Happy 21st day of NaNoWriMo! If you’re all caught up you should be at 35,007 words! If you’re not up to that point, don’t feel bad! Even if you only get a few thousand words written this month it’s a few thousand more than you had.
Today let’s go over building up Science in our new world. Whether it’s applied or ignored, science, or lack thereof, plays an important role in society. I’m sure I’m forgetting something in here, but as usual I’ll go back and add anything I may have left out. Let’s get started! 😀
How advanced is your society? Is it a fantasy setting with peasants drinking from the well or a science fiction with your characters living in a spaceship? Whatever the case there needs to be science and technology to go with it. You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to come up with an explanation for how your water recycles and filtrates on your spaceship. The internet is the world’s knowledge at your fingertips and worst case scenario, you can always ask an engineer for help somewhere!
How prevalent and influential is religion in the scientific community? What are accepted theories by religious leaders? Are there any? Does the local religion shut down any scientific teachings in schools? Do they forbid certain things to be taught because it conflicts with the teachings of their religion? Sound familiar? How does this apply in your new world? How do the highest branches of religion and science collide or work together?
I plan on going into more detail in another World Building blog for medicine, but for now let’s see how it fits into science. How advanced is your medicine? Also consider why your medicine is so advanced. It’s common in times of war that medicine advances quite a bit compared to peaceful times. Sometimes a scientist makes a startling discovery because their loved one suffered from a specific ailment. Consider what medicine exists and why it does.
Weapons, machines, armor, you name it and science is behind its creation. For example, the H-bomb was built by scientists. How does the military weaponize your science? Consider also the application of medicine on the go. Are there any secret projects being worked on? Are any of the people working on new weapons having conflicting guilt? Are there some working on weapons and armor to save lives rather than to end them? Are these inventions on a mass scale in the hands of every soldier? Or is there just one or two and in the hands of the top brass only?
Explorers abounds! There’s a reason these people were minor celebrities in the old days. Just think of Pixar’s UP! and it calls to mind that era. To me exploratory scientists are still celebrities. What parts of your world are undiscovered? Are there any ancient civilizations beneath the farmer’s fields? Is the spaceship your character on like the Enterprise and exploring new life and civilizations? Sometimes the reason the human race has branched out to each corner of our little planet is in the name of exploration. What science has enabled them to do so? What has helped them to live in impossible environs and to push further?
This can include the study of weather and seasons. Do they have a weatherman? Are there tremors in the valley and while the local populace believes it’s the anger of the gods, one woman believes it to be natural causes? What do your scientists know about the planet and how it works? Do they know what causes natural disasters? Or do they live in fear of the gods?
Studying celestial bodies, whether to worship them or understand them, has been around for as long as we have. Our fascination with the heavens is the center of many things religion and science. What does your world know about astronomy? Do they have telescopes yet? Or are they in a spaceship passing by the planets we can only dream about? Do they understand gravity or what stars are made of? Do they know how the moon(s) affects the tides in the ocean? And do they use any of this understanding to their advantage?
Scientists & Branches
Take the time to name some specific scientists in your world. An example of one is Newt Scamander from the world of Harry Potter. Not only did J.K. Rowling write an entire textbook by this person, but in doing so opened a whole new possibility for stories surrounding him. It’s a perfect example of the more you build the more organic other stories of the world will come to you. Think of the most brilliant discoveries for your world and accredit each of them to a person, be they scientist or not.
What branches of science are there in your world? In our own we have natural sciences, formal sciences, and social sciences which then all open up into dozens more subjects. If your world has magic there will be a scientist or expert for that if it applies. If you have a whole new field to introduce, there will still be a speicalist in that field.
Who decides what’s accepted and what’s not? Is there a board of certified peers? Who is the deciding voice on what’s real and what isn’t? Who leads the group of scientists on the local or global or solar scale? Who do your scientists making discoveries and writing papers report to? Who’s approval do they seek? Are there any journals, schools, publications, or boards that make a conglomerate of scientific approval?
What universities or places of learning can your future scientists go to? Are they establishment or legacy schools? Do they teach the old ways or the new? Are they ever evolving with scientific discovery or frothing in archaic notions? What are your institutes of higher education like? A haven for exploration or a place in which to learn old customs? Of course there can be more than one. Consider having the top five on file. There can be rivalries between the schools of thought. Are any of them backed by government or religious authority? Instead of a school perhaps there are specific mentors students must study under.
What inventions and science have furthered the entertainment industry? The printing press allowed for the common man to get his hands on literature. The radio allowed for listeners to enjoy radio shows, news, and music from their living rooms. Need I even mention television and movies?
