So, you’ve figured one fictional world isn’t enough. You want to go bigger and create a whole galaxy of worlds! But how do even start planning out all of your hundreds or even thousands of planets? Never fear, because I’ve got some simple tips to keep you from too much effort or thought into any one of the worlds you create!
1. One theme per world
If you’ve ever watched any movie or TV show with the words “star,” “galaxy,” or “–scape,” in the title, then you know that every alien world can only have one type of environment. While Earth has a multitude of climates, ecosystems, and diverse landmasses, each of your planets has to have only one single setting across its entire surface.
Now, your first thought is probably to make either an ice planet or a desert planet, right?
Those are fine ideas and they make sense, too. If your planet is either too close or too far from the sun or suns it orbits, then of course the surface would be either a scalding or glacial wasteland. But you need to think broader than just basing your ideas on “science” and “facts.”
You can make your entire world a forest, for example.
Wait, you mean ALL OF IT is untamed jungle? Are you sure?
Or what about a world completely covered in water?
No, really. That’s the name of the planet.
Don’t worry about where your planets are situated or how the crap bi-pedal, humanoid creatures could survive and evolve on such a world. Think of your planets like levels in a video game. You gotta have your ice level, sand level, jungle level, water level, and of course . . .
But you should never limit yourself to homogenizing your planet’s ecosystems. Why not just trash the environment altogether and make your planet one big city?
Or, to simplify things even more, why not just focus on one type of building and make a whole planet based on that. You can make your whole planet a mall,
a car factory,
or a library.
I’m beginning to think there are some sci-fi writers out there who aren’t very creative when it comes to naming planets . . .
Wait, can we go back to that city-planet again?
If the WHOLE planet is just one big city, and there’s no room saved for things like forests or oceans . . . where are the clouds coming from? If they’re just created by smog, why hasn’t everyone suffocated yet? These are the questions you don’t need to bother asking yourself.
Now that each of your planets has a uniform character, it’s time to figure out which alien species go where.
2. The art of warriors
You know when the hero of a space opera or science fantasy story meets a alien species of merciless, hardened warrior-types? You have to wonder, “How did a whole race of people become so obsessed with fighting and killing?”
If we looked at examples of warrior tribes and peoples on Earth, we could probably get a general sense of what conditions lead to a group that values fighting and military victory above all else.
We have the Vikings
who came from Norway, Denmark, and other regions of Scandinavia.
We got the Mongols
who travelled across the Eurasian continent from Mongolia.
And don’t forget about the Spartans
who always started out their conquering campaigns from the city-state of Sparta.
This generalization is a little simplified, but we kind of get the sense that these groups come from fairly beautiful parts of the world, with relatively sustainable land for agriculture, fairly moderate climates, and some gorgeous mountain views.
So remember, when you design the world your warrior race comes from, that you need to completely ignore everything I just wrote above. You want your warrior planet to be as bleak, ugly, and unappealing as possible.
So, for a proud race like the Klingons,
you want a dismal, oppressive world that looks something like this:
Now you can see why they’re so proud. Look at how inspiring and majestic those grey skies and eerily-lit Orwellian compounds are!
What about the Predators? Surely they came from a world full of rich wildlife and diverse landscapes to better train them for the hunt, right?
Haha NOPE! Obviously they came from a Soviet-era sprawl of factories and office buildings.
Or what about this ugly brute? Darkseid is a maniacal tyrant hell-bent on taking over the universe. He’d probably set up his base of operations on some lush planet teeming with natural resources.
Wrong again. He lives in an apocalyptic inferno covered in the discarded Nightmare on Elm Street set.
How about a freaky, superpowered fish woman? She’s got some mad bling going on, so she’s probably used to pampering herself while in combat and at home.
Well, no. She’s chosen to live in a dank ocean full of Eldritch horrors and constantly overcast skies.
What about this smiling beam of sunshine? Where does he hang his hat, er, tube of pimple cream?
In order to better the poor condition of his skin, he lives in a sunless, cyberpunk dystopia, complete with unexplained spews of fire and sinister mist.
You know, I think the Klingon planet might have gotten a little upstaged. It doesn’t look nearly as threatening and bleak compared to the other entries in the list.
How about we set it on fire to even the score.
There we go!
3. Are you still not entertained?!
Lastly, when you’re creating planets in a distant galaxy or in the distant future, you need to remember no matter the place and no matter the circumstances, people love killing each other for sport.
Even though all the alien races in your cluster of planets have either discovered or been introduced to scientific marvels like interstellar travel and artificial intelligence, they’re still gonna want to see people they don’t know fight to the death for their own amusement.
Even with countless species inhabiting hundreds of worlds stretching millions of lightyears across the cosmos, there’s bound to be limitless ways to be entertained – including holodecks, simulated stimuli, and trillions of TV channels – nothing apparently beats the basics of sitting in a Roman-style arena, watching living beings murder each other.
And once again, because we’re dealing with highly advanced, space-travelling societies here, you can’t go wrong by making the colosseum death-matches even more primal by just having a giant monster attack your victims.
Hey, where is your arena? How is Tim Allen supposed to be entertaining without a studio audience?
For added fun, you might want to chain up your victims, so you can skip out the part where they run around and try to fight back.
Man, I can’t wait to see a bunch of monsters crush and maul these humans in about three seconds flat. I stayed up all night to buy tickets!
4. The old staples
Before you finish up your galaxy, make sure you have a minimum of three planets that look like either Utah
or British Columbia.
This is an unwritten rule of universe-building. Except that I just wrote it out…
So that’s about it for planets. Go have fun creating worlds and playing God.
Bonus points if you can work in a bunch of spheres and bubbles onto one of your planets.
Join me next time when I’ll tell you how to create hundreds of alien species that somehow all breathe oxygen and communicate perfectly using a language their evolutionary biology never prepared them for.