I’m supposed to be doing a future history for my publisher at Baen, to go into the new edition of Darkship Thieves (I HOPE as an afterword, otherwise there will be spoilers.)
No, correction, I’m supposed to be writing down the future history in a coherent form.
It has existed as a chart on my office wall, and scribbles in a notebook for twenty one years. I’m just now trying to collate and correlate it and make it coherent with all the hints that sort of fell out in Darkships.
The problem, of course, is giving too much — getting lost in the weeds. The plan btw when I’m done is to collate this into an ebook with the DST Bible (I wonder if I could get soemone to make it into game book?) and some drawings, and give it out to subscribers and newsletter subscribers. Besides sending the future history in 20 page or so to Baen.
I hope you guys don’t mind if I talk future history at you for a few days, to bring it into focus for myself.
First of all there is the massive question of “Why a future history?” Aren’t future histories a stupid game?
Well, yeah. Look, making predictions is hard, particularly about the future. If you absolutely must make predictions, either date them much earlier, or — for a choice — make it so much mumbo jumbo that you can point at anything and say it fulfills your prophecy. See Nostradamus.
I not only wasn’t that smart, I was really dumb, as originally I had my timeline start in the 2020s. I’ve been fudging it as hard as I can ever since.
What was I thinking?
First, on the future history, I thought any self-respecting science fiction author would have one. if you showed up in the field without one you’d be pointed at and laughed. Yes, of course, I’d read a lot of authors, but all the authors that had stuck have at least the outline of one.
Heinlein had an explicit one, with chart and dates, which he hung on the wall of his office. Simak had, I suspect two, because in one all the fairies and goblins come out of the woodwork, in another not so much. Well, then there was Why Call Them Back From Heaven, whatever the name was in English, which was a creepy dead end. Connie Willis has one, with time travel and the death of all pets.
I thought I had to have one.
But I’m still me, so nothing much happened on the future history front, until my writers’ group circa 96 decided we had to get our behinds (or at least our typing fingers) in gear and we should all write a short story a week (HIGHLY recommended as a learning thing. Sure most of my initial ones were total duds, but the thing was to break me off the idea writing very slowly was best. And it worked. it also proved that writing is a skill, like any other skill. The more you do it, the better you get at it [provided you’re trying for improving.] Years later, when I started sorting things for indie publication, that year marks the watershed between my writing sort of publishable, and my being in full command of the short story structure. I need to do the equivalent for novels and do one a month, to command that. Um… as soon as I get more physically stable. We’re getting there.)
The problem with a short story a week is the ideas. I’m not one of those people who ever — much — has issues with ideas, but most of the ideas that attack me out of a clear blue sky are for novels, or, these days, for whole series. Which means that having to come up with short story ideas was a problem. Particularly when each short story started spawning a whole world and demanding to be a novel.
I was then (but) thirty five years old, had a five year old and a two year old, and didn’t have time for baby universes coming out of the woodwork and demanding time and attention.
So I wrote the future history, because somewhere in the world there’s always something interesting going on. Throw a dart at the chart, write a story there.
It was useful.
What it isn’t is in any way claiming to be an accurate prediction. Though, of course, some of it will happen, at least if my understanding of history holds any water, and a lot of it will happen out of order and backward and sideways.
Note that my future history starts, now, in the late twenty first century. I have an excuse for confused times, and characters thinking things happened earlier or later, too. You see, in between our time and Darkships, records were accidentally AND deliberately lost and modified, to obscure the powergrab that led to the world Athena was born into. This means late twenty first century might end up being early twenty second. And thank heavens. Just to spite me someone will come up with life extension, and I don’t want my life time to overtake the time line.
Note also I never say how the war with Islamic terrorists/the attempted Islamic takeover came out. This is because, of course, I had no idea it was going to happen. Crystal ball all broken. I was 35 and green as grass.
However, I assume it’s like my brother saying “if they speak English in Star Trek, I guess America won the cold war” which I found a great relief.
There might be Muslims in Darkships. There PROBABLY are. However, none of the religions are particularly prominent, and a lot of the land masses are depopulated, and I haven’t come across ANY Muslims yet, in my stories so far. Some Arab names, but no Mohammed. You do the math, dearies. I wasn’t deliberately excluding them, but as I tell fledgelings, reviewers and people who read MGC about my writing “the thing isn’t entirely under my control.” And while not the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, I’ve been known to see into the future. Glimpses. Mostly in dreams. I blame my subconscious.
And yep, that’s what I’m afraid of, in a way. If the Darkships future history had a subtitle, it would be “Humanity is negotiable.” Because what humans are, and what humans become is by design negotiable: created, changed and abolished; designed, destroyed, enhanced, trained, oppressed.
Being human alone will get you no special treatment, because humans can be made on command and gestated in animals or surrogate mothers. Humans are used for societal purposes. They exist to serve society and their rulers.
Perhaps that started with a long orgy of genocide, which, yes, is where this is headed if we don’t find some other way to handle it. I think. But again, remember my crystal ball is broken.
In my world there was SOMETHING. In this time period, the US either fell or was reduced to half a dozen states. There were nuclear bombs exchanged. Who knows what else there was.
I don’t know because I will never write the fall of the US. Like Heinlein writing the story of the rise of the first prophet, this would hurt too much for me to be able to write it. I know America is a thing of humanity and likely will have an end, but I truly don’t want to visit it.
My world starts with Europe mostly an old age home (honestly, it’s getting there) and mostly depopulated having the bright idea they can make people. But this is Europe, they don’t want to make people and have them count as real people. So the first mules are made in batch lots and all male. Because they’re gestated in animals — or at least that’s the story — most of them are retarded.
I will confess I’m not sure this is true, because Angel in flight seems to indicate some of them AREN’T and can pass as normal humans.
Anyway, these shambling brutes are made and raised to do the work natural humans won’t do.
And hence it starts.
Next up, why and how we get supermen.