Tuesday, January 19, 2016

13 Worldbuilding Questions: Numbers 11, 12 & 13

There are three final questions that all deal with needs:
11.What is this society's most ardent need?
12.How does it go about satisfying this need?
13.What would it take to disrupt normalcy on this world?

11. What is this society’s most ardent need?
No society is ever in a state of perfect balance for longer than a microsecond. Figure out what the biggest need of that society is, because it will greatly affect its values and evolution. Does it need energy to fuel its increasing numbers (like we do)? Does it need new hunting grounds because the old ones aren’t fruitful anymore? Or maybe it needs genetic diversification? If the need for expansion is desperate enough, you might have a very aggressive society on your hands that won’t fidget long before invading new territories at great costs. Or maybe your society needs to sort out an internal problem like corruption, disease or dependency?

The Aliens' needs are beyond our comprehension. Why do they do what they do, what drives them, what need are they trying to fulfill?  We will probably never know.

What is our greatest need; we little folk of Earth?   Hiding will do us no good, nor will knowledge.  Do we have any hope of attaining the kind of intelligence or power of these other civilizations?  Homo sapiens certainly does not.  We have neither the longevity nor the mental capacity to reach any level of technology higher than perhaps K level I or II.

Transhumans, or the emergent AI that develops from the AI we birth through the singularity may rise to that level.   Make no mistake, they may rise to a level where they can understand these god-like aliens.  Rising to the level where their needs are something like the needs of the aliens is highly unlikely.  There is no way to tell what is on the other side of the singularity, at least not for humans on this side of it.

I do know because I am the omniscient author do know.  We will ascend through a melding of genetically enhanced transhumanism and technological AI.  The two will become one and move forward to take our place as one of the lowest, weakest, mentally deficient of the star traveling races.  Our descendants may even return through time to perhaps themselves be inconceivable god-like aliens.

12. How does it go about satisfying this need?
The way a people tackles a problem or tries to satisfy a need says a lot about its nature. Is it trying to build or fight its way out of the trouble? Is it willing to risk something else of value? Is it canibalizing its resources or managing them sensibly? Is it indiferent to how it affects the environment or other societies / species? Does it shift its collective attention to evolving past the point of the need in a positive direction, or does it focus on eliminating the problem by any means necessary? Does it think long-term or is it short-sighted?
Now, after you’ve created a basic structure for your world, before you drop your characters into it and let them fend for themselves, ask yourself one more thing. It might help you use that wonderful worldbuilding to strengthen your plot.

There are a few things we can witness whether we understand the needs of the aliens or not.  Some of their needs are satisfied here on Earth and/or with humans.  There are some of their needs that require the use of humans, or at least lower sentient beings.  Some of them (the Extrinsic Ones at least) derive something from our pain, fear, panic, anxiety, anger and despair.  Some of them are roughly the equivalent of Vogons, with complete apathy toward what to them is merely a slight impediment along the path to whatever it is they want or need.

Much of the terror of our situation living in their universe is that we have no way of satisfying the ultimate need we have of living peacefully, of understanding even a part of what these great races want from us, of having even the slightest chance of avoiding whatever fate they decide for us, or even when they have no consideration at all for us, and our fate is doomed regardless.  We can't begin to start to satisfy our greatest needs; thus ending all hope and giving way to ruinous devastation for those who even barely understand what is really at stake.

The rest of us can live in blissful ignorance, until our planet is ended with a proverbial bat of an eye.

13. What would it take to disrupt normalcy on this world?
And I’m not talking about the moon crashing into the surface of the planet, or the ground cracking open and unleashing a geyser of demons into the world. I’m talking about what a single individual—your protagonist—can possibly do that is so disruptive that it turns him into enemy number one? Now how can you drive him to do just that, unwillingly or unavoidably? And what happens next?

Ah, here's the rub.  The moon crashing into the Earth, or the ground cracking open and spewing forth unspeakable horrors is exactly what could happen.  What could my protagonist do to become the worst human who ever lived, someone so vile that Stalin and Hitler would cringe, cry and hide?  Simply seek some of the knowledge of the Great Alien Races, attempt to commune with them, accept allegiance with any that bother to contact us.  Collaborators, scholars, cohorts, devotees, conspirators, worshipers, and supplicants are all supremely dangerous because they are tapping into powers and knowledge that will rip them and all of us apart, often physically and minimally emotionally, spiritually and mentally. 

There you have the 13 worldbuilding questions.  Honestly I don't feel like this fleshed out my horror universe.  Perhaps it didn't because so often authors don't really give the universe a proper scale.  The universe is one world often.  It is one land and maybe two peoples in conflict.  The whole of the universe in the books and stories are there to serve the characters and their venue.  The focus is orders of magnitude less than what the real universe is.  This is fair enough.  In reality what do any of us care about the explosion that caused the Horse Head Nebula?  How much can a supernova thousands of light years away affect us?

