Since I wrote two blog posts listing ten storyworld (or should that be “story world”?) ideas each, rating them for originality and singing the praises of the power of original story worlds, I’m launching a series of posts in which I will give away some of my personal ideas on story worlds that I think may be interesting to some readers here. Or at least I hope so. Starting with a storyworld I’m calling “Spheres.” Free of charge! 🙂
This particular idea I previously wrote about on my personal blog six years ago and haven’t done a thing with in my own writing. This post adapts what I wrote then to Speculative Faith and also includes a link to my podcast, in which I talk about this story idea in different words than I use here. This storyworld does have some original magic to be sure (original as far as I know) but doesn’t include the kind of social commentary that catches people’s imagination like 1984 or Gattaca.
The kernel of the idea for Spheres came from Francis Godwin’s 1638 book, The Man in the Moone, in which a Spaniard flies to the moon in chariot drawn by geese. Of course geese can’t fly to the moon because there isn’t air for them to breathe along the way. And even if there was air between the Earth and the moon, the distance is so far–roughly far enough to equal going all the way around the planet Earth in a circle ten times–the geese would never have the energy to make it all the way. (Of course Godwin was not writing with the lack of atmosphere or true distance in mind.)
“But what if,” my mind was wondering, “What if there was a fantasy world in which you really could fly a goose-drawn chariot to another planet? What would that story world be like?”
I immediately seized on the notion that gravity would have to be different. You can’t bring large astronomical bodies like the Earth and the moon too close together because gravitationally-caused tidal forces would rip the smaller body apart and do a great deal of damage to the larger. So I decided to change gravity so large astronomical bodies could be closer. I messed around with the equation for gravity in several ways to see if it could be strong enough at a short distance to allow things to seem more or less normal, but still allow major astronomical bodies to do things gravity as we know it does not allow.
I’m not a mathematician, but I wrangled with the problem for a while and did not really find any solution that provided exactly what I was looking for. So I decided that gravity would have to be artificial in such a fantasy world, that is, deliberately altered on a case-by-case basis to make such an environment possible. And following that thought inspired the rest of this story idea.
Spheres (I fondly imagine I will write stories in this story universe, but that hasn’t happened, so I’m offering up this idea to whomever would like to make use of it) will feature a world that is Earthlike in most respects, orbiting a sun like ours. But nearby this planet will be a number of other planets, at least a dozen or so, all no greater than 50,000 miles or so apart, bodies from much smaller than the home world to significantly larger. All of these will be enveloped in an massive over-atmosphere of oxygen that all the worlds swim in, allowing travel between them by extremely hardy flying birds (most birds couldn’t make the distance) and would allow special sailing ships between the worlds to chart the distance between the planets from the winds that flow between them.
Perhaps ballon-like creatures could collect helium or generate hydrogen or heat air inside them to float between the worlds. Perhaps a chariot could hitch itself to a group of such creatures. Or maybe even birds, to allow someone to literally fly from one world to the next.
This would be possible because the force of gravity would be under the control of powerful wizards, who with effort, manipulate it at will. So the massive over-atmosphere would not slow down orbiting planets so they crash (wizards make adjustments to prevent that) and they also would be responsible to reduce the force of gravity between planets to keep them from rendering each other asunder.
In ancient Greek thought, everything was composed of the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air. My mind in a flash realized modern science has identified four forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the practitioners of “gravity magic” never though of it that way? Instead they would think of themselves as being in control of “earth” and their type of magic (gravity control) as being “earth magic.” Likeise, wizards that control electromagnetism would see themselves as being in control of “air magic” (because light and lightning flashes and even magnetism are easy enough to associate with air). Those who have the power to dissolve the strong bonds of atomic nuclei or manipulate those bonds in other ways would see themselves as practitioners of “fire magic,” from something very much like inner fire that really is at the center of all matter. The weak nuclear force, responsible for radioactivity, does not relate to water very well in truth (except for the ability to make water glow blue), but nonetheless, imagine those who manipulate radioactivity with magical powers thinking of themselves as performing “water magic.”
So the story world of Spheres would be dominated by powerful schools of wizards at odds with each other (perhaps), but all of their magic would be based on manipulation of the four known scientific forces, with the consequences of such manipulations occurring as modern science would understand, though described in radically different terms in the thought of the storyworld itself. Of course not everyone in the story world would be a user of magic at all, not even close, so the key feature of this fictional universe would not be the magic per se but rather the many worlds having a great deal of contact with one another, in an entirely different way from any other fantasy story I’m familiar with.
If you like this story world idea or it inspires other thoughts you might have about creating a storyworld, let me know in a comment below. (Have you ever imagined combining real science with fictional magic? If so, how?)
By the way, you can catch my podcast on this subject via the link below: