Developing a Workflow – Part I: Concept and Outline

One of the great problems with the way I’ve been creating worlds since I’ve started this blog has been the disorganized way in which I’ve been going about it. I need to develop a workflow and work my way through it. Also, what I’m doing here is mostly dedicated to coming up with a good method for building worlds with a mind to later publishing, so I really need to get work on that method. With that in mind I’ve decided to build an entire world in an organized manner in a series of articles over the next several days. This will be less developed than Shtakamashkan(assuming that ever gets developed), but the process will be better developed and, I hope, quicker. Part of what I am trying to do here is work up an organized procedure as opposed to randomly walking through the tasks of worldbuilding.

So I introduce the Astrographer’s first worldbuilding miniproject…

The Seven Seas of Yaccatrice

As this is a hands-on worldbuilding project as opposed to a plug-and-chug world-generation procedure probably better suited to Accrete or Stargen, I want to start with at least a general rationale and idea for my world.

I. Origins

Yaccatrice is a rather oddly named world colonized by humans not long before the fall of the old Solar Union. Many of the colonies founded in the late days of the Solar Union were hastily implemented and poorly organized. Such was true of the colonization of Baines’ World. Most of the population of Baines’ World were emigrants from Scipio with a few coming all the way from Earth. When support from the Solar Union government dried up due to problems closer to Earth, the colony on Baine’s World foundered, not yet being self-sufficient. One of the ships chartered to return the colonists to the relative safety and civilization on Scipio was the Yardley TC an aging heavy bulk freighter chartered to carry just over two thousand colonists in conditions not quite fit to be called stearage. It was a measure of the desperation of the Yardley’s passengers that they were willing to board the battered and malodorous vessel. Unfortunately, a catastrophic error by the clearly incompetent and usually intoxicated astrogator on theYardley followed by a massive mechanical systems failure came near to killing everyone aboard. The ship barely managed to limp along long enough to find a marginally habitable world to deposit it’s passengers on before the life support systems completely collapsed. While the passengers tried to set up temporary camp on the planet’s surface the ship’s crew attempted to repair the engines enough to travel back to Baines’ World and call for assistance. During the crew’s efforts to repair the ship, there was an explosion. Attempts to restore communication by the people on the ground were unsuccessful, all the shuttles were docked at the ship and none landed, so the cause of the accident remained a mystery to the people on the ground. They were left to their own devices and had to find a way to survive on this new planet until rescue arrived, if ever.

This group, being castaways, was even more poorly equipped than usual for planetary colonization. They had very little written material. Most of what little they had to write on was sensitive to the elements and didn’t survive much beyond the first few years. They had no tools to repair the equipment they had with them: some electronic books, communication gear, computers, meagre transportation equipment, a few firearms perhaps. They had, in fact, little more than they could carry on their backs.

II. The Planet

Yaccatrice is a dry world covered largely with expansive deserts and only a few relatively small habitable regions clustered around the planet’s water bodies. As implied by the title of this post, there are seven of these “seas.” As used on Yaccatrice the geographical term “sea” refers to a contiguous area of vegetated land surrounding bodies of water and completely surrounded by desert land. The actual, not necessarily contiguous, bodies of water are referred to as marias(the singular is maria).

In many cases, the meanings of toponyms on Yaccatrice are unknown or not widely known among the populace. These will simply be written out as the locals say them. Some retain lexical meaning and those names will be translated into English. I have already determined the names of the seven seas and many of the rivers on Yaccatrice. The seas are named, in order from largest to smallest in extent, Paima(a large cluster of marias, many connected into a single central ocean, altogether roughly the size of the Mediterranean on Earth), Segonna, Tersha, Karta, Kanta, Sekta, and Sepama(a single, shallow maria surrounded by salty mudflats, slightly smaller than Lake Erie). A selection of the largest rivers running through these seas is: Alfer, Hoodlum, Chally, Triangle(strangely non-triangular), Backtalk, Runningdog(refers to a small vaguely-doglike animal with a hairy red integument native to the Tersha sea steppes), Ruined Walk, Village Inn, Inja, Jolet, Scaleweight(named for a common standard of measurement on Yaccatrice, typically between 900 and 1600 grams), Laima, Maka, Levenmoon, Ossar, Father, Kevek, Romo, Serra, Great Dance, Worksuit, Vettor, Stillcider(named for a distilled alcoholic beverage derived from the fermentation of edible native fruits), Boneview, Yanga and Zooley.

