Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Space Age

I’ve suggested an order to use when building a fictional world and given you some ideas on how your culture could evolve from non-sentient to sentient beings. Now that your culture is developed on the planet, it’s time to see how you want it to develop in space. Most species will be able to send satellites into orbit before ships or stations are created. Even if a species was able to go to space immediately without dealing with satellites or stations first, they will likely have some sort of fleet of ships or satellites orbiting their planet as defense. You may want to decide what all is orbiting your planet and what defenses your planet has before focusing on an individual or class of ships or a nearby space station. Common planetary defenses are missiles and stations/satellites capable of stopping weapons or destroying ships.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Differing Theories on Culture

So what are some specific theories about sociocultural evolution? A predominate one centuries ago was that societies formed in circles (formation, rise, peak, fall, die) and that humans were in a decline with Rome and Greece as well as Egypt as its peak. During the Age of Enlightenment, or roughly the 18th century and beyond, people decided that humans were still getting better and got more confidence in themselves and science. Scottish thinkers realized all cultures start out as hunters/gatherers, progress to nomads who follow animals, become farmers eventually and become stationary, and finally use trade to build their society. (At this time industry and factories were not as common as now so it, the likely next step of all societies was not included in the theory. After industry progressed to sustain the population would come colonization and exploration. Once that meant wars or new discoveries, now our thirst for more knowledge and elbow room is taking us to the stars.) The then four stages of cultural evolution served to support colonialism and slavery as the natives were less developed than them and therefore deserved what happened to them due to more advanced cultures. Others focused on how society is formed due to biological or mental evolution. Herbert Spencer wrote of survival of the fittest as how societies grew. (The strongest and loudest changed society while the weakest and quiet ones could do nothing to stop the change until they died and no longer cared.) Auguste Comte wrote of how society went through three stages: the theological one where a god was the reason for everything, and age of wonder when mankind started to look for answers besides supernatural forces, and the time when they focus solely on science and an explanation for everything.
Around the World Wars people started to realize that there were a few problems with their thinking. First off, they believed that every society had the same goals and therefore all strove to be duplicates of Europe. So much death and destruction eventually made them wonder if their society really was perfect and the rise of equality for all made them think that maybe claiming Western society as best wasn’t quite true.
Nowadays people study everything from history of a culture to environment the society adapted to and political/economic relations with other societies to plot its “evolution”. It is more accepted that every nearby or connected culture effects the development of every other culture instead of each developing individually based on its own technology and morals as was once believed. Scientific fact is now the focus of sociology instead of racism, rationalizing what is already happening, or merely looking at “uncivilized” cultures to determine what other cultures were like before they started writing. However, ideas and theories are fodder for writers and some of the older theories based on fewer facts are ripe for ideas on creating you specie’s history or current position of development. What’s your idea of social development going to be?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

From Equal in Labor to Female Suppression

Now that we have the nuclear family slightly separate from the camp, we also notice that the female job of getting the plants for food has been mostly taken over by the male raising the food for eating while still maintaining his role with the animals. That leaves the female with the role of raising the kids, keeping house, and making meals. Of course it also leaves men away from their wives all day not knowing what they’re doing. With this idea of one man/one woman relationship comes some problems. First of all, it wouldn’t have taken men long to realize that by getting another man’s wife pregnant they could be sure their bloodline would continue without having to bother with raising the child. Also, it could give the woman the security to get another mate, one likely not as safe or already taken, as she has assurances that any child she gives birth to will be raised by her legal mate. Given those facts and men’s natural possessiveness and competitiveness, is it any surprise females were so repressed for the last few centuries? After all, a man’s child has often been his greatest accomplishment. At one time the number of children he had would likely have been his greatest pride (just look at the idea of harems) and eventually his place in society would be dependent on his legal son being able to take the father’s place in that society and protecting the mother and sisters. However, that is one way a culture could evolve. What if men hadn’t taken over the woman’s place in society when they were all equal all those years ago? How would life and history be different if women had become dominant? After all, a woman knows that a child she gave birth to is her own (unless something artificial happened…) and there would be no need to subjugate males. They were only around to conceive the child, do hunting and other distance things like trading and war if needed. Of course, this is disregarding the pride of a male and any emotional attachment. Then again, what man wouldn’t want to be able to mate with a female and not be bothered with raising a child or providing for a family?
Okay, so I’m getting carried away now with story ideas now that the facts are put out there but it is another idea for a culture. After all, there are still matriarchal societies, just no pure ones.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Formation of the Nuclear Family

