Resources for the world-building of Hard-SF aliens, planets, and tech

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Francis Buck

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« on: June 06, 2014, 03:51:34 am »
So, as many of you know, I'm an aspiring writer. While I always have one particular project I'm working on, I also have several – three in particular – projects that are sort of long in the making, things I work on for fun but don't intend to actually WRITE until later on, in the way that Tolkien or RSB worked on their respective series for years before finally jumping in and writing it. The three series in particular are an epic fantasy saga, a semi-near future sci-fi trilogy (later 21st century), and a two-part “hard space opera” of sorts taking place at least a thousand years in the future. It is that last one, a duology tentatively titled Anthropica, that I'm primarily making this thread for.

NOTE: Even though this topic is ostensibly about writing, the actual content of it is, in my opinion, more scientifically inclined, at least in so far as the nature of the information I'm seeking. I'm seeking advice more on hypothetical sciences than I am in actual writing advice.

The thing is, even though I love sci-fi media (and science in general), I've never really immersed myself in the genre, the way I have with fantasy for example, until recently. The purpose of this thread, for me, is to seek out resources and reading material on the writing of hard sci-fi, particularly far future stuff.

In particular, I want to learn more about the world-building process behind celestial bodies, things like what types of planets could exist, what their days and nights (or neither) would be like, what their solar systems them could be like, the types of ecosystems that would exist on such planets with different conditions from our own, the effects of gravity and faster than light travel...all that kind of stuff, of which my knowledge ranges from “fairly decent” to “no clue”.

More than anything else though, I'm dedicate to accuracy, even if so much of its hypothetical.

The other part of this is aliens and alien biology – and I emphasize the word alien here. I'm actually a little better at this, in the sense of creating what I think are compelling intelligent alien species with unique biology/psychology, but I also put the horse in front of the cart a little bit because I don't know enough about hypothetical planetary formation/ecology and it's ramifications on the life that evolved there. So, in a sense, I'm working backwards: starting with an interesting alien and then creating a planet that suits them. Obviously I'm open to an enormous amount of tweaking and massive changes to what I have in general (again, I don't intend on writing this duology any time soon, I just enjoy doing world-building and basic planning of epic stories like this has a hobby, which I almost consider separate from the hobby of actively writing a particular project – they're different things for me, until they're not, I.E. until I actually start writing them for real).

I know there are things like “solar system calculators” and such online that can sort of poop out information sets on a hypothetical planet, and I've got a few of those already, but I'm just curious if anyone here has some input on this. Good websites, forums, wikis, general advice, anything.

Like I said, even though I've always loved science fiction in a broad sense (movies, video games, my own writing), I've really only recently begun dipping my toes in actual sci-fi literature, stuff like Dune and Hyperion – works which are in some ways similar and inspirational to the basic idea I'm going for, though my universe has much more advanced tech in it than either of those (though it exists along with the idea of almost “third-world” planets where civilization is a strangely backwards and exhibits modern concepts that are even now outdated, such as feudalism or pseudo-medieval warfare). Plus, you know, several important alien civilizations.

So yeah, kind of hard to put into words exactly what I'm looking for here, but hopefully some of you kinda get the picture. Any and all help is appreciated!

P.S. Of course, great sci-fi literature recommendations are welcome as well. After I finish The Fall of Hyperion, I intend on checking out the Culture series Iain M. Banks.

Somnambulist

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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2014, 05:36:32 am »
Hey, FB.  There's a British author named Peter F. Hamilton who does some pretty great SF.  Alien cultures and hard sci-fi concepts, paired with pretty great stories.  They tend toward the epic, but if you have the time they might be well worth it for you.  I would recommend The Night's Dawn trilogy (six books, really, as they're so long each had to be split into two volumes): The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God.  Next, not nearly as long, but well worth the read is a duology comprised of Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained.  He also has a standalone called Fallen Dragon.  He has a lot of other stuff, but I haven't read it all, so can't recommend one way or the other.
No whistling on the slog!