Another sci-fi writer on Twitter asked a good question recently. Shouldn’t we sci-fi writers call it Universe Building rather than World Building because world-building sounds limiting? The answer is yes! There’s a lot to think about in a sci-fi universe, not just worlds. I’ve spent over four years writing my sci-fi. And in the process, I’ve built up quite a lot of information. Here are some things I’ve thought about in my Universe Building.
Types of Transportation – Consider land transportation, atmospheric aircraft, spaceships, and other travel types such as sky elevators or teleportation devices. Don’t forget other types of travel if your sci-fi subgenre is steampunk. Each of these types can be broken down further depending on your universal needs. For example, spaceships can be broken down into cargo ships, space fighters, transport ships, military ships, and more. I have even gone so far as to map the layout of certain ships. For example, my warship has docking bays, living areas, the bridge, engine rooms, a tac room (for tactical exercises), and even a tavern of sorts.
Method of Space Travel – If you have people traveling from planet to planet, you need to think about how they are getting there. Some creative ways other writers have broken or bent the universal speed limit is with hyperdrives, FTL drives, and warp drives. Perhaps travelers go through wormholes, bend spacetime, travel through subspace, or go through a stargate. Do some research and see if you can come up with your own creative way of travel.
Time to Travel – Consider whether travel through space is instantaneous or whether it takes days, weeks, months, or even years to get from one destination to another. You can ignore the fact that people traveling space will experience time differently than people staying in one place, or you can write this difference in your story as part of the plot.
People – Consider whether your sci-fi world will all be human, full of humanoids, or have bizarre aliens. You can also consider artificial beings such as robots, androids, and other AI beings. Take your people a step further by coming up with social structures. Your civilians may be divided into politicians, scientists, workers, and so on while your military personnel will have a military hierarchy. Your people may also have various types of super-abilities, be cyborgs, or wear enhancement gear.
Animals – Consider what types of animals or other non-sentient beings will occupy your world. Do your people have pets? Are there dangerous animals to watch out for on planets? Maybe your world will have giant space creatures or your ships will have infestation problems from rat-like or insect-like creatures.
Planets – Creating different types of planets can be fun. You can have desert worlds, water worlds, volcanic worlds, and more. Not all the planets in your story have to be habitable. In fact, most planets will not be. You can have gas giants, rocky planets, and other types of planets. Also, think about enclosed colonies where people can’t live in the planet’s natural atmosphere but live under domes instead. Maybe they even live underground.
Other Communities – People won’t just live on planets or in spaceships. They might live on a moon or on an asteroid. People could also live on space stations. Don’t forget to think about gravity when you think about where people live!
Weaponry – If your sci-fi has people using weapons, think about the different types of weapons they might use. There are hand-held weapons as well as weapons on spaceships. Will those weapons be the standard aim-and-shoot, fire-and-forget, or will there be other types of weapons such as mines or biological weapons? Consider land-based weapons, projectile weapons, weapons shot by satellites in space, space mines, and so on. Hey, maybe some people will fight with swords made of energy.
Technology – This is probably one of the most important things to consider in Universe Building. Consider nanite technology, robots and androids, manufacturing machines, mining machines, weapons, communications devices, scanners, emitters, medical devices, and so on.
There’s a lot to think about in Universe Building. Hopefully, this will get you started. Universal Building might sound tedious, but it can also be a fun way to stir the imagination!
Can you think of other things to consider in Universe Building?