Future Histories

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?

Good question.

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.



195 thoughts on “Future Histories

  1. I see “Future Histories” as Back Stories of the Writer’s Universe.

    I’m not sure how “detailed” the writer should make the Back Story and it may not be necessary for the writer to make the Back Story known to the readers.

    Of course, if for some reason the writer has to change the “Back Story” without damaging what he has already written, then if he keeps the Back Story hidden, he doesn’t get readers say “But you said that earlier and what you’re saying now contradicts it”. 😉

  2. My future histories tend to start in the 22nd century. I try not to say much about the 21st, unless it’s vague generalities.

    1. I call mine “alternate histories” as none of my “story universes” are “real world” ones.

      In one universe, aliens have been secretly been harvesting Earth for several centuries so “of course” Earth’s history will be different. Note, I started this story universe when the Soviet Union was still around and I didn’t want the “Cold War” to interfere with human governments coming together to oppose the aliens.

      In another universe, a major event happened in 1862? to alter our history.

      In my “superhero” universe, the first superheroes (and supervillains) began to appear around 1902. Obviously this changes our history. Oh, the first US superhero was a black man in Alabama. Obviously certain people at the time didn’t consider him a “hero” until the Battle of Atlanta where he took down another black super being. The hero didn’t like the fact that the other super being was killing innocents.

      1. Mind you, two of my published stories are set in the 21st century (no date given).

  3. I have resisted every urge or call to set a timeline for my Blue Collar Space universe. I know the rough order in which stories happen, but that’s easy: so far, none of the stories happen in the same general time. There’s room for stuff to move forward and back a bit. It gets harder with every story added, but I’m still getting away with it.

    My secret hope is that someday my fervent fans will decide to work it all out for themselves; and when they do, I’ll nod approvingly and say, “Pretty close… Pretty close…”

    And then I’ll take lots of notes!

  4. I am so weird. I’ve got four books now, all happening in less than six months of universe time. Argh.

    I do have -history- history though, really -deep-, millions of years ago history. I suppose I could chart that.

    1. I’ve been attacked by one of those. Turns out that “lost civilization” thing really trended to something. They’re not lost, they cleaned up and left. Only they forgot some primitives behind…

      1. The Toasters are really old. Light speed lag makes getting anywhere a long-term thing. Then there is a Machine Empire that is -really- old, and keeps an eye on the toasters.

        Then there are the Elders, they keep an eye on the things that make the Great Voids. (Yeah, something makes those.)

      2. Male students, playing in the lab when they were supposed to be cleaning up. “I’ll be we could make some of those apes look like real Babes!”

        1. Mebbe it’s just my suppressed depressive leaking out, but I’d wager it is harder to make “apes look like real Babes” than it is to alter the definition of “real babes” to match that of apes.

          1. And no, I didn’t mean uplifted animals. Fifteen thousand years ago, it was our ancestors around here. Just you know, the population equivalent of those “undiscovered” amazon tribes.

            1. An Ice Age Civ with all the right breakthroughs? Probably left because of all the hysteria about the Ice Age going all the way to Snowball Earth.

              Sorry, weird mood. A favorite character of mine has been mopping around the back of my brain feeling incompetent, but she just pulled a fast one on an enemy agent and is contagiously delighted to realize she’s still got it.

  5. So your future Europeans had to *make* their Mexicans/Algerians/Turks, instead of importing them.

    Don’t be too harsh on your future Europeans. I’m afraid it’s human nature to want your menial labor to *stay* menial labor. Humanity has a very very long history of slavery, and this is just a continuation.

    The US approach to menial labor (that we’re losing, BTW) is that it’s ‘honest work’ and thus has a dignity all its own. But reality is what it is, and it is expected that you (or your children) will naturally want to do better.

    1. I think what we’re going to find in the future is that there are going to be a lot of folks who look at all the associated problems with importing menial labor, and then decide “Meh… Maybe not… Those Japanese robots look pretty darn good, right now…”.

