I apologize for how long this post has taken to be posted. While I’d love to figure out a way to do URS work full time, life, the universe, and everything can sometimes play a role in whether or not I can get around to it. Still… here it is, and I hope you enjoy.
In my previous blog posts, I keep referring to the “history” of the Unified Republic of Stars story world. What is this history and, more importantly, how can it be history if it hasn’t even happened yet?
The simple answer is that the history of the world is what’s called a “future history”. It’s a series of events that may or may not take place at sometime in the future but, for the purposes of telling a story set within the URS world, it’s assumed to have happened. So, in other words, it’s entirely made up.
But don’t let this fool you. Just because it’s made up doesn’t mean that it’s not “lore”. Everything that in A Short History of the Unified Republic of Stars and A History of the Age of War are and should be assumed to be real, factual, and for certain. This is because the story world of the URS depends on certain events happening when they do. If the colonies don’t break away in 2169 then the Battle for the Republic can’t happen a few years later. Same thing with the events during the time of the New Age of Morality Act.
Mostly though, these events are required so that when a writer or creator bases their story at a given time in the world certain things can be assumed about the backstory. And that’s one aspect of the story world URS has got. Tons and tons of backstory.
A personal example of how I used this myself when writing a novel (that will one day see the light of day).
My main character was escaping the moon of Gelassenheit around 2050-ish. But the world around her and the people that she encountered were informed by the current events of the day. A Recovery Specialist character that I had following her (or more truthfully her father) had a conversation at one point with a friend of his at the Shaanxi Colonial Bond Corporation. An IPO was in the offing in the near future and they speculate about how well the company will do in the future because of the legal status of the colonies.
They debate whether the colonies will ever get organized enough to get independence or whether Earth will ever let them. The one thing they can both agree on is that with the UN “so far away” both of them have job security for a long, long time.
The purpose of this little exchange is twofold: First, it helps set the scene. What are politics like in 2050-ish? In this case, there’s a little talk about possible independence but none of the excitement that will come a decade later. Secondly, it shows that there is a world much larger than the characters themselves. They are effected by forces well outside their control.
I may be accused of harping on the same topic over and over again but, to me as a storyteller, the second point is especially important. Too many sci-fi worlds in stories and books appear to blink into existence on the first page and end on the last as if its sole reason for existing is so the main character may act as they did.
I believe that this does the reader a disservice. It tells them that the events of the story have no consequences. That they can walk away from the story and that nothing has changed.
My preferred choice is to leave the reader wondering how the world, a continuing world, has been effected by the actions of the story. The next time they read something set in the world, will it still be reverberating from the last story? Could the character re-appear? What were the consequences?
By establishing a “history” for the world both readers and creators can be certain that certain things will happen so that the characters in a given story can be effected by it and perhaps even play a part in bringing that event around. After all, major events in history very rarely come about because of one person. And it is by using this made up history that one can weave their stories within it.