Believing in a World

Chapters Edited: 15
Scenes Edited: 47
Words Murdered: 2904 (5.2%)

Confirmed Kills: 1 (Geez, that's it?)
Mutinies: 1
Authority figures Sam has a problem with: All of them


A writer has to believe in their story. That's a given. A writer has to believe in their world - that's a corollary. But how far does that go? Tolkien wrote about immortal elves that left our world behind. Orson Scott Card described a future endangered by buglike aliens and saved by a pre-teen genius. But they didn't believe these things were really true.

Or did they?

When I was planning Air Pirates, I discovered that, while the worlds I created didn't have to be real, I needed to believe they could be.

The Air Pirates world sprung out of science fiction. I needed a world that was like Earth, but wasn't. At the same time, I didn't want to just take Earth and rename it. If names, cultures, and languages were going to be like Earth's, there should be a reason, I thought. I wanted the people of Air Pirates to be from Earth.

And so they are. They're distant descendants of Earth, whose ancestors arrived on the planet via a generation ship, though they don't know it. Nearly all of their knowledge was lost when the generation ship crashed into the sea.

Here's where it gets weird (or where I get weird - take your pick). The survivors lost everything - technology, history, even theology... and that was my problem. I'm a committed Christian, and so believe that God created us for a purpose, with an end in mind. The traditional end being, of course, the horrors and glories found in Revelation, when Jesus returns and God ends this world.

But I've read lots of stories that don't fit - and in many cases, outright reject - this worldview, and I've never had a problem with it. My capacity for belief-suspension is pretty dang high. But for some reason, I couldn't write about a world where clearly the Bible was wrong. My heart wasn't in it.

So I included God in my world. Not just by giving them religion, but by imagining how a forgotten colony could fit into God's plan. If a remnant of humanity left Earth, wouldn't God send his Word with them too, somehow? Though all their history was lost?

Enter the Brothers and Sisters of Saint Jude. Decades after the crash, when civilization had stabilized and the first generation had almost passed away, a group of people came together and tried to reconstruct the Bible. Knowing their project to be imperfect, they named the result the Incommensurate Word of God.

Air Pirates isn't about all this stuff. The monks only show up in one chapter, and their history is only briefly mentioned as world candy. The origins of the world aren't even touched on (in this book).

But they're there. They have to be, for me.

Anyone else get weird about their world building like this? Or maybe you have your own (less weird) world building stories to share?


Natalie Whipple said...

I think religion will always be part of any world, so it's important that you included it in yours.

World building—I have to have explanations for stuff. Like with my current WIP, everyone has "superpowers" essentially but it takes place in a pseudo present America.

My explanation? A Cold War anti-radiation poisoning pill that people popped like candy. It had a few...side effects. I don't go into huge detail, but that background info is important to the story.

Unknown Blogger said...

Great post Adam. As usual, I love seeing inside the mind of a writer. Interesting and thought provoking.

Hope all is well for you & Cindy & Kids.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the craziness of worldbuilding. I write fantasy set in an alternate world, and I've done research on everything from geography and weather to biology and linguistics. And that's all given that I'm using a planet roughly the size of Earth, with one sun and one moon! (I considered doing otherwise, but I just couldn't bring myself to get into the kind of insanity that would bring. Tidal patterns! AHHH!)

Adam Heine said...

That's cool, Anica.* Sometimes I get all into stuff like that (Air Pirates has two suns, and I thought a lot about what that would do to the seasons). Other times I totally gloss it over (Air Pirates has 3 moons, and I didn't consider tidal patterns one bit; it's high tide when the story says it's high tide!). I think both are probably acceptable, in moderation.

* I've never met anyone named Anica, but in the Air Pirates world there is an island, a people, and even a legend that bears that name. Maybe I'll share the story here some time (because it's not in the novel).