Now that we have all the males, females, and children around one large campfire (no one knows when or how our ancestors started using fire but let’s assume that has happened by now) population should be booming, right? One would think so but somewhere along the way our ancestors figured out that it was best for everyone (physically on the mother and emotionally on the youngster who the mom could focus on better) to not be constantly pregnant. That meant fewer children so fewer couplings. That would mean that the men started competing for who got the best females to raise their child. Somewhere along the way the males realized that it was smarter to have one specific female that would bear their children and the females realized it would be helpful if the father raised the male children after a certain age to help them function well in the male area of society. Also, as society progressed status would have developed and it would be beneficial if the best male in the group was protecting her and their young as well as sharing his portion of food with them. (The best hunters got more of their kill than lesser hunters, let’s say). If a man was going to raise a male child he would want to be sure both male and female children are his genetic offspring. (Speaking from an evolutionary stand point: who wants to see another man’s child prosper? That means less for his own kids.) With those facts in mind it makes sense that the nuclear family was created (mom, dad, children) and as people lived longer the grandparents or ill relatives joined the family. Eventually the males would have realized that training animals to help with hunting (horses to ride, dogs to herd) would be a good idea followed by raising animals for food (less hunting needed). At some time in history the villages became towns and people moved away from others to have room to raise animals and farm. The nuclear family moved with and they started new towns and villages. At least that is how the webmaster said it happened. I think it is possible that the males needed to live away from the camp to herd animals or grow lots of plants for food and they needed company and knowledge that their bloodline would continue so women were forced to leave the camp and go live with the male who needed kids. It makes some sense to me and since I’m a writer (not a sociologist) and am writing to give other writers ideas on how to create their species, I thought I’d throw that in. Of course, this is also ignoring emotions as no one knows when they evolved in our ancestors. For all we know our ancestors started out monogamous before they separated from the other apes and other species merely forgot such emotions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unifying the camp

With the camp came a sense of home and possessiveness. The family group the apes travelled in eventually realized the things needed for them to stay in one place for a while (access to the best plants, nearby water, animals nearby, good weather) and the different groups would fight for the land, even die for it. The webmaster thought this was against evolution (people willingly dying for a thing instead of just giving it up) but I disagree. Don’t parents in every species die to protect their children? By fighting, and yes even dying, for the camp they assured their offspring would be cared for well into the future by staying on the best land around. Now that the group had a stable home (sorta, they were still nomads who moved at least with the seasons and travelled with the herds), they were also getting united. In ape communities, they travel in smaller groups and most have multiple partners. That meant that the males could have any number of children to carry on their genes (evolution’s main purpose) and the females could mate with whoever was around. As we know, that didn’t last. However, males were individuals. They didn’t tend to mix well with groups. This worked well in hunting where most times it is a single male stalking an animal or it is a group of males some distance from each other herding a few animals somewhere. However, it doesn’t work so well in camps. We know that females often travel with other females and trade responsibilities for childrearing. (The pregnant ones that can’t move so well or the old ones can watch the ones that can’t walk or the rambunctious children while the mother gets dinner.) If the males want to get together with a female, it tends to help if the male is where the females gather, which in this case is around the central fire instead of a smaller one the males would sit around. (Even males now a days know that factor so it’s not too hard to realize some smart male figured it out centuries ago and the others decided to get in on his action.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

The formation of the camp

The ancestors of humans diverged from monkeys about three million years ago. I found it interesting to find that according to another Wikipedia site there were three or four other species that diverged from monkeys as well and are in the same subtribe but only humans exist of their ancestors. It could be thought that all the subtribes eventually mated into one subspecies, but I found no research suggesting that or what happened to those species. However, I did find information on how humans likely developed.
Apes travel in packs, though generally loose ones. They live in forests and are designed for moving about in the trees. Somewhere in our history our ancestors moved out of the forests to begin standing on two feet and they moved away from the plentiful forests. (That could be a byproduct of the Ice Age if their forests disappeared or didn’t produce enough food for the whole family.) Once out of the trees it was faster for the large apes to move and run on two legs than the uneven four legs so they became bipeds, as we are today. They also decided, somehow, that it was best to have a single location everyone congregated, or a camp. From there the apes could travel out to find food each day, mostly plants, and return to divide the food found among the whole camp, not just themselves as most apes do. The camps allowed for safety in numbers as well as somewhere to return. While the females went to pick and dig up plants while caring for or carrying their young, the more mobile males went hunting for animals farther away. When they came back they shared their meat with the camp and the days they brought nothing back they ate what the females and children had found that day. Eventually as the camp grew more meat was needed and they started hunting bigger animals and figured out tools to help them. Meanwhile the females were likely realizing that where small pieces of plants (seeds) fell, new plants grew and started to plant things so they wouldn’t have to journey so far each day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sentient Evolution