Tools & Labs
What instruments do your scientists use to get their work done? What do they use to measure and record? Do they have clean labs like now or do they work in a rented room above the inn? What do your scientists have to work with? How does that influence what they’re able to create and discover?
Scientific controversy can come in many forms. Sometimes a scientist is brilliant, but because of their controversial background or past mistakes their work is completely disregarded whether or not it’s right. Sometimes a scientist can bamboozle the public into believing something that isn’t true with a false study. Sometimes scientists just want to make money and sell snake oil by the millions to give society a false hope. What unscrupulous scientists are there in your world? Do people automatically believe them because they possess a doctorate in something? Do they have a degree in biology but claim to be an expert in electrical engineering?
Hypothesis vs Theory
What motions do your scientists have to go through for their work to be accepted? Peer review? Publication? Approval from the authority mentioned above? What sets their work from hypothesis to an accepted theory? What sort of hoops do they have to jump through? How many studies with consistent results does it take? Does it only come from their work or do they have to be in the right social circles as well?
Do any scientists get jailed for their theories? Are they burned at the stake for saying the Earth revolves around the sun? Do they clash with the local government or religious leaders? Do they become political prisoners after refusing to work on a bomb? Do they stand up to big corporations? There are many ways your scientists can clash with authority and end up on the other side of the bars. If not end up dead as a result. They can become martyrs and heroes in their own right. Society isn’t always receptive to new and different ideas. History proves that.
Wagons, spaceships, and cars are all inventions. Harnesses and saddles and reins for horses. A scientist doesn’t have to come up with all of the inventions, by the way, as everyday people make new things all the time. Think about it, if your society hasn’t discovered metal crafting their wagons and wheels and ships won’t have the same or as many working parts as those that have. Their efficiency would suffer as well as durability. Where science is in your society can affect everything.
If you have magic in your world consider whether it can have a scientific application to it. Now, of course magic can be a chaotic beast that’s hard to control, or a precise application of an element. I plan to go into more detail on magic later, but for now consider if there are any experts in magic and what their role is. Is there documentation and procedures or does one have to have a mentor that can help the character find their own process?
How does the public view science? Is it popular? Do they fear it? Do they hate it because it doesn’t agree with their principles or religion? Do they worship it in place of a god? Are your scientists heroes or villains in their world? How does the average person view you science? Consider that views can change from country to country and culture to culture.
What are subjects that may seem like real science but are fake? In your new world, perhaps herbs do nothing but act as a placebo. Even magic can be a “fake science” that dupes people into giving them their money. What are your sciences that have charismatic defenders, but in fact falls short of any hard evidence or data?
Ethics & Studies
When your scientists, or whoever, conducts experiments is there an ethics committee or someone to oversee the protection of subjects involved? What are the rules, if any, that keep mad people from experimenting out of sadistic need rather than scientific discovery? What regulations are in place for studies and experiments? What code of conduct? Do your subjects, if sentient, have to sign waivers? Are there any animal cruelty protections for those who aren’t sentient? This can also vary by country and culture.
Profit, Patents, & Copyright
Consider the legalities of science, especially if it’s in an advanced society. Some scientists profit from their discoveries and inventions while others have forgone the patent because they just wanted to help the world. Consider who has a patent or holds copyright on what.
Lastly, how do the scientific developments in your community affect it? Is there always clean drinking water and therefore a healthier population on average? Has a marvelous person developed an advance food replicator that has eradicated world hunger? Has a mad woman created a machine that extracts all water from the air and dominates who can and can’t drink? Science can cause either the post-apocalypse or utopia of your world.
Until Next Time…
I love science. Even in a world that may seem underdeveloped it has its place in the background. For more inspiration on science and those who are behind it, check out the series Cosmos (both new and original), StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Scientific American to get started. There are thousands of resources to check out, but those are good for someone just getting into it. If you’re doing science fiction many physicists discuss the future and what technologies may or may not be available in the future if you need inspiration with some science to back it up. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist who has several books out where he contemplates future technologies.
Also, for an example of how science can go horribly wrong when ethics aren’t involved, look up Nazi human experimentation and Josef Mengele, but only if you have a strong stomach. It’s not light reading or for the faint of heart. It can be disturbing. It’s dark and inhumane.
Science is, for the most part, a wonderful thing. Most scientists and inventors work to make the world a better place to live and believe in. Now, keep up that world building and keep up that word count for NaNoWriMo! I believe in you! 😀
Dragon Bloode: Covet is available everywhere ebooks are sold.
Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine
Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names