Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shared World project



Today on Twitter, Brandon Bell (@nithska) made a suggestion that I think is terrific: that some future issue of M-Brane be devoted to tales set in a shared world, the nature of which will be determined collaboratively by whoever wants to get involved in it. The world itself would be an open-source, Creative Commons-license thing that anyone could work in. Go read Brandon’s blog post about this and then come back here. I’ll wait for you…

…So, what do you think? I like this idea a lot, and I am inclined to reserve the complete space in an M-Brane issue for the results of this. Perhaps #12 (January 1 2010) would be a good time for it. I have nothing already booked that far out, and it would leave a few months for the world-building and story-writing.

At this very early stage, maybe a good way to proceed is for people to start thinking about what kind of interesting, fun, weird, compelling traits that a new world could have and start posting some thoughts in the comments here. My guess is that some natural conversation will develop and people will play off each other’s ideas and, after a week or two, we might have the beginnings of something. We might even want to think about some questions that need to be answered about the new world and use those as starting points. I will label this post and any future posts related to this project with the label “Shared World” so that it will be easy to recall them together if it eventually gets to where there are a lot of posts about this spread out over a long time. I could easily set up another page just for this, but I’ll let it get started here and over at Brandon’s page and we’ll see how it goes.

One other thing: if this special Shared World issue of M-Brane happens, I will not act as the editor of it in the sense of personally selecting its content in the way that I normally do for a regular issue. We’ll instead arrive at some other way to put it together—don’t know what yet, but it will get figured out. I can also imagine doing a lot of promotion of the issue by posting stories or story teasers on everyone’s blogs and maybe coming up with some stuff in other media like podcasts, visual art, videos, operas, whatever.

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40 comments:

Rick Novy said...

I think this could be fun, but if I were in your shoes, I would not make it a regular edition of M-Brane SF but rather a special edition. The licensing proposed is totally different from what the rest of the 'zine is published under.

Secondly, you might consider having the special issue be by invitation.

Rick Novy said...

P.S. I was planning to eventually use that picture of Europa for the Mirror.

Christopher Fletcher said...

Yeah, Europa, one of my faves. BTW, I knew what that Mars image was in the earlier episode of the Mirror and forgot to ever contact you with my guess.

As to the licensing with the shared world issue vs. the regular zine, I don't know if it matters much as long as the stuff is tagged properly with the correct Creative Commons identifiers, but I need to learn more about that.

southernweirdo said...

Sounds really fun and interesting. I'd love to play that little game.

But, I agree with Rick. You may want to make it a seperate entity from M-Brane altogether. Perhaps a website where everyone signs in with a password to play and then cull from the stories there for a quarterly POD anthology?

That could be a lot of work for one guy. You'd want to get some volunteers to help moderate, and need someone with tech skills to help get that ball rolling.

derekjgoodman said...

Ooh, ooh, can I play?

I think a good question to start us off with our Shared World is which world? Earth? Alternate History Earth? Some different real planet? Fake planet? And I assume we're keeping this in the realm of sci-fi, not crossing over into other genres, right?

Christopher Fletcher said...

Yeah, good idea Derek. Let's get some suggestions for a world. I suppose it could even be a multi-world universe. I'll just throw out a couple ideas right now, but lets try to amass a lot of them: Alternate history Earth where computers and space travel developed centuries earlier than they did in our world; Alternate Earth where alien contact happened a long time ago; Maybe a terraformed other planet in our solar system in the far future; Maybe an exo-planet in another solar system; maybe regular Earth but in far future.

I guess as far as the genre thing, it doesn't bother me if we encroach into other genres. I was going to say in the original post that I was willing to relax my usual sf rigidity for this thing since it's a collaboration. But I'd be interested in hearing what others think. I'll say that I certainly lean in the sf direction and would rather not see it go off in a purely magical fantasy direction, but let's see how it goes.

Christopher Fletcher said...

Oh, also, I'll probably try to start keeping track of ideas for stuff in some kind of list or spreadsheet as they come in and maybe periodically distill it into some kind of organized summary so that we can easily see what we have as time passes.