      I think the big issue of the late 21st/early 22nd Century is going to be the inversion of the “cheap foreign labor” equation, as the social costs and dislocations come clear. Robotic replacements for stoop labor in the fields, along with the growing realization that we’re basically taxing the existing indigenous population to death to pay for the social benefits of the illegals…? Yeah; there are going to be some changes.

      What I’m looking for in the next few years is going to be a movement towards the actual natives in Europe and the US realizing what the hell the elites have been up to with all this “population replacement” BS, and there being an equivalent to things like “La Raza” on the nativist side get going.

      When a young Anglo couple starts curtailing its plans to have and raise children because they’re too expensive in tax costs, while effectively subsidizing the illegals down the street to have five-six kids that the Anglos are paying for in taxes…? That ain’t “sustainable”, as they say–And, when enough of the “Anglos” start noticing that, there’s gonna be hell to pay.

      What’s really bad is that the perverse incentives of our current system actively distort the incentives and penalties for reproductive activities in the population. That’s something nobody has really noticed, and when they do? There’s gonna be hell to pay, for some one.

      On the other hand, this stuff is so deep under most people’s radar that maybe nobody will really pay attention, as our politicians play “cuckoo” with us. Gonna be interesting to watch the next hundred years, because I think a lot of the fundamental social assumptions we’ve been working with are going to get thrown out the window, and probably take a bunch of politicos along with it all.

      1. What I’m looking for in the next few years is going to be a movement towards the actual natives in Europe and the US realizing what the hell the elites have been up to

        Oh, you read Bret Stephens’ NY Times column?

        Only Mass Deportation Can Save America
        So-called real Americans are screwing up America.

        No, I am not providing any link to such aggressive moronics.

        1. Not really happy with Stephen’s re-reporting of the Cato study. All it really says is the ratio of criminal incarceration is 6 citizens to 3 legal residents to 2 illegal residents. It completely ignores the ratios of the total population of each group. With that egregious of a bias, the rest of his numbers fall into disrepute; making his entire column of even less value than the contents of my compost bucket under the sink.

        2. Mass deportation… cool, can they subsidize us moving to Free Luna, Mars, L5, and the Belt?

          The money has to be given free of strings, though. And those who strongly support deporting natives while intending to remain behind themselves ought to self-segregate to a tiny area, so they can start practicing being self-sufficient without us…

          1. Choose a small or screwed up enough nation and send enough of these worthless Americans who don’t believe in the innate superiority of every immigrant and we can take over. And maybe this time make balkanization a capital offense.

          2. One long range guesstimate I just read (with some very optimistic assumptions) had the price of a one-way transport to Mars of one human and one person-unit of appropriate survival mass converging down towards $100K.

            I am absolutely certain that major sectors of the current elite would happily foot that bill to get rid of certain folks, albeit selected using their criteria and approval (one can’t have the household staff for one’s Martha’s Vineyard house getting involuntarily transported, of course).

            1. I strongly suspect that 999 out of a thousand Progressives could read almost any of Cyril Kornbluth’s major works (The Little Black Bag, The Marching Morons) and assume they would be in the “smart” group. The other one wouldn’t have the slightest idea what the story was about.

      2. People have noticed. People have BEEN noticing at least as far back as the Mayor Lindsay administration in NYC.

        Several things:

        Never underestimate the liberal power of self regard. The most insane self-ruinous programs will be actively pursued if they make liberals feel good about themselves.

        Never underestimate the depths of liberal racism. It tends to manifest in the form of condescension, patronization (in more ways than one) and low expectations. A liberal simply cannot see brown people posing a threat – they just can’t take brown people that seriously. Only (white) ideological foes *matter*, on a very fundamental level.

        For everyone who isn’t a committed liberal, the liberal establishment has spent a great deal of time and energy establishing VERY powerful taboos to prevent anyone from looking to closely.

        And never underestimate the lengths to which decent people can be taken advantage of by shameless people willing to weaponize that decency.

      3. [blockquote]I think the big issue of the late 21st/early 22nd Century is going to be the inversion of the “cheap foreign labor” equation, as the social costs and dislocations come clear. Robotic replacements for stoop labor in the fields, along with the growing realization that we’re basically taxing the existing indigenous population to death to pay for the social benefits of the illegals…? Yeah; there are going to be some changes.