Now that you’ve created the planet and the nonsentient species on it you can start working on how your main species evolved. To find information on that, I inserted “cultural evolution” into Google and looked at a few sites. I am by no means an expert and didn’t plan to get deep into this, merely to give you a general idea of how humans are thought to have evolved from animals to the many cultures we now have. I quickly found out there are many theories on how society evolved, as mentioned on the Wikipedia site. (On a side note, this site is full of theories but rarely explained them. It’s a good site for a basic overview but is definitely not light reading. Be sure this is something you’re fascinated in or that you have some way to stay awake. It’s long and not written to be interesting, merely informative.) However, I got more understandable information from another site I found. Combining all the tidbits I picked up, my own ideas on how creatures would evolve, and the useful second site, I’ll give a simplified version of evolution of the main species on Earth: humans. This may give you an idea of how your species evolved or it may give you ideas of how your species is different from ours. Use it as you will, this is just a rough timeline.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

6 things to remember while creating a fictional planet

Planetary formation and why it's important
Why are minerals important?
Why should you have a topographical map created?
What are your climates and how many moons does it have?
What plants are on your planet?
What animals are around your setting?

With this section now done we can continue with how a sentient species evolves, or how humans think we evolved. It privides a good pattern to show how other species may have evolved.

As a bonus, here is a site I couldn't work into the other blogs but I think it is useful to anyone creating a planet. It's a site that tells you how things orbit and where everything is at the same time. You need Java script to use it and it is downloadable.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What animals are around?

Now that you have your planet mapped and your plants in position, you are almost ready to put your main species on it and start your story. First, however, you need to think about the animals on the planet. While it is theoretically possible to have a planet without animals, it would be pretty impossible for a sentient species to be the only moving things on your planet. You could always create a version of sentient plants but evolution says that before a sentient species can be created on a planet, other creatures would have evolved first. With that in mind, you need to think of what animals will populate your planet. If you want a list of animals to describe the species on your planet, look here. Things to keep in mind while you create these critters is that they probably need water, sunlight, and food to live and have probably adapted to their habitat (such as with the kangaroo who hops to save energy in the desert and who breathes while hopping by their organs bumping together. That pouch also allows the mother to go fast without the joey bouncing out or getting left behind.). You may want to start with the herbivores in each ecosystem before moving on to those that eat the herbivores who eat the plants. Each species is adapted to its environment as well as to its specific job or purpose in the ecosystem. Remember that and you will be able to play around with a number of ideas. If you need help coming up with ideas, here is a short list of the top 25 weirdest animals.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What plants are on YOUR planet?

So now we know the way your planet was created, what minerals are on your fictional planet, what your topography looks like and what your climate zones are. Now we can work on what plants are on your planet and where they are. To do that, pull out that topography map again and look at where your bodies of water are as well as your climatic zones. Plants are resilient little buggers and will grow almost anywhere. It helps if there is plenty of water around or the air is very humid, but plants adapt to climates like the desert and tundra by not needing a lot of water or growing places to hold water over long periods of time. Also, minerals in the soil are needed to combine with other elements around like water and sun to create plant food. The climate, light, and soil are very important for plants and if you plan to transplant certain plants, such as farming or gardening plants, remember that the new environment will be slightly different and the plant will not be the same, whether it be that the plants don’t grow as tall or don’t flower as often or any other difference that may occur do to the difference in the two. For a rather full list of plants humans use for farming and gardening, look here. Just remember as you decide to use Earth-like plants or invent your own that each plant must be successfully adapted to its original location or comment that the plant was unable to survive in the changing habitat it evolved in and people are trying to make it thrive elsewhere.
Once you have your plants decided and located, it’s time to think about your animals and where they belong.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why are moons and climate important?