Christopher Fletcher said...

One other thing before I go to bed: what Rick said and TJ seconded about having it be a separate thing rather than an issue in the regular run of M-BRANE... yeah maybe, but we don't need to worry about it too much on the first day. I'm fine working with the existing infrastructure for now but, yeah, if it spins out into a bigger thing than I am picturing, then we'll adjust. Also, I'd rather see first if we can even devise the shared world in the first place and get a first project, such as the special zine issue, done before proposing an ongoing publication, etc. But, hey, if it turns into that, then that's cool too.

I'm at day job tomorrow (Wednesday) and probably won't check back here until I get home from that, but feel free, y'all, to keep throwing in some input here, and I'll catch up tomorrow evening.

Nithska said...

Re the last two posts, it may just ease any confusion to make the issue titled M-Brane SF presents: Name of World. Include a short blurb on the inside explaining the license and that it applies to the world, the stories based on that world, but no other M-Brane issues or endeavors unless otherwise noted.
Easy-peasy. I think you do want to still apply your editorial vision in terms of accepting stories/ sending story invitations if you go that route. Man, I have a lot of opinions. Sorry. :) Maybe Scalzi or Stross could be approached to write an intro or comment on the final group of stories since, I think, they've released some copylefted stories.

Nithska said...

Just to get a preliminary format out there, here is my first suggestion.

Name of World/Setting: Mendicant, Monster
The aliens arrive and they are a post organic species seeking to hasten the human technological singularity. Organic life either gives birth to real life, or it dies: this is their general POV.
2500 years ago a mendicant was attacked by a rakshasa, a dark creature loosely analogous to the vampire. After being turned into one of these dark creatures via this attack, he approached his lord who essentially sends him out into the night as a sort of buddhist monk to the night things. He comes to lead a small band of similar creatures, who must feed on blood to live but have taken precepts to harm no living thing.

When the aliens come, the night things, the bad ones, come out into the daylight to battle with the aliens. They are parasites to humanity and the alien's agenda threatens their existence.

The dark mendicants establish an uneasy alliance with the aliens and their human collaborators to subdue the night things.

Rules:

The Mendicant's story itself will be established and thus can be referred to but not the subject of your story. Stories should take place sometime during the arrival, the pact, or the events that follow.
No story shall eradicate any faction. We are seeing the battles that take place, not the end of the war, which the reader will perceive as just beginning for the most part.

None of these goups, with the exception of the Mendicant, is monolithic. The aliens and the night-things are as various in their philosophy, ethnicity, etc. as their human counterparts. The dark monks number in dozens and among there are varying opinions and views as one may expect.

The monks are not jedis or shao-lin monks. they are not fighters in the traditional sense. The night things tend to operate along their own very specific ethical lines that the monks are familiar with and exploit to their advantage.

A monk could be portrayed as being able to defend them self, but would not choose to do even a night-thing mortal or grievous harm.

The alien technology is more advanced than ours but 'just the other side of the singularity', i.e. they have drones or individuals who still function at a level a solitary human can relate to and communicate with. ON the higher end are strange and multifarious intelligences who are doing odd things out in the Jovian system and the asteroid belt.

Despite the existence of the night things, the underlying rationale of the world is scientific. There is no magic per se, though it might look that way to us humans. Suffice to say, some of these night-things might be the naturally occurring analog to the post-organic aliens. Some of them you night know by name from your prayers at night.

Exceptions/Caveats:

none that I can think of

Time frame:

near future. We might have people on moon/mars, asteroid belt, and Jovian system. Some stories could take place in those settings, but the bulk of the action would be on earth or on the alien ships.

Questions:

Does a scenario like this need a timeline of the struggle and a predetermined outcome? Maybe. If anything from this suggestion is used, I think this is a critical question to answer.

Why is this a good shared world concept:

I think it has appeal across different reader types, from the dark, horror tropes to easy to recognize alien invasion motifs... but updated with a more plausible invader and one that is more interesting than the marauding buggers we usually get in these stories.