        What I’m looking for in the next few years is going to be a movement towards the actual natives in Europe and the US realizing what the hell the elites have been up to with all this “population replacement” BS, and there being an equivalent to things like “La Raza” on the nativist side get going.[/blockquote]

        Why do you think we got Trump and England got Brexit?

    2. Suppose I should add – that US approach to menial labor is very unusual in human history. VERY.

  6. Always a tough thing, future histories. And why so much scifi is out in the 35th century or some such. (Heck, at least it isn’t Cherryh’s Fading Suns, which seems to be set a couple dozen centuries in the future.)

    But, you can count on humanity to 1) f things up royally, and 2) to sow hope where there should be only despair.
    Every future history should begin there, imho.

    1. Frankly, starting from the current time, more than one century in the future is going to be so wrong it’s not even wrong any more. It simply will have no relation to reality at all, except possibly for the continued existence of Earth and the human race.

  7. When I was in high school, I wrote a Future History, where I were to be elected President, and listed my achievements as President. It listed WWIII, WWIV, and then noted that for clarification, all other world wars would be named like they were before WWI — like, say, the Franco Prussian War. After a list of about two dozen of these wars, it ends with my assassination — about two years after I was elected.

    Yeah, that Future History wasn’t meant to be serious. 😉

  8. Why, yes, you CAN get someone to make it into a game book. Did you have a system in mind? Do I need to send my gamer resume? What other fools thinking they are qualified to do I need to defeat in single combat to get the job?

    1. No one else has offered! I just thought it would be a fun thing to do.
      What’s the most widely used system? I’ve only played once, and then time defeated me and the lack of a local group and stuffs. I’d like to learn to play/have a group. But I’m already living five lives at once.

      1. Some variant of D20 is the most common but FATE is up and coming and arguably has marginally easier licensing. There are some other but you can get into some distribution weirdness with some (Cypher, I’m looking at you). GURPS might be a good mix but it is passed its Golden Age and I’m not sure of the rules for “Powered by GURPS”.

        I’d recommend FATE given the presence of the genetic stuff. Most of it probably can be found in D20 materials but the balancing act would be harder and (if I’m the one you picked) FATE is the stronger game for me. My D20 is a bit rusty (although I’ve been thinking of a Western Marches style Pathfinder game Atlanta people).

        1. I’d put in a plug for a variant of D20, as FATE seems really loosey goosey, and GURPS seems to be made by and for engineers and the engineering minded. (having played all three of those systems in the last few years… yeah…). Might be my group, but we’ve tried a couple of looser gameplay formats before including FATE and the Margaret Weis Cortex system. (Firefly RPG – played more like you were in a tv show than in a living universe, maybe that was the point?)

          Herbn/other gaming folks – do you think this would roll well into something like D20 Modern / D20 Future, as a sourcebook? (Not that those systems are currently in print, but…)

          And I wonder how difficult it would be to take the D20 Modern/Future stuff, and tweak it to D&D 5E? (wandering away from the topic, but still tangentially related)

          1. Gah – forgot to complete initial thought. We’ve tried a couple of looser systems, and my gaming group weren’t fans – seemed like it was difficult to track things like “how much money do you have” when wealth is counted as a skill or stat rather than a number of credits/GP/hard currency you have in the bank.

          2. The Pathfinder folks have a SORT OF science fiction book coming soon. Really science fantasy, the starfaring future of their current fantasy world. But they promise me that it will be adaptable to any science fiction setting. “Just leave out the elves and dragons!”

            Yeah. Right.

            We’re veering into the whole debate about crunch. Some people like crunch. “Can this ship get to that planet in 30 hours? Here’s how we figure the odds.” Others say story should dominate. “If we don’t get there in 30 hours, everybody dies, and that would make a lousy story. But if we get there in 29 hours and 40 minutes, that will make for a really cool last-minute fight scene, so let’s go with that!”

