Paint the sky with stars

Paint the sky with stars | Imaginary Atlas: Part 5

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.
T.S. Eliot

We have prepared our canvas. Time to paint.

So far, I mostly just been sketching, broadly, an outline about the sort of fictional setting I want to create with this project. We know I want to use a closed universe concept. We know I want a culture that echoes the world of the 1930s or so. We know I want cultures that aren’t the money-grubbing, unethical corporate cesspool our world has become, or at least not just that. We know the world has magick.

It’s time, then, to start developing some specific details.

Our universe has a number of components — space, time, matter, energy. Some of those things may just be different aspects of each other, but that’s OK. In previous continua, I’ve referred to this aspect of existence as the somatic, or material, aspect of existence. Because the continua I’ve created are works of fantasy, there are other aspects of existence, notably the transcendental, which is the realm of thought, emotion, spiritualism. Right now, though, I’m going to concentrate on the somatic aspect.

I aim to misbehave

If you’re a geek, then you’re likely familiar with the television show Firefly and its sequel motion picture, Serenity. If you’re not, here’s a brief summary.

At some point in the future, humanity uses up all the resources of the solar system and then migrates, presumably using subluminal spacecraft, to a new stellar system with hundreds of planets and moons, most of which need to be terraformed so that people can live on them. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, but it’s the stellar system that I want to discuss.

It wasn’t made clear in the TV series or the movie the nature of the ’Verse in which the action takes place, but around the time Serenity was released, there was also released a role-playing game set in the background, and the game finally explained a lot of things that had never made sense to me.

The ‘Verse consists of a star cluster with four star systems orbiting another, central star system. Each star system has a variety of planets and satellites, many of which are habitable with a few tweaks here and there. The star systems are close enough that it’s possible to travel between them in reasonable amounts of time using the subluminal drives available. In effect, the ’Verse is a closed universe, but a relatively big one.

For Imaginary Atlas, I’m going to basically steal much of this idea, breaking with using the Ptolemaic system I’ve used in my last few world-building projects.

First off, remember that we’re using the caraverse concept — a universe in a nutshell. Imagine a bubble several light-years in diameter — for the sake of the project, let’s say that our caraverse bubble is about 12 light-years in diameter.

You may ask yourself what happens if one were to travel to the edge of the caraverse. Is there a wall, a barrier of some sort? No, that isn’t how this works. If you were to travel to the limits of the caraverse, you would eventually come to what I refer to in my world-building projects as the paradox point. At the paradox point, you would stop moving away from the center of the caraverse and start moving back toward the center from the other side of the bubble. Ever play the old video game Asteroids? Remember how, if you moved your ship off the edge of the screen, it would come back onto the screen from the opposite side? That’s how this works. It’s why it’s a closed universe; there is simply only so far you can go before you end up back where you started.

Oh, be a fine girl — kiss me

If you’re familiar with astronomy, then you may know that stars are classified as falling somewhere along a scale of size and color — O, B, A, F, G, K, M, traditionally remembered with the mnemonic, “Oh, be a fine girl — kiss me.”

O type stars are the largest, huge, blue-white giants that lead short, brilliant lives before they combust as supernovae. M type stars are, generally, the smallest, dimmest and most common stars in our universe — so dim that we can’t even see any of them with the naked eye from Earth. They are by far the most common stars, although in many respects, they are barely stars at all.

Now, within this bubble are multiple star systems. In order to move the project along and because I like the classical symmetry of it, I’m going to say that there are three stars in this bubble.

Our own sun is a G-type, a yellow main sequence star. Only about 7.5 percent of stars fall into this category.

The first star is large, the biggest of the three. I want it big, but not so big that it would have burned itself and gone supernova by now. I also want it to have its own planets, which some astronomers used to theorize the larger, short-lived stars didn’t have time to do. Arbitrarily, I’m going to say this star is an A-type — large and bluish-white. Not only is this star orbited by a series of planets — probably mostly gas giants — but it is also orbited by one of the other stars in our caraverse.

The second star is smaller than the first, but still bigger than our own sun, a white F-type star. This star has its own planetary system orbiting it, and this system, as a whole, orbits the central A-type star. It also has another star orbiting it, our third star in the system.

The third, smallest, star in the system is a G-type, similar to our own sun. It is likely smaller, perhaps on the edge of being a K-type, but still yellow. It has its own planetary system, and is likely going to be the location of the planet where our stories set in this continuum will be set.

You should really just relax

There are likely lots and lots of scientific improbabilities in the stellar systems I’ve just outlined.

Is our caraverse large enough to have allowed large stars to form and go supernova at some point? That’s essential, as all of the elements heavier than helium were created in the hearts of supernovae, and without those elements, you can’t have a universe that in any way resembles ours. I’m going to say that, at 12 light-years in diameter, that, yeah, much of the early history of our caraverse featured the formation and devastating destruction of large stars collapsing into supernovae before the current formation.

So, if we only have three stars in our caraverse, does that mean that the night sky on the world that will be our central stage for the dramas to unfold is dark other than the two blue-white pinpricks of light? No, that doesn’t sound particularly interesting at all. We will say that, when someone on our world looks up at the night sky, she sees a stellar tapestry similar to our own. Clearly, though, those stars don’t exist within the caraverse. Where are they?

Something important to remember about world-building, especially when creating a huge backdrop with epic sweep, which is what we’re doing, is that not every mystery needs to be solved, not every detail defined. Sometimes, it is perfectly fine to say, “This is the way things are because I say so.”

Maybe at some point during the process of creating stories within this setting, I’ll feel the need to come up with an explanation for why these things are. Maybe I’ll have multiple, completely contradictory explanations, a mix of traditional beliefs and completing scientific speculations. Maybe none of these will be true. And, maybe, it will never actually come up at all. That’s perfectly fine, too.

You are here

We now have a rough description of the structure of our caraverse. What comes next? Personally, I think some mapping will be in order as we flesh out the physical aspects of our setting.

To be continued….

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