Worldbuildng: Creating a Galaxy

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Andromeda Galaxy in Ultra Violet; Courtesy of Nasa’s Hubble Telescope

Creating a Galaxy is a lot of work.

I’ve built worlds before, created histories and complex political structures, but the scale of creating a Galaxy is very different from focusing on a small section of land and the few countries that make up the boundaries of its population. A Galaxy is far more vast a scale, filled with colorful aliens that push the boundaries of understanding, and planets that humans could never inhabit.

Going into this, I thought it would be more of the same. I’ve read a bit of space fantasy in my life, so I’m used to that kind of world building, with single biome worlds and straightforward political structures. My favorite space fantasy of all time has a very simple structure and, at least in its cinematic versions, a very rigid line drawn between good and evil. Because my story started out as an adaption of characters I had played in an MMO set in that universe, I thought that my universe might turn out similarly.

It turns out I underestimated my characters.

To date, the construction of this Galaxy has been the most difficult world building experience of my life. The politics have taken more of a front seat than I ever though they would when I first started on this journey. Back then, I thought space battles and The Spark, my Galaxy’s version of magic, would be the most important things in the universe. They’re still front and center, but at the core of the Galaxy are the people I’ve created and the complex network of beliefs that they’ve become enmeshed in.

My first concepts of this Galaxy involve the good Matriarchal Empire and the evil Oligarchy, and in between a corrupt Republic founded on good morals, a loose Federation of planets founded in trade that deal in everything from slaves to starships, and the Autocracy, where humans settled in hopes of reclaiming their suspected homeworld. In these sectors of the Galaxy, there were ice worlds, desert worlds, jungle worlds, and worlds with suns of different colors. Many of my aliens were simple, and I did not give much thought to the evolutionary process, though I did try to match the aliens to the sort of world it seemed most likely they’d evolve on.

Since then, the Matriarchal Empire has become more flawed, in spite of its support of basic rights and freedoms for all its citizens. Though this is very much the one sector of the Galaxy I would most like to live, it is still inhabited with complex characters and faces issues of its own. Over time, they have become more militaristic as they have gained more power, and the other two founding species, the Hewel and the Tache (who do not have matriarchal societies) have come to have less say in the government. There is certainly corruption afoot, as there would be in any expanding Empire, even if that Empire was partially governed by a representative body.

On the other hand, the Oligarchy, which has since become the Union of Ryll, is still a very corrupt place, rife with slavery and social stratification. Its history, however, is interesting, founded by a people whose expansionist tendencies were bred on a world that was trying to kill them, their conquering fueled by a desire for unification in a Galaxy that was new and foreign to them. It is from the Union where most of my protagonists hail, not the Empire, and though I haven’t really been able to think of a reason why that might be yet, it certainly is a bit of a change from what I was expecting. After all, I would have expected my own space fantasy to more clearly reflect the space fantasy of my youth.

Even my Aliens have become more complex, and more and more the focus of a story in which they are the majority of Galactic Citzens, where Humans are the minority in spite of their adaptability and presence in every sector of the Galaxy. Their evolutionary adaptations make more sense, and suit the planet and culture that they came from, but at the same time their species have all changed since being introduced to the wider Galaxy, influenced by the leap to Intergalactic interactions. I won’t claim complete scientific accuracy, this isn’t science-fiction, but I do think I can claim some level of believability.

My Galaxy continues to expand the more writing I do. As I sit with my almost completed first novel, I realize that the scale of this project can only increase, that with each word and each interaction, I am building a complete system. It’s strange to think that something I’ve made has started to develop such a life of its own, especially when I haven’t felt this way about a project in close to a decade now, but I’m certainly not complaining.

If my Galaxy wants to expand, I’m going to let it, even if I’m the one in control at the end of the day.

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