            I’m a hard science fiction author. Give me crunch. Not insane amounts, but give me crunch. d20 Future would be great for this, but it’s an orphan system. That doesn’t matter if you’re doing this for fun; but if you think it might be a revenue stream, orphan systems limit your market. (So do niche systems, which is a separate discussion.)

            I have to adapt Blue Collar Space for three adventures for an upcoming con. That’s a one-weekend deal, so I don’t care about the market. I’ll use d20 Future.

            But in the future… There’s a new successor to Alternity coming out this year. Alternity was my favorite SF game. (Full disclosure: I was a very active Alternity playtester, and Wizards even commissioned a module from me, so I’m biased.) This new one will be new rules so as to avoid tangling with Hasbro’s IP lawyers; but Rich Baker, the man behind the original game, is the lead designer on this one. If I decide I want to publish game content in my universe, I may go with Alternity.

            1. Elves, orcs, dwarves, gnomes, gnolls, dragons, et. al. are “merely” alien races by another name.

              1. Are you calling Dragons “merely”? [Very Big Dragon Grin]

                Oh, Dragons aren’t Aliens.

                We’re People, it’s you humans who are the aliens. 😉

            2. I disagree that we are veering into crunch. Anyone who says FATE isn’t crunchy isn’t thinking about it. There are a lot of points of system contact. The whole fate point economy is a complex system that shows up even in FAE and has lots of crunch. Stunting in FATE is arguably more complex than other systems even if in FAE provides Mad Libs stunt construction.

              What you are calling crunch is more like precision. There is nothing keeping FATE aspects from having that kind of precision to get things like travel time exactly right. “Can do 1G” is a valid aspect and from that transfer orbits are transfer orbits.

              I loved Alternity and think about pitching it every now and then. I wish they’d done more Star Frontiers work than just giving us the races in an article. Do you have a link to the successor (and who is doing it)?

              Also, one reason to avoid D20 is the whole “you need to write a complete game” as there is no base book to point to with D20 Modern/Future essentially dead (although I’ll have to check the WOTC part of DTRPG) and I think the MGP D20 complete books are gone as well.

                  1. Yep. You can test the interest before committing to the effort. And then add ubiquitous laptops, so people can use PDF books. And DriveThru RPG as a common way to find PDF books. Suddenly a lot of smaller publishers can pursue niches that would never interest Hasbro.

                    1. It would be a way to test interest but in the RPG space I seriously recommend having a first draft (art free) ready to share before doing the KS. Too many people have gotten burned on over due RPG KS. I have only had one truly bad experience, one eh (mostly because I was in for all of $5), and two “late but worth it” with a third hopefully being like that.

                    2. Definitely concur with Herb’s statement about folks getting burned n RPG promises. I was involved in a lot of the Traveller 5 playtest/mechanics at one point.

                      But, I will offer up my services for writing color and, especially, for playtesting. I will drag my RP group – kicking and screaming if necessary – into it. 😀

                    3. *rasies hand* keep in mind I’ve done rpg art and writing before as well. Enough that technically for awhile there i was eligible for SFWA…. of course by the time i found out, didn’t want to be and the time-frame has expired..

          3. I would suggest a look at the Mutants and Masterminds 2e/3e framework for a d20 Future modification into Sarah’s universe. The power system approach to generic d20 (instead of the classes approach that even d20 Modern/Future come built with) that M&M provides is really useful for setting adaptation. I’ve played M&M that was adapted to ultra-pulp 1950’s style sci-fi complete with bubble space helmets, sword and sorcery fantasy, a stargate knock-off, as well as the designed-for superhero style game.

            You need a laser gun? You get a device with the appropriate burn/lightning/etc damage powers.

            Need a space suit? A device with the protect one from space necessary powers.

            Magic sword? Add the appropriate powers. etc. etc. etc.

            Really handy and flexible ruleset.

            1. Hmmm….M&M might work (would have to look at the licensing) but so could its close relative (and first attempt to make it generic) True 20 which is one of three things I’m looking at already for a second game to run (FATE and Numenera are the other two for anyone who cares).

