The Far Future

When the story is set centuries from today, on this or another world, you have a greater imaginative freedom and correspondingly less research to do. No one can know what life will be like in 4000 A.D., nor how it might be structured on an alien world. No amount of research into the sciences can prepare the writer for accurate prediction when such spans of time are involved. The only rule, for far future stories, is this: your future must be consistent in its detail (not such a different rule than the last one we talked about in discussing near-future backgrounds).

For example, don't build a future in which mankind has made robots as able and intelligent as human beings—and then have your hero and other humans tending mundane, daily jobs. In that sort of future, unless a logical alternative is given, the robots would do all such work.

Nor should a writer set his story on an alien world with three times Earth's gravity, then let his heroes move about as if they were at home. Earthborn men would move slowly, painfully, and clumsily in such an ambience, for they would weigh three times what they weigh on Earth, and they would feel as if they were carrying a huge, heavy burden. Nor should the writer create aliens for this world which look like men, because triple gravity would produce short, heavy people with only vague—and perhaps no—resemblance to humanity as we know it.

Researching these backgrounds is not a simple matter. For instance, how could you expect to find a book about life on a planet with three times Earth's gravity—a non-fiction book with tables, charts, and graphs? If your idea is to use a world with heavy gravity, you have to start your research by learning everything you can about Earth's gravity, then extrapolate or extend from there. Unless you're accustomed to the often dreary and difficult prose of science books, juvenile and even children's non-fiction on the subject most concerning you will prove to be a treasure trove. In these books, the fundamentals—usually all you'll need to begin your story—are simply explained, easily grasped and retained. And whereas the average library may be short on available science books, it will have thousands of children's books covering everything from the nature of stars and suns and gravity, to the operation of a jet plane and the construction of an oil well.

If you're embarrassed about checking out children's books, you can always say they're for a grandchild—or that you're intending to write one yourself and are doing a bit of catching up on your competition!

Once you've delineated your background, you are ready to develop a plot to set against it. It is advisable, of course, to have some idea of the nature of the story before devising a detailed future setting, since the plot will affect the back ground and vice versa. There are eight major types of science fiction plots, each with its own sort of background—and each with its own brand of pitfalls you should avoid.

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