When thinking about the climate on your fictional planet, it may be best to first decide on if you want a moon or if you want many. Theories have stated that if there was no moon, there would be little change in the tide as they are caused by the opposing gravities of Earth and our moon. The moon is also lengthening Earth’s day slightly over the centuries and stabilizing the axial tilt. Without the moon stabilizing the tilt, the weather patterns would be drastic as the seasons changed. Having a number of moons would make the planet rather unstable as the friction of the moons competing with each other and Earth’s gravity would cause friction heating the planet and the tides and weather would be erratic as well as the tectonic activity.
Once you’ve decided on how many moons your planet has, and how any differences could affect the fictional planet, the next step in your writing process will be to decide on the climatic zones. Take out your topography map and a few markers. If your planet is similar to Earth, get out six markers or highlighters. Climatic zones are decided by how the star’s rays hit the planet (as Earth is round, it takes longer for the rays to hit the poles than the Equator so it’s colder at the poles), How high up it is (heat may rise but higher air is thicker and doesn’t allow much space for particles to move and create heat), winds (cold winds cool the area while hot winds rise the temperature), distance from big bodies of water as they stabilize weather (think ocean effect on coasts or lake effect around the Great Lakes), and where the slope of the hill or mountain is facing towards the star or away from it. Earth’s six main climatic zones are: polar, temperate, arid, tropical, Mediterranean, and tundra. As it is your planet, you can add as many zones as you like or as few zones as you like, it would just help if it were scientifically possible as many science fiction readers these days know as more about science and real possibilities than ever before and nothing is worse than alienating readers by science they know to be impossible without an explanation somewhere.
Once you know the climate zones, we can take a look at what plants are on your planet in the next segment of how to create your fictional planet.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why is a topographical map important?

The next part of creating your planet for your fictional story will be creating a topographical map of your planet. This may sound easy, you think to just draw a map with a few squiggly lines then decide which gaps are land and which are water but I’m talking about a little more thought than that. First of all, remember the surface of a planet is always changing due to plate tectonics or the heat inside the planet moving to the exterior of the planet, expanding one ridge while pushing another area under the crust of the planet somewhere else. Knowing where those boundaries are can show where mountain ranges should be, where large canyons should be, where volcanoes are common, show things like probable locations for earthquakes, and where tidal waves are likely to go often.
Now that you know where your plates are, it should be easier to decide where your continents will be. Something to keep in mind is that on Earth science says that the continents were once one big continent. For that reason similar soils are found near coastal areas of different continents as are similar fossils. Another thing to consider is that humans only use about .08 percent of all water on the Earth and none of that is from the oceans as they are salt water. If you want to make fewer oceans, you may result in less rain so more deserts on your planet but you would have more landmass for your species to adapt to. It could also mean less marine life so there would be fewer fishermen and buying any kind of marine animal would be expensive. You could also think about making more usable water on your planet which could lead to faster technological evolution if water isn’t a problem. Imagine how much easier life would have been for the ancients if the ocean was fresh water. Then again, if they had plenty of fresh water on the coasts, would they have ventured inwards looking for a different life?
Once all these things are decided, you only have a few more steps before working on your species. The next step will be looking at where your climates are and what you need to decide about those.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why are minerals important to your story?

Granted, knowing the scientific reason your planet was created may not be all that important to your story, unless it was created for a purpose, but it can lead to what chemicals and minerals your planet is made of. Knowing what chemicals and minerals are on your planet is important because that is what creates life. A planet with no natural form of carbon is unable to create carbon based life forms, although life could still be created through another chemical or your species may have come from another planet somewhere in its history. Whether the people know that centuries later is up to you. Also knowing what minerals your planet has or doesn’t have can be helpful in figuring out what technology is made of and how it differs from human stuff in colors or strength or weight. Although you could merely assume your planet has the same minerals as Earth, here is where you can develop new chemicals or minerals to speed up the technological timeline so they got to space before humans or create things currently impossible on our planet.
Something else to consider when thinking about minerals is what your species needs to survive. Humans need seventy minerals in their diets to stay healthy throughout life. Those minerals humans get by eating plants that have soaked up those minerals from the soil they were raised in and each one is needed to balance all the minerals and chemicals in your body. Years of imbalance lead to degenerative diseases in old age or minor annoyances throughout one’s life. If you plan to have humans on your planet for whatever reason, it would be good to look at how the minerals and chemicals on your planet, or lack thereof, would affect the health of those humans. How do they adapt?
One last thing to think about today is how your planet’s gravity differs from Earth’s gravity. Although scientists argue about how gravity affects evolution, it is agreed that the planet could not exist without the gravity it has. A planet with less gravity would be held together a little looser and things may float around a more than on Earth, or more accurately, fall slower. A planet with stronger gravity may be smaller, more compact than Earth and everything on it not grow as tall. Also, humans would react differently to a different gravity and other species would react differently to our gravity if there’s differed.
Once all these things have been decided, we can think on topography and why to make a map of your planet, as we will in the next installment.