        2. Depending on the type of RPG you’re looking for, you might want to just provide scenario material for some of the more story-based systems. I’ve been using (infrequently) an extreme story-based system called One Last Job that I like a lot. These systems allow you to concentrate on the background and character descriptions without paying too much (if any) attention to rules, items, etc.

            1. No, much freer-form than that. In OLG your character is entirely created by the stories other players tell about you. The only dice-rolling involved is used to determine if a character wins or loses a “scene.” Then the player works with the GM to tell the story of what winning or losing that scene means. You should probably take a look at the game system link above to get a feel for how it works.

                1. Ah. Myself, I’d probably try to go system-agnostic and give all values as either percentages relative to a pre-defined base value or as levels on a predefined scale of levels (not necessarily numerical). So the scale might be minimal-physical-ability – weak – normal – strong – super-strong (off the top of my head). Perhaps include some examples of how the definitions provided might translate into a few different popular game systems.

        3. Ah GURPS, how I loved GURPS… we almost never actually played GURPS, although we sure used the crap out of some of the GURPS books, converting to fill in the gaps in whatever game system was the new hotness at the time. If anything could be said for GURPS, it was that it was more complete than anything else out there.

          Personally, I liked it because it was wide open, which seemed MUCH more realistic to me (Why CAN’T a warrior learn how to pick locks? etc. etc. etc.) Most other systems always seemed WAY to restricted.

          1. *laughs*

            You do realize “why can’t warriors pick pockets” dates to the 70s and even today there are people who think Greyhawk screwed up by creating the Thief class because prior to then warriors COULD pick pockets.

            Then again, I’m one of the people who argues if you read the LBB carefully magic-users can use swords and wear armor they just can’t use MAGIC swords or wear MAGIC armor (have a blog post on it back in January).

            I keep wanting to play GURPS: Fantasy Trip simplifying GURPS a bit to be more like TFT. The biggie would be skill can only be bought at exactly stat level. The other would be to add a “Wizard” advantage which gave access to spells by raised skills to 3x cost and a Warrior disad which made magic 3x or some such.

            1. Interesting… I admit, where I grew up D&D was about the only game in town (I grew up very rural, no game stores.) It wasn’t until the early 90s when I was in the Marines that I was able to branch out. My group of friends around that time played a wide range of games, but most of them were newer.

              1. The earliest “wow, this is so refreshing” on no character classes was a review of RQ2 in Ares magazine #1 so that was March 1980 with the review written in 1979. I doubt it was the first such complaint and that is at 5 years from the introduction of D&D.

        4. Oh, Traveller SRD is out there…something about dying in character creation and Sarah’s world seem to go together.

          1. Exactly right.
            (And now I’m really feeling like I belong – Traveller and TFT both getting brought up! Now I’ll mention RoleMaster – also known as RuleMaster or ChartMaster – just so we can beat up on that for a while…..)

            1. Hey, someone of us have all of RM including most of the companions and would be happy to run it (and no, that latex document with selected optional rules integrated into a book to pass around isn’t real, I promise).

              Then again, give me the right group and I’ll run C&S first or second edition. Actually, I wish I had said group.

              Or DragonQuest…

              And did you know Powers & Perils 2nd ed is a free download…it would be fun…

              I mean, if you’re going to have a hobby 🙂

              1. LOL. I do a lot of world/universe-building for games. “Hobby” might have been an understatement at one point. 🙂

                  1. I’m afraid I’ve only ever been to one Con (and I’m not even sure what a ConLang is). But, I’m in the midst of map-making (and map-filling) right now for an adventure that I hope turns into a campaign.
                    (This map is smaller than what I started on, which was the size of Eurasia. This one is only the size of Canada.)

                    1. Ah! I’ve never tried to really do a “ConLang”, though I have done a little language study for characters in someone’s alternate Earth campaign. I generally use RL languages, then simply mod the words a little. (I’s smart, but I’s not that smart!)

                      Heh, I assumed you meant something at a Con, where I added names to someone else’s map. Your explanation makes *much* more sense. 🙂

              2. Rolemaster is one of the old classics. Very time intensive with hours to make a character who dies in the first encounter with a Cat. Reading the critical hit charts can be very amusing.