But in my universe these do matter and they do affect us.  In fact they are but tiny pin pricks in the vast power and destructive capacity.  These things are coming to get us, by design or through negligence and there is nothing we can do about it.  We may or may not be lucky enough to realize they are on the way before we all die in the most horrible, painful and  demoralizing way possible.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

13 Worldbuilding Questions: Numbers 9 & 10

9. What are some core moral values of this society?

Do people care about basic human rights and freedom of speech? Do they value competitiveness or conformity? Do they value art predominately, or science? Are they interested in other cultures or species, or are they xenophobic? Do they value tradition over progress or the other way around?

Because this is everything, it's hard to talk about.  I think it might be best to describe those aspects of this universe that makes it a horror story setting.

Do the aliens care about human rights; certainly not.  Do they care about freedom of human speech; do you care about freedom of tree speech (okay there are some that care about trees almost in that way, but there might also be aliens that care about humans in that same, save the trees attitude, if they could only get here and had the power to actually do something for us)?

Some of the most powerful aliens are conformist in that they've gathered together to form a sort of hive mind, on the other hand, they can be insanely competitive towards other species.

Art, as far as we can comprehend their concept of art would be on an almost immeasurable scale (at least for the Originator Race).  Creation of an entire universe to their own tastes is to them, art itself.  All the art in our universe ever created they take credit for, as it occurred in their creation under their rules with the materials they ultimately created.

On the other hand, science is an art to them.  The greatest art of all is most likely power and knowledge.

The Originators feel they own all the races.  They spend no time or effort attempting to know of or understand let alone aid or communicate with any lesser civilization, even one at KS V level.

The Deific Race think of themselves as high-minded but perhaps they are more akin to the angry god of the Christian Old Testament, one, but many; loving and condescending; but vengeful and controlling.  They feel they deserve a universe of their own and demand such respect as well as every aid in achieving this.

The Puissant Race is expansionist, imperialist, and elitist.  They desire the downfall of everyone and everything because they know they are incapable of creating their own universe. Where the Deific Race is looking to build a new universe, the PR is looking to destroy this one.  Where the DR are bent on overcoming this universe, the PR and intent on owning and controlling every aspect of it.

This is all unknown and unknowable to us.  We have no way of discovering it on our own.  These races have no intention of explaining themselves to us, even if they know of us.  Even if they tried our minds could not understand it.  For the most part what I have written is a pale comparison, a childish impression, a dim shadow in a room so brightly and widely illuminated the only hint of an impression of the things casting shadows is the almost imperceptible dimming of the light.

10. How do their values affect their mentality on a personal level?

"...how the mentality of a native differs from yours, based on what the core values of his society are.
For example, if he grew up believing everyone is reincarnated, he might not fear death as much as someone outside of his belief and might be more ready to risk his life. Or if he was brought up to value tradition and history, he might be reluctant to change his ways even in the face of adversity. He might be heavily xenophobic, due to a history full of brutality from foreigners (or alien invasions), and so he might be extremely suspicious of your other-worldly character. All of these things will influence this native’s decision making process, and thus influence the plot..."

I may be starting to sound like a broken record, but these civilizations, these races are beyond our feeble comprehension.  That's part of what makes them frightening.  We can't understand how their civilizations affect individuals, or if they even affect individuals at all.  Their speed of communication and interconnectedness may make the concept of individuals irrelevant.

That in and of itself is an indication of the kind of things question 10 is asking however.  They are all so very powerful and working so closely it undoubtedly affects the components of the civilization (i.e members, or individuals for lack of a better word).  Do they simply feel too crowded; do they feel a lack of privacy or self-determination; do they feel a warm fuzzy, happy feeling as a part of the hive?  I think all of these descriptions are far too simplistic.

What can you be sure the components of these civilizations will do, nothing.  You can be sure of nothing.  To us it may seem all random or chaotic.  

A better way of looking at this question is how do these races affect individuals of our planet.  We mostly don't have any idea of their existence, and any hint of their ultimate power, knowledge, intelligence and complexity frightens people out of their minds, literally.  Their minds could melt and at the very least they will break and plummet into insanity.

Monday, January 04, 2016

13 Worldbuilding Questions: Numbers 7 & 8 continually continued

This is part 3 for:

  7.  What's the predominant culture?
  8.  What's the current form of societal normalcy?

I've covered #7 in the last two posts, so now: what is the current form of societal normalcy?

