Creating a Near Future world presents some fun twists. When there’s a reference in the story to “His Majesty, the King of England,” I think most readers will know exactly who holds that title.

Writing Near Future is a lot like writing a Contemporary with cooler tech. The world and society isn’t that much different from what we know today, it’s just a bit older, wiser and more battle worn.

In the year 2039, the next couple of decade are past tense. The world is experiencing a new dawn, emerging from borderline dystopia, where a global economic collapse and continuing climate change resulted in a scramble to survive. In the previous two decades, the melting ice sheets decreased the salt content of the oceans and partially altered the currents of the Atlantic Conveyor, throwing weather patterns into chaos. While the oceans rose, drowning coastline cities worldwide, drought turned former breadbasket regions into dustbowls. The effects on society are dire.

Water riots were commonplace. Mobs formed to loot stores—not to steal electronics to resell on the street, but to take the food they need for their families and children to live. In rural areas, communities formed raid gangs that stripped crops clean and butchered livestock on neighboring farms. Moral principles took a back seat to survival. Outbreaks of anarchy prevailed. The United Nations disbanded as governments refocused on maintaining order inside their own borders and protecting their citizens. Police states and martial law became commonplace.

By 2032, the climate begins to stabilize, thanks to an enforced scale back in greenhouse gas emissions, and the world returns to more normal conditions, socially and economically, leaving mankind still shaking in its boots at what could have been.

And what might be again in the not too distant future.

The Nations is formed, a multi-national entity with a focus on expanding and diversifying mankind’s interests beyond the “all the eggs in one basket” scenario of having the fate of the species tied to one planet.

International resources are pooled to re-ignite a global space exploration program. ASP—Armstrong Space Port—with its orbiting shipyards begins construction in orbit in 2033 and is completed by the close of 2035. A year later it houses a population of over 15,500 military, corporate and support personnel.

With regular shuttle flights from ASP, temporary bases are constructed on the Moon and Mars as the first step in establishing permanent mining operations.

With the fire-up of ASP comes Project Destination. Spearheaded by The Nations, it’s an ambitious multi-national exploratory mission to the Outer Planets—Jupiter and Saturn—or more specifically the 120+ moons they share between them—to identify resources and future colony sites.

Construction of the Nations’ Star Ship—NSS Destination—is underway. And the debate about crew selection begins…

Your turn to envision the future. How do you see it? Do you think it might unfold much like the past described in The Outer Planets or do you think history will take a very different course?

Next Week: Building a Crew


  1. I used to see everything as dystopian and gritty but it was too depressing. Now I see our future in interstellar commerce either our own imposed on other races or theirs upon us. I like to think (and write)a future that is still linked to our past but hopefully receives unlimited possibilities for both colonizing ourselves and cultivating our relationships with other species via interstellar travel. Isadora DayStar was definitely darker than that but the focus was mainly on her story as opposed to galactic settings. I like to envision a limitless future of development for us while keeping the dystopian on our planet as the memory remnant of what we've left behind. I also like to keep the human part of us and not morph it too far from our DNA...

  2. So true, P.I.

    Where we're going as a species is not just about our economics and environment, but also the "advances" in genetic engineering that may change who and what we are--as well as our food supply and other flora and fauna we share the planet with.

    As we learn and educate ourselves, some of the experimentation may not be an altogether good thing!

  3. Back in the Seventies in college I took a future-visioning class in which the professor asked us to predict the course of the world as a final writing assignment. I said I thought we'd eventually reach a tipping point in our lifetimes when, as a society, we'd have to choose to live more efficiently, less extravagantly, more fairly, or we'd be doomed. My prof gave me an A, but he also said he thought I'd dodged the question.
    Actually, that's just human nature. No one wants to confront the question. But I think we are either at that point or we've just passed it. The resource wars you mention, Laurie, are bearing down on us as we speak, and our ability to recover from them would be very limited now, even if we did choose. There are too many people who will not believe until they are shown how bad it can get. I'd like to believe our technology will save us, but too much of it is wasted on consumer goods--communication and entertainment, primarily. The iPad and FaceBook won't help a world that's starving and desperate for water and clean energy. We've lost the will to explore new worlds, so we may never learn what is out there to help us when this one is used up.
    We need a wake-up call. I just hope some of us survive the cataclysm that would be large enough to do the trick.

  4. Totally agree, Donna. And I think that wake up call may be the loss of some of the technology we've grown accustomed to.

    A solid hit from a solar flare could knock out the internet and set back our digitally-powered world several decades. I think the resulting snowball effect across entertainment, banking and commerce would cause some pretty major disruptions to a lifestyle we've come to expect, and might escalate very rapidly into unrest.

    And there are any number of manmade and natural events that could wreck the same havoc. I think we may already be on the verge of that proverbial tipping point.

  5. I can't wait to read this one!

    I actually have a quite dystopian view of the future. I see it much like the near future world Neal Asher depicts in The Departure, although this Earth still has a space program and we've made it to Mars. But the population has exploded, the poor - Zero Assets - citizens are starving to death, and the world is a police state. I really think things will have to be in a bad way before the powers-that-be realise the human race can't carry on this way. My fear is that it'll come to late to put it right and ensure humanity survives.

  6. I'll have to check out The Departure. I'm not a fan of hopeless apocalyptic, but a dystopian world with glimmers of hope can be an intriguing read.

    I agree we're on a downward spiral, Pippa. I think humanity will survive at least the initial catastrophic events. We've been down to less than a few thousand survivors before in the long history of our species and come back from the brink.

    However, I don't think society will survive, and what we're left with and the resourcefulness of our species--or select individuals--will determine if our candle is extinguished for good at some point in the future.

    If we don't get off the planet though, it's inevitable.


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