By Samantha Martin
When it comes to writing science fiction, there’s a lot to consider and sometimes, certain aspects of the world-building can get lost in the narrative. Here are five elements you should consider when building a sci-fi society.
Religion is an integral part of every culture in the world, and the world you are building should be no different. Ask yourself: are my protagonists religious? How does the religion they see around them affect their lives? Where does spirituality fit into the science concepts in my manuscript, and do my characters accept or reject it? Establishing a religion in your new world can do wonders to ground readers in your story.
New, shiny technology is a common element of many sci-fi books. From the Death Star and other space vessels from Star Wars to the Oasis in Ready Player One, technology will be integral in creating your world. Think about it: phones are a HUGE part of our lives here in America. What tech are your main characters completely dependent on, and how does it affect them? Many sci-fi narratives focus on the negative turn that technology can take, but it’s important to remember that there’s normalcy to technology, too.
Any organism on Earth is continuously evolving, including us! For example, we’re seeing less and less babies born with wisdom teeth because we simply don’t need them anymore. What else will humans evolve for, or against, within the time frame that your story takes place? Additionally, if your story takes place on a different planet, how do those conditions affect the physicality of your characters?
Though it’s perfectly okay for science fiction books to focus on a certain planet, city or even a single space ship, the cultures that exist beyond the bounds of the story are important to consider. If you’re writing a dystopian manuscript about America in 40 years, think about what may be happening in Europe at the same time. These details don’t even need to appear in your book, as long as you consider how they affect the setting your characters are in.
One book that does this excellently is George Orwell’s 1984. 1984 focuses on a single, dystopian country, but two other countries are continually mentioned, and it seems that the protagonist’s home country is always at war with one of them or the other. Here, Orwell uses his protagonist’s ignorance to demonstrate that cultures are all but completely severed from one another. Knowing the full cultural history of the world you’re building will make your story that much richer.
Humans are constantly evolving. We’re also developing a longer lifespan thanks to modern medicine. Ask yourself how long it’s been since present day and how that’s affected how long your characters can expect to live. Imagine: if you had 200 years to live, how would that affect your outlook on life? Would it change from right now?
Science fiction is an incredibly challenging genre, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. The richer your world building, the better your story will be.