Boundaries:

Play by the rules of physics, allowing for the existence of these unknown races. If you can imagine a tech way for something to happen, then cool to have the night things able to do that too.

No shaggy gods / deus ex machina.

You can create a monk follower of the Mendicant as your main character. You can also have aliens as characters. If you make them humanoid, let it be an intentional construct to relate better with humans.
----

derekjgoodman said...

What if there was an alternate Earth where space travel happened a long time ago and it was discovered that some nearby planet (Mars?) really was suitable for people to live on. Then you could have the colonization angle set against major history events like the Cold War and the Civil Rights movement.

Just a thought.

Nithska said...

I like the historical setting idea. What about a space-faring Greek or Byzantine civilization?

brandon h said...

Name of World/Setting: not sure of name

Ancient Egypt has an industrial revolution which occurs some time later in Greece, so that after a few more centuries, you have Greece and Egypt as dominant technological superpowers.

Between the extremely stable (8000 year old? I think) Egyptian civilization, and the Greek thinkers, this is not too far-fetched an idea.
---

couple this with one of these scenarios:

--alien contact.

--Mars & or Venus are living worlds with civilizations.

--The earth and moon float in a Niven style gas torus, and thus you have settlement of the moon and apollo-amor asteroids.

Rules:

apart from the hsitorical changes/ changes to solar system, everything else functions as we understand it.

if the mars/vensu scenario is included, cultures for those planets should be expounded upon.

a rough history of post industrial Greece and Egypt should be worked out.

Exceptions/Caveats:

There may be a far east power like China that also goes through this revolution. Or perhaps one of the meso-american civs.

Time frame:

Approx 2000 years ago.

Questions:

non that I can think of right now.

Why is this a good shared world concept:


pretty open for anything, while tapping into the same vein that I think makes steampunk stories fun.

Boundaries:

for the sake of making this a shared world in which others can write, no killing off one civilization or power. One or another may be in decline, but it will be a long slow time in which there is stil a lot of grandeur, whatever the focus of your story.

derekjgoodman said...

So far I'm really digging Brandon H's idea.

Neil said...

I've got to go along with what Brandon has come up with so far - there are some interesting and extremely plausible, as well as believable, ideas, plots etc.
The aliens with their seemingly superior intellect look to further human existence by sharing technology, promoting their ethics, codes of conduct etc but come up against a rogue species (the night things, the bad ones). This is something I like.
The superpowers of Ancient Egypt and Greece - do they suffer a cataclysmic event which brings them to their knees? Do the aliens have a hand in this? Are the night things more ancient then previously thought - our Ancestors?

Nithska said...

Just fyi... when I post during the day i have to use the brandon account for various reasons. Doesn't really matter but thought I would mention it.

Christopher Fletcher said...

I like a lot of stuff about both of these premises that Brandon has suggested. I need a minute to soak it in, and then I might have some more questions or suggestions. A question about a detail: which Niven thing employes a gas torus? Is that in the Smoke Ring? Anyway, it's an awesome idea. (Also, in the Mendicant scenario, I dig the use of the term rakshasa for the dark things because, coincidentally, I use that same word in my novel-in-progress at one point for a very different purpose, to describe a dangerous telepathic phenomenon that the characters encounter.)

Well, it seems so far we have some cool ideas cooking. I'll try to add something constructive to the discussion when my brain starts functioning again--recovering from long tiring day today.

Christopher Fletcher said...

Another random thought re: the Earth/Moon neighborhood being in a gas torus that allows habitation of the Moon etc: depending on how huge this torus is, there could even be cities/giant space stations out at the Lagrange points, or possibly orbiting cities closer into Earth. Due to the torus, they could even be "open air" things--kind of reminds me of that DeLaurentiis FLASH GORDON film where the "moons" of Mongo were depicted as these chunky, irregular things hanging in the sky and reachable by atmospheric craft.

More random thoughts: Maybe the other colonized planets, like Mars and Venus, at some point came more under the sway of one of the Terran super powers than the other, or maybe they have cultures wildly different than any of the Earth-based ones. Exiles?

