- Series: Science Fiction Writing
- Paperback: 212 pages
- Publisher: F+W Media, Inc (December 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158297134X
- ISBN-13: 978-1582971346
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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World-Building (Science Fiction Writing)
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Another in Ben Bova's series on Science Fiction Writing, here geologist and SF scribe Stephen Gillett helps you construct star systems and planets from the atoms up. While it may take you a little more than the proverbial seven days (well, six with rest), when you're done, your knowledge of gravity, weather patterns, cosmic mass and stellar patterns--in this universe--will be greatly enhanced. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Stephen L. Gillett is a research associate at the Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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But, I am also a gamer, as I alluded to. And if you are interested in writing in-game content for video games, or even creating a video game of your own, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of this book. It's easy to read, fun, engaging, and humorous. Most of all, though, it will provide an entry- intermediate level course in world-building - one that really does contain practical, useful information. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
What happens if you're designing a world powered by a larger sun? A smaller, brighter sun? How does it affect everything from orbit to color? What's the point of plate tectonics, anyway? All of these questions are answered with excruciating detail (and a significant amount of math!). If you're looking for something a little bit more generalized, you might want to grab a collection of Asimov essays, because this book takes you waaaaay down the rabbit hole.
On the plus side, writers looking for a serious exploration of what makes a planet habitable can't do much better than this book. Even if you don't plan on putting human beings on this planet (or want to give your human characters a real survival challenge), you'll find a ton of scientific explanations for different possibilities for life on planets that don't have the same atmospheric composition as earth's.
Of course, if you don't really care how plausible sulfuric acid oceans or gas giants orbiting a brown dwarf or ice worlds are, this book will be of much less interest; you might take a few details from it and figure that the average Star Wars fan no more cares about the plausibility of your planet's elemental composition than he cares about the fact that explosions don't make a sound in a vacuum. It's still worth reading so that you know more about how Earth's own climate and topography have been shaped over the eons, and why there is no life on Mars or Venus, and all the things that early sci-fi writers got wrong. There are numerous references to classic science fiction novels and short stories: Gillett points out some of the more creative inventions in the literature, as well as some of the more unscientific ones.
This is a very crunchy book: if you want to seriously use the information here to design your own worlds right down to their sidereal rotation periods, you'll need a few spreadsheets. Gillett provides formulas, tables, and an extensive bibliography. It will also help to remember your high school physics and chemistry.
This is all science for writers, and contains no information at all about writing science fiction itself. There is some discussion of how life forms, and how you might plausibly introduce very alien biochemistries (as well as why many types of worlds are unlikely to evolve anything more complex than bacteria, and why others might evolve intelligent life that probably wouldn't be able to develop much in the way of technology), but beyond that, you'll have to look to other books in this series for designing alien life and civilizations.