This is a universe created by the whim of a race beyond our capability to understand just how little we are capable of understanding them.  We can't even conceive of how little we can know of them.  My defining them as a power mad race is the slightest hint of a shadow of an infinitesimal portion of what they truly are.

"...the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."  J.B.S. Haldane

From our incredibly limited point of view, the universe is based on chaos and power madness.  It was designed from the ruins of a previous inhabited universe, completely destroyed and broken down into component energy states and potentialities, to be recreated at the whim of a race driven insane from their own knowledge and power.

That is, if we could even get enough information to know that much.  Currently we are incapable of even knowing as much as I described in the previous paragraph.
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." - H.P. Lovecraft

Are we are sitting on our planet, fat dumb and happy?  Not in the slightest.
"The universe is trying to kill you."  Neil deGrasse Tyson
The relative calm and predictability of a massive nuclear explosion, billions of years old, a wildly careening molten debris ball and a host of corrosive chemicals is homey and comfortable.  Where creatures killing and eating each other constantly and death is constant, painful and continuous is normal and reassuring; that's physical normalcy.

What about society?  There are good people, right?  

Sure, there are.  The mass of people are sheep, simple, unreflecting, calm and sure.  There are also good people; strong and brave heroic sheepdogs trying to herd and protect the flock who are utterly impotent in the face of this universe.

But that is not all.
"Man is a wolf to man."  Roman proverb.
Sheep, dogs and wolves all vunerable in an open field with only the unsympathetic sky above; getting no protection at all from what appears to be non-stop anarchy.  That is societal normalcy.

Monday, December 28, 2015

13 Worldbuilding Questions: Numbers 7 & 8 continued

  7.  What's the predominant culture?
  8.  What's the current form of societal normalcy?

In the previous post I explained how I measure the alien civiliations (and ours).  In this post I want to tell you about the most significant (aka predominant) cultures.

I've described the Originator Race in previous posts, but according to the scales I just established I thought I should include their rating.
SQ:  +25
CL:  8d

The Deific Race is just slightly younger than our universe and only slightly less powerful than the Originator Race.  They're purpose is to destroy the current universe adn install a new one of their making.  They want to make something like stargates to collapse our existing universe, bringing about it's destruction and releasing the energy for their own purposes.

The DR are a community intelligence that uses spore-like devices (not purely physical or energy, but bundles of information and intelligence) to reproduce and infect.  They interact with races like Homo sapiens when one of these spores comes in contact with some human at least at genius level.  Anything less would destroy the infected mind.

The DR are almost beyond time, having learned to bend and manipulate it to their own devices.  They don't know death and can take any amount of time to do things.

The DR make use of all the most advanced forms of communications.

SQ:  +20
CL:  8c
KS:  V

The Puissant Race (PR) are another transcendent race who have moved beyond their physical bodies, but are not a communal intelligence.  Because of this they will probably never reach the level of the Deific Race and they know it.  This makes them bitter and envious.  They have turned their concerns to controlling everything in this universe.

The entity Aachiang in "Bellwether's Asteroid" is a member of this race.

SQ:  +18
CL:  8b

There are aliens who frequently visit earth, but they are so powerful and alien that we don't recognize their present.  These are the Extrinsic Aliens (EA).  The EA are a galaxy-wide presence and force, not limited by time or set physical bodies.  

They have individual personalities within their communal intelligence, able and needing to create physical bodies to act as avatars to interact with the physical universe.  

They are capable of creating portals, or stargates.  They can even use these to move data directly into someone's mind, with a similar affect of psychic powers.

SQ:  +16 
CL:  7c

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

13 Worldbuilding Questions: Numbers 7 & 8

  7.  What's the predominant culture?
  8.  What's the current form of societal normalcy?

What is the predominant culture in the universe?  I suppose that depends on your definition of predominant.  Obviously the most dominant is the Originator Race.  On the other hand, they are so powerful and intelligent that they don't normally interact with humans, at least not in a way that is understandable to humans.

There are several other very powerful species and some are even in our galactic neighborhood.

Before I do it would be best if I introduce several methods of measuring intelligence.

The first is the Sentience Quotient (SQ).  This describes just how quickly information is gathered, interpreted and a decision can be made on.   Per Wikipedia, it is, "the relationship between the information processing rate (bit/s) of each individual processing unit (neuron), the weight/size of a single unit and the total number of processing units (expressed as mass)."  Homo sapiens SQ is +13.  All earth animals are within a few points of this while earth plants are around -2.