The one other stroke of luck for these unintentional colonists besides having a somewhat habitable planet close enough to save them from perishing in space was the fact that at least some of the life on this planet was biochemically compatible with Earth life. This was key to the long term survival of the human race on Yaccatrice as the castaways had very little in the way of domesticated animals or plant seeds with them except for a few pets and some viable seeds found in the food stores they brought with them. Besides the humans themselves, the only Earth-derived life forms now found on Yaccatrice is dogs, cats, white rabbits, fig trees and apple trees. All of these are considered uncommon delicacies by the Yaccatrene.

The downside of biochemical compatibility is that it renders the humans and their crops subject to the predations of local life. There are a number of larger animals that are capable of consuming humans and many of them are quite willing to do so. Although none of the local viruses is capable of infecting Earth-derived life, there are a number of maladies caused by local bacteria-equivalents and small multicellular parasites consuming human and other Earth-derived tissue. There are an even larger number of local microbiota that, though they can’t function inside the human body are perfectly capable of producing toxins that interfere with the functioning of Earth-derived animals and plants.

Even some of these have proven useful. While most Yaccatrene ciders are produced using yeast grown from bread found in the original food stores or bacteria isolated from human waste, many Yaccatrenes prefer staggerwater, a psychoactive beverage produced by infecting the juice of certain native fruits or, for the rich, apple juice with a local single-celled organism(referred to locally as a solo) that produces alcohol and a chemical similar to LSD in the fermentation process.

III. Biology

We’ve already worked out that this planet has some animals and plants that are at least somewhat compatible with human biochemistry, but what else do I know before starting? First, life independently originated in the waters of at least three of the seas of Yaccatrice. Because these bodies of water were non-contiguous there was no interchange(or very, very little interchange) of aquatic life until land life arose. Not only that, but land life had to adapt considerably to cross the harsh deserts between these seas. Interestingly, there is land life in all three seas and aquatic life in most of the maria of all but one of the seas. That means that the aquatic life in at least three of the seas had to have, like whales on Earth, readapted to aquatic life from an earlier land-based existence. It is also possible that only one of those lines of evolution is biochemically compatible with life imported from Earth.

Building Yaccatrice

So we have some ideas for this planet. Time to work out the details. Although I have no preferences at present, questions like is this a cold planet of deserts like a somewhat less extreme Mars or is it a hot desert like a Sahara writ large may have a strong effect on the cultures that arise here. How does the weather vary over the year? How long is the year? How long is the day? These are all questions that could add interest to the world as it develops.

A. Procedures

This is kind of the meat of what I am doing here. I’m trying to develop a logical sequence of steps to take in worldbuilding. So here is the broad order I think I need to take in the development of the physical world.

1. Detail the star – Knowing the mass of the star will be necessary to determining the length of each planet’s year. The luminosity(coupled with the planet’s orbital distance) is the most crucial part of working out a planet’s climate. The radius and the temperature can be used to give such sensual details as, respectively, the size of the sun in the sky and the color of that sun and its light.

2. Determine the orbital positions of the planets – This is needed for each planet for the determination of the year length(with the star’s mass), and the climate(with the star’s luminosity). If the planet is close enough to a large enough mass it may also find itself, perforce, face-locked with the sun by tidal forces. The location of other planet may be useful if you want the people to have an interesting calendrical or astrological system(Don’t knock it, not everybody can be as smart and unsuperstitious as us).

3. Determine the physical parameters of the planets – Kind of the final catch-all. If the planet isn’t face-locked, here is where you determine its rotation period. We need to know the mass of the planet and its radius or density(know two of these, you can figure out the third). From that you can get fun things like the surface gravity and escape velocity(and how quickly the ship 150 miles up passes over your folks on the ground). Here is where you probably give the planet its moons and thus its months.

4. Give the major planet its atmosphere – A big one with a lot of interactions. Atmospheric composition, surface pressure, breathability, climate. It’s all here.

5. Give the major planet its first map – I’ve been jumping the gun on this stage ’cause it’s just so doggone fun!

6. Work on the cultures of the major planet – A lot of fun here, too. All the different countries and how they interact with each other and their environments. Proximity matters, but doesn’t necessarily rule. You’ll definitely rinse wash and repeat at least steps 5 and 6 as you develop the major world’s politics and its political map.

7. Fill in details on other worlds – Add information on the other planet as needed or desired. This procedure repeats steps 4 through 6 for each planet of interest. Other than maybe the occasional hint about atmosphere or moons, I’ll ignore step 7 for this series of articles.

Tomorrow, I will go on to detailing the star that Yaccatrice will orbit.

Thank you for your attention,

The Astrographer

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