Things I like: multi-planet (including moons, etc.) civilization, wide diversity of cultures, alien contact, post-humanity, techno-singularity. No, I don't have any coherent thoughts yet.

Seems like if we go with the Greece/Egypt/etc. prehistory of the world, that we ought to do some research into real history and figure out what and why the point of divergence from "real" history happens as a starting point to figuring out more of the world's backstory. It's really a pretty radical alternate history concept since the divergence needs to happen so long ago if it's to involve these particular civilizations: it changes everything from a point quite distant in the past. It brings to mind Robinson's novel YEARS OF RICE AND SALT. I have not actually read it yet, though I have a copy of it waiting for me. It's an alternate history-based thing where Europe never comes out of the Dark Ages because the plague kills off pretty much everyone. This results in Christian church Euro dominance of the world never taking place. This opens room for Islamic Arabs and the Chinese to dominate the world ever after. Anyway, if we go with this alternate history plan, it would be awesome if we could identify something that could plausibly have happened differently to change things. It would need to occur far enough back that Greece is still flourishing and therefore well prior to the rise of Rome.

Nithska said...

thoughts on Chris' last post:

I think there are key nodes for really great story ideas, the most obvious being, what started the industrial revolutions. A bit of research into either culture and I bet there is a wealth of stuff to bounce this concept off of. Incidentally, I'm thinking you should act in your normal editorial way and if we go with this, to let it be known that this 'node' is open for stories and once you get the right story, it becomes cannon, and the basic facts the story presents made known (not the story itself, of course).

There is evidence of old batteries from back then, probably used to -can't think of the word- coat stuff with gold. Extrapolate. They knew about screws, levers, steam.... extrapolate. What if Egypt, which was essentially so conservative of their basic culture that they kept it going for all that time, had renaissance, leading to engines and such. Mechanized constructs to help in building and in war. If they moved on the Greek states, they might have united and sought to match the technology, or do it one better.

I think you just have a few minds that are probably already present in history make a few extra mental leaps, and then provide them a means to see their ideas made real. Greece and Egypt must certainly be at war, and here is more story fodder.

The chances that there is plant life on the moon in the torus scenario seems fair. That being the case, and given some advances in lens tech, Verne-like dreams of trips to the moon should follow. If vegetation changes the color of the moon, maybe that isn't even needed.

circumnavigation of the smoke torus might be the race that follows the space race. And would they call it a space race?

If we start from this base, what are the other elements that should be included? Aliens, Mars &/or Venus... habitable or inhabited? Some of this could become too much. I'd be apt to think that we focus on the human cultures and how earth/moon system are diff... maybe the final tales could lead up to an alien incursion where the two powers must unite or perish...

first group of stories: outlines how the world is diff in terms of torus, etc., and how the cultures come to high tech so fast.

Second group of stories: use this as backdrop for .. whatever.

Final stories: introduce new element(s) that threatens status quo and perhaps leaves open future stories in setting.

B

Christopher Fletcher said...

Re: Brandon's last comment...OK I'll act in my normal editorial way in large part, at least as far as keeping a hand on the tiller, so to speak, and filling the necessary organizational role. When I suggested that I would probably NOT edit the project in the sense of personally selecting all of the content for the special issue, I was thinking in terms of not being a stifling influence on the process of building and then working within the shared world. Especially since it wasn't my idea in the first place. But eventually its content DOES have to be selected somehow. I'm considering doing a thing where (once we have developed the world) soliciting some story ideas from writers who want to participate and see what comes in. Then maybe organize the ideas into a scheme (maybe like your groups above) and then say, "OK,you go ahead and write your story, and you write this one, etc." Then, in a sort of phase two of editing the issue, see what we actually have as far as stories, consider where changes or revisions need to happen (because we may end up with irreconcilable inconsistencies among stories and things may need to be tweaked to make them conform to the internal "rules" of the universe or to make them not contradict one another). Then, when the stories are finalized and published, we can consider them "canon," as you suggest. So, yeah, I concede that the project needs to be administered, and I'm happy to fill that role in my normal M-Brane way, but I wish to reiterate that I do NOT want my presence to inhibit anyone's idea processes because I want this thing to be as richly collaborative as possible.