The next measure of the civilizations in my universe is the Cognizance Level (CL).  This is how the civilization interacts with its environment.  Each level is divided into four letter levels:
a.  Awareness of the environment at that level
b.  Being able to respond at an individual level
c.  Manipulating the environment
d.  Understanding the environment fully

The overall levels are based on the description, scope of the environment:

  1. Immediate Environment
  2. Extended Environment (outside of senses)
  3. Community
  4. Self
  5. Time
  6. Cosmos
  7. Physical Ability
  8. Meta-Cosmos
Humans are probably a 4c.

The last measure of the civilizations is the well known Kardashev scale (KS).  Simply:
0.  (Carl Sagan addition) A civilization capable of using a mega watt
I.  A civilization capable of using all the available energy of their planet
II.  Using all the energy of the home star
III.  Using all the energy of the home galaxy
IV.  (questionable addition) Using all the energy of the universe
V.  (even more questionable, but probably necessary for my universe) capable of using all the energy of several universes

Humans are at about 0.724.

I think I should break it here and talk about the individual civilizations, or races in a second post for these questions.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

13 Worldbuilding Questions: Numbers 5 & 6

  5.  What's the linguistic situation on this world?

Math is the language of the universe, and math is the universe, and the universe is math, and the universe speaks in math.

Seriously.  There are physicists and mathematicians who claim that the universe is math.  Personally, in real life, I think math is the language of the universe, but not the reality of the universe.  In my stories however, it is all.

This is partially because it frightens me that the universe may not actually be a thing, but rather a mathematical probability, or collections of possibilities.  The universe is real, it is a thing, we are all things that really exist in a real universe, don't we?  Don't we?!

  6.  What's the primary means of communication?

Quantum communications is a thing in my universe and it is the primary means of long distance communication for those intelligences great enough to make use of it.

There is another means of communicating that involves alternating the universe itself.  This is akin to traveling using a warp drive, similar to that found in the Star Trek universe.

This universe warping communication is so difficult, complicated and power hungry that only the most advanced of the most advanced races can use it.  They, however use it at a whim.  They don't care how much power it requires.  It's a trifle to them.

They can and do put thoughts directly into our neuronic systems without a moment's hesitation.  In fact, they can warp time as well, so that a even a moment is not a moment.

The lowly races such as ourselves communicate through electromagnetic radiation in the form of radio waves.  Those a little more advanced than us have learned to keep their big mouths shut.  To announce to the universe that you are a life baring planet with intelligence to exploit, abuse, enslave, destroy, crush, and subjugate is pure folly.  They've learned there are races in our universe what would love nothing better than to revel in the dispiriting, disheartening and  demoralization of another intelligence. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

13 Worldbuilding Questions: Numbers 3 & 4

  3.  What happened here before?
  4.  How does its history influence the present?

In the previous post I did start talking about what happened before.  The godlike Originator Race created our universe after destroying their own.

The key influence this has on our present is that our entire universe obeys their laws, and/or whims.

Panspermia is the concept that life on Earth was seeded from other places in the universe.  H.P. Lovecraft plays with this idea in At the Mountains of Madness and "Shadow Out of Time."   In fact his Old Ones are the ones who created humans as a joke or mistake.

In my universe this isn't true.  Life developed on Earth just as our scientists say it did.  Was it influenced by aliens?  Were there monoliths as described in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 and 2010?  In my initial concepts there was not.

Aliens are very powerful and intelligent.  For the most part they don't care about us at all.  They would not make an effort to "uplift" us as the aliens in Clarke's work.

Panspermia is out.  It is possible that aliens interfered in our past and could interfere with us in our future, but they are not benevolent.  This is horror after all, but why should they hate us?  They don't.  They are indifferent and unsympathetic.

This would be a good time to discuss the Great Filter.  This is a concept borne of the Fermi Paradox.  Given the number of possible worlds and the age of the galaxy, the purely random chance of life should have yielded many, many worlds, prompting physicist Enrico Fermi to ask, "Where is everybody?"  one day at lunch.

Since we have no evidence of any other life in our galaxy there must be something that keeps life from either developing at all, or if it does develop it must never get to the level of using radios and being detectable by our SETI efforts.

The thing that keeps life from developing or advancing is called the Great Filter.  There are several candidates for the Great Filter:  berserkers, self-destruction, cosmic destruction, etc.  None are very good, all are great horror story fodder.

In my stories all of these may brush against us, threatening our existence, threatening the existence of not just mankind, not just life, not just the earth, but our entire solar system.

We are also rarely and disastrously come in fleeting contact with the insanely powerful alien races that inhabit our galaxy, our universe and neighboring universes and even dimensions.  None of them is as stupid, weak and ignorant as us.  We are defenseless, like a swimmer when a great white shark decides to find out what the strange not-seal is and with casual curiosity bites off her leg.