Rick Novy said...

I'm not thrilled with the smoke ring idea for two reasons. It would be unstable, and it's been done by Niven.

A space-faring Egyption world sounds intriguing. Perhaps also the Mayans and Chinese exist and are advanced. Both have colonies on the moon and Mars. Perhaps they are at war (or in a cold war) with each other.

the technology is an anachronistic mixture of steampunk and nuclear power. Medicine is primative, space travel is primative and very dangerous, but the major nations have nuclear weapons deliverable by zeppelin.

The Egyptians still have Pharoh, the Mayans still offer human sacrifice, the Chinese are still dynastic.

Christopher Fletcher said...

Rick, you may have a point about it being a re-use of a Niven thing, though I don't really remember anything about what exactly he did with it. I just looked up "gas torus" on Wikipedia and the article there actually makes mention of the Niven story and suggests that the way he depicted it is highly improbable from a scientific standpoint. That being said, if we decided that we DO want to use it, we can make up some in-universe reason why it DOES work (ancient aliens built it or something, who knows).

Well, for sake of discussion, let's suggest that we are going to abandon the gas torus idea, BUT I still really dig the idea of having the moon being habitable by humans and NOT by the method of having them live under domes. I'll be thinking about it.

I like your thoughts on the technology, nukes and zeppelins, etc. Also, you might be onto something cool with the notion of those societies retaining those old traditions way into their high-tech age.

Nithska said...

I think Rick brings up some good points. I totally dig the idea of being able to fly about in 'space' in rickety constructs that are not air-tight b/c that is not necessary. Maybe in this universe, there is not space but ether, a breathable atmosphere permeating all of space, or at least the local region. Any suggestions for how this could be? Or do we need to perhaps just rationalize an atmo on the moon? or just have a living mars? Or none of the above and have the aliens arrive at some point to precipitate the big crisis on the story sequence.

Christopher Fletcher said...

Maybe the local region of our solar system is permeated by some kind of breathable "ether" of some kind, like a giant sphere of it that hangs out around Earth and its environs. Maybe it is both a fact of life and a weird mystery to the people of our world. Could be an alien tie-in. In my novel-in-progress, there is this thing that the characters call the "Veil" which is a sort of cloud that hangs around the Earth-Moon neighborhood. It's a totally different thing than what we're discussing, but it resulted from an alien incursion on Earth somewhere in the backstory.

Or maybe the Moon the moon has been terraformed somehow (we can invent some way that it can hang on to its atmosphere--artificially endow it with a magnetic field to deflect solar radiation, maybe even give it "artificial gravity" somehow, who knows).

We really could just have it be the case in this universe that planets like Mars and Venus were either "living" to begin with or maybe enough so that they did not require the kind of extensive terraforming that they would need in the real world to live there. I'm not against this concept of having some elements of old-time planetary adventure tales. It doesn't have to totally rigorous scientifically vis-a-vis the "real" world, as long as we have it plausibly laid out within the universe itself. I could imagine these people, however, even using the kind of tech that Rick suggests in his post above, doing something like the classic way of starting the terraform of Venus which is to hang in space between it and the sun a big shield or reflector to start the process of cooling it down and making its sulfurous atmosphere freeze out.

I'm going to let comments on this post run for much of the day right here if anyone wants to add their thoughts, but I may later tonight or at least by tomorrow sometime start another post in which I try to organize some of what we have and prompt some more discussion.

Brandon Bell said...

Facts:

--The Antikythera: ancestor of astronomical computers created in ancient Greece, confirmed approx 80bc, had differential gears not thought to exist until 16th century.

--The Mycenaean civilization came to be around 2000bc and later collapsed around 1150 bc upon, it is speculated, the arrival of the Dorians, the proto-Greek culture. This period is the setting of Homer's epics.

--I've read but can't find now that the first recorded labor strike happened in ancient egypt when a global event occured that impaired tree growth. It is speculated this was from a volcanic erruption.

--What if the earth passed into an ether which caused this? What if it never emerged? What if these clouds are basically the missing dark matter. Not that this would probably come up in a story, but just something to think about.

--My thought about what spurs a tech growth explosion... a ship lands and takes off and it is seen by a whole civilization. Perhaps it occurs in a few places. This might be our story phase one. The earth cultures know this sort of thing can be done and set about to do it too, whatever their rational.

--I imagined the height of Greek and Egyptian culture battling with one another, but the dates do't quite play out unless this first phase starts back in the Egyptian 2k bc range, and then toward the 400-200 bc is where we have the full, spacefaring cultures. Alexander the Great could be in these stories. Egypt could have persisted instead of being conquered and made part of other cultures. An opposition to Alexander instead of welcoming him.

This is all very complicated. Are there enough ppl willing to do the research for such a scenario or has this one gone too far. Maybe one of the other suggested scenarios would be easier?

Thoughts?

Rick Novy said...

Rather than the ether idea, I would rather have primative methods of populating the moon / mars. Large heaters that can be turned on and off to keep the temperature into the right range. Some sort of gas generator that must be constantly fed and running to keep an atmosphere--constantly running because it always escapes into space. Makes the defense of those facilities paramount.

Christopher Fletcher said...

Brandon: I'm not worried about the research for that scenario. I think we can manage it to figure out a way to put it together going back to that Alexander timeframe if need be.

Rick: The gas generator idea is pretty cool. I could also imagine a situation where a big vital costly infrastructure thing like that has somehow become the domain of some kind of big international, non-government affiliated entity or cartel ( kind of like the meta-national corporations that build the space elevators in Robinson's Mars stories or the Guild in Dune).

Oh...maybe there could be space elevators in this thing, too (just, ya know, cuz they're cool). They could be anchored at the geosynchronous point by these crazy space-cities which would also house ports for space travel to the Moon and the other planets.

Brandon Bell said...

So the questions:

--What spurns the technology jump?

--Why the space race?

--Are we talking a quick jump to modern tech but via these civilizations, or just specific techs but otherwise the societies remain as we understand them from history?

--Suggestion is to have the tech jump occur in one society and then a trickledown or 'arms race' follows.

--Also decide on what civs will be featured as technological players.

--Time period will help dictate the prior point.

--Suggest to include a weird or Sf element beyond the early tech to keep this from seeming like a fictionalization of a session of Civilization (the pc game).

B

Christopher Fletcher said...

In ref to your questions, Brandon:

--Not sure what causes the tech jump. This is where we need to dig some more into real history and see if something inspires. The things you mentioned in an earlier post are compelling. More on this later in this comment.

--Why the space race... does there need to be a motive beyond "because it's there?" which is basically what happened in the real 20th century. Though if it's established that these people have come upon knowledge of extraterrestrial life way early in history or if they good reason to believe that the Moon and Mars and Venus are habitable, these could be powerful motivators to reach for space at an accelerated pace. In our own real history, when we landed on the Moon, that was rather far ahead of anything we would have done normally had the space race fever not seized the imagination. They spent like 4 or 5 percent of the whole US federal budget on the moon/space project back then--now NASA gets like 1/100th of one percent because no one cares anymore. So I could see that effect multiplying if there was the will and inspiration to reach for space for a people who believe there is something really worth getting there for (like new planets to live on, and all these civs we're talking about seem like they could be expansionist empires).

--I think what we've brainstormed so far sounds like a rather fast jump in technology but maybe retaining a lot of the characteristics that we know from history about these civilizations. I like a lot of what Rick said about the mash-up of really new and really old tech and possibly having these societies retain aspects of their ancient social structures (pharoahs and dynasties, etc.).

--Yeah, arms race, etc. could be possible. Also maybe the advanced civilizations outpace the other ones SO rapidly that there is a situation where you have the beginnings of spacefaring on a planet that still has very very primitive societies. Which is not any kind of big imaginative leap. We still to this day have societies on Earth that exist at a basically stone-age level. But we could exaggerate it, so you could have the Chinese, for example, be fantastically advanced with airships and some kind of computers and so on while the Vietnamese haven't yet figured out agriculture, etc.

--I like the idea of the advanced civs being: Egypt, Greece, China, maybe India and for sure one of the American ones like Aztec or Inca (need to figure how these fit together in real history). What about Africa? My knowledge of sub-Saharan African history is woefully minimal, but I am pretty sure that there is an advanced civ candidate down there in the time frame we're discussing. We also need to remember that historical divergence happens so early that a lot of things in our real world never happen, like the word "American" that I just used above. Also there probably won't be Latinos at all because Spain will never rise and conquer the New World.( And Spain itself will never evolve out of the Roman Empire and the Moorish empire because those things won't happen either). There won't be Europeans in general spread all over the place either, save for wherever the Greeks expand.

--Yes. There needs to be a Weird and/or SF element way early in the back story, and the weirder and more sfnal the better. Whatever this is, it's probably what triggers the tech leap. We need to do a lot of thinking about this. Because, yeah, we don't want anything that smacks of being the Civ pc game.

Christopher Fletcher said...

OK, can't resist telling y'all this: I am not much of a game player at all, but way back in the day, I got addicted to Civilization for a while, and I had this endless game going on where I was the Roman Empire and had eliminated everyone else on the planet save for the Indians who were developing at a comparable tech level. Deciding that I just needed them out of the way, I started putting all my resources into developing nuclear weapons. In about the year 1672, I launched a nuclear attack on several Indian cities and set them back far enough that I was able to get way ahead and reach the space age. I felt so bad about nuking them, however, that I invested a lot into sending engineers in to reclaim and rebuild the nuked cities. Egads.

Neil said...

I like a lot of the ideas which have been brainstormed here.

. The colonies on Mars/Venus/Moon: the concept whereby an advanced civilisation is using a primitive method to sustain their living is a workable idea. The 'ether' would work as well but if we go down this route, do we have to explain why it is there? 'Real' Earth has its atmosphere and depending on your beliefs etc, we have an idea where it comes from. Personally I prefer the machine, heaters to keep the planet at a temperature which will enable colonisation.

. Rickety spaceships etc: this idea has a lot of potential and throws up some interesting questions like why does a technologically advanced 'race' not have the know-how to enable them to construct far superior methods of space travel?, is the range limited therefore restricting exploration?, has there been some event which means they have lost some of the technology?

. Alien contact: an ancient 'visitation' which set the seeds for civilisations to advance - certain peoples were selected and allowed to flourish.

. Space race: I like the idea where evidence of extra-terristrial life spurs a civilasation on to advance their programme and push ahead of everybody else.

These are just some random thoughts as I scanned the posts already here. I have some other ideas but will need to digest the information posted by the other good persons here!

Looks good people, so far.

Rick Novy said...

I propose the Romans over the Greeks. Who had the bigger empire? As for Africa, you could just have a Moorish state.

Nithska said...

A bit of thoughts on proposed time line:

--525 BC, the powerful Persians, led by Cambyses II, began their conquest of Egypt, eventually capturing the pharaoh Psamtik III at the battle of Pelusium. Cambyses II then assumed the formal title of pharaoh, but ruled Egypt from his home of Susa, leaving Egypt under the control of a satrapy.

--487 BC: Egypt revolts against the Persians. Fails.

--486 BC: Egypt revolts against Persian rule. Alien occupation force arrives and helps restores sovereignty to Egyptian people, placing one of the rebel leaders as Pharaoh. This man is unknown to our history. All the great pharaohs and history of Egypt lie behind him. IN our time line Egypt never really got out from under persian rule. The new pharaoh and his successor revitalize Egypt into a new golden age.

--486-483 BC: The printing press is invented in parallel in Egypt, Greece, and China. It is later a cultural mystery as to if there were intervention from the visitors in this fact.

--483 BC: Historical Buddha dies. Passage into Nirvana attended by creatures from the sky.

--In 480 BC the Battle of Termopylae is stopped short when a craft lands in the pass, ending the Persian onslaught and sparing the lives of the Spartan King and his small force.

--460 BC Socrates is born.

--442 BC: Sophocles writes Antigone.

--332 BC, Alexander the Great's mechanized army attempts to conquer Egypt but is routed by their superior technology.

Christopher Fletcher said...

Rick and Brandon: This is some great stuff to think about.

Rick: I have no particular objection to Romans and Moors, but they put it into a different time frame (and certainly so if we are still interested in Egyptians). The appearance of the Moors in real history as anything major happened way after the decline of the Romans and way WAY after the importance of the Egyptians. Also, when I was thinking of Africans I was thinking more of black Africans--the Moors were mostly Arabs and Berbers, non-black ethnic groups. And, most significantly, they were Muslims, which religion probably doesn't even happen if Judaism (and later) Christianity are throttled in their cradles by earlier civilizations. Though Judaism does exist during the time frame that Brandon suggests in the post above. But it's centuries before Christianity and Islam. And I bet it doesn't last much longer under the conditions B describes if that's what ends up being the "real" history.

Yeah, as to the comparison of Greeks and Romans, you're right as to who had the the greater empire. Though it is also true that the Greeks expanded widely through the Mediterranean basin during their heyday, but it was much earlier than the Romans. The Greeks spread out a lot, but the Romans later built upon that to create something like a modern empire.

Brandon: I think that's a good suggestion as to where the Intervention happens should we go with something in that time-frame. Also, the defeat of the Persians and the later defeat of the Greeks by the Egyptians would be essential to this kind of timeline.

Nithska said...

Whatever time line we go with, might be a good idea to exploit popular understanding of various characters of a given era... Kind Leonidas might not be the most important of figures, but people are aware of him b/c of 300. Might as well exploit the familiar.

And we could bring some older figures forward to battle alongside or against other historical figures if our alies introduce some anti-aging tech. ???

I am just throwing out ideas, btw... pare down and snip as we need to ... lol

Nithska said...

Nubia looks like the greatest African ancient civ, but by the time frames we are talking about, it is almost indistinguishable from the Egyptians.

Christopher Fletcher said...

I suppose with anti-aging tech you could have someone like Alexander live essentially forever in some kind of crazy decroded state (like Leto II in the Dune series).

I was just trying online to find some African candidates and came up empty as far as the time period we're discussing. Some of the ones that I thought were possible, such as the Mali Empire and the Kongo Kingdom, started and ended way into the years AD, like early-mid 2nd millennium. The only promising thing I've found that roughly coincides with the rest of the timeframe we're discussing is the mysterious Nok civilization in Nigeria. I'll look some more. No big deal, though: there doesn't have to be an African power necessarily.

Christopher Fletcher said...

OK, I am probably not going to get to the new separate post tonight where I was going to organize and condense what we have so far and start a new thread of discussion. I'll probably get to that in the morning. By the way, Neil, I meant to refer back to your earlier comments in my last comment: yeah, all good thinking there. Also, there seems to have developed a discussion around and at least 2 different opinions arising out of that whole gas torus/cloud of "ether" idea with Brandon and I liking it quite well and Rick and Neil being less into it. I'd be interested in hearing some more input, because I know that there are some other people who are probably into this but who haven't had opportunity to talk today. There could be some of both, too: some kind of phenomenon that encompasses the Earth/Moon neighbourhood, and then on the other planets (Mars, Venus, Jovian moons, cis-Arean asteroids, etc.) we need the big heaters and gas generators to make the places livable. I don't know...just sleepy and babbling right now. More on Friday.

Brandon Bell said...

What the heck happened here?!: almost 40 posts. lol.

I really like the idea of mixing historical stuff with created things in such a way that readers are left second guessing what is accurate and what is created ...obviously some of the stuff we are proposing is SFish, but some of these facts about what people did back then is so crazy dramatic or seems so sophisticated that it can be surprising.

Despite all my throwing out of ideas, I think erring on the side of simplicity is a good idea in defining this alternate history. Despite how much I like the ether idea, Rick may be right to keep it more simple than that... But I've been way too vocal and hope others contribute their thoughts. :)

B

Rick Novy said...

Keep in mind that Egypt is actually in Africa.

 

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