            2. Oh yes, RoleMaster, gaming for actuaries. I remember trying that back when I hung out at GGoW. Being an engineer I, of course, have a fondness for Traveller. I do wish I still had my old copy of Chainmail.

          2. There is an optional rule that lets your character get wounded and medically discharged.

            1. Heathen follower of the 1981 and later rules 🙂

              Actually in MGP a failed survival roll leads to a mishap table which have a long history. Even before the 1981 version of the LBB added the wounded/discharged rule there were variants floating around. I specifically remember a very fun “Unfit for Service” table in Scouts and Assassins from Paranoia Press which is post Book 4 (it does Book 4 style scouts). One nice touch in MGP’s version is each service has its own table.

              1. Though a lot of people complained about the “death in chargen” thing, Traveller made 1) characters that weren’t (necessarily) Luke Skywalker, they made Han Solo and Lando Calrisian, and 2) they gave you (in the advanced versions, especially) events to hang your character development around.

                In that way, it gave more of a skeleton “story” about your character’s background than any other system at the time. I loved writing back stories for Traveller characters.

                1. For me it made it more fun when you wasted an evening generating 50-100 characters (no, I didn’t date much in HS, why do you ask). How many could you go before death was a home mini-game.

            1. I always heard it referred to as the Generally Unused Role Playing System. I never knew anyone using the main rules but many used the other books for ideas in another game.

              1. That’s a new. I am very familiar with using the books with other systems. In fact, back in the 1st and 2nd editions days that was a stated design goal. I don’t know if it was an advertised goal in the 3rd edition era and does not appear to be in 4th.

                I did run GURPS. I might be pitching it now if it wasn’t on the “will not play” list of one of my players whose girlfriend is also a regular meaning I would lose two people to run it. Oddly he is my only “will not play X” player and he has it for two: GURPS and D&D5 (he just doesn’t want to learn YADD).

        5. I’m strongly prejudiced against d20 systems, but then, I ended up mostly playing Star Wars 2nd Edition, and really liked the system. I was rather miffed when the rights to Star Wars was sold, but the rights to the game system didn’t go along with it.

          Since then, I’ve thought of trying to create a very generic game system based on generating normal probabilities using five six-sided dice, and then base skill in a given area on where in the normal curve one might be, combined where in the normal curve a given task might be. I haven’t had the time to work out the details as much as I’d like, but it was something I also wanted to do pretty much license-free ever since I had been disappointed by what had happened to Star Wars.

          1. That sound a lot like Traveller. Task systems in the MegaTraveller version used multiple d6. (Classic Traveller used 2d6 mostly.)

          2. You do know the underlying system for Star Wars is now available on an open license and the space, fantasy, and modern versions WEG put out are free, right?

            The real fun part is Greg C. originally developed it for the Ghost Busters RPG.

            1. I did not know that; now that I do, I’d recommend it as a good system for role-playing! (I would have to confess that it’s been years since I’ve done much with role playing, mostly due to lack of time.)

              I would still like to experiment with a system that relies very strongly on a normal statistics model; since GWB mentioned Traveller, I might want to have a look at that game mechanic first, to see what they do…

              1. Well, you have your pick of Classic Traveller (the original “Little Black Books”), MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Traveller 4th Edition, GURPS Traveller, Traveller D20, Traveller Hero, Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller, and Traveller 5. Obviously D20 Traveller (and I think Hero Traveller) are not d6.

                Personally, I prefer MegaTraveller as the mechanics have a little more meat on their bones, as does the character generation. Classic Traveller is an entirely 2 or 3d6 mechanic, and very basic.

                MegaTraveller is available in electronic format from DriveThru, I think, as well as directly from Far Future Enterprises (Marc Miller, himself).

                1. Hero is 3D6 for all activities as it is derived from Hero System which is the generization of Champion. This is true of GURPS as well.

                  All versions except MGP (but including GURPS, D20, and Hero) are available from FF on CDROM as it most of the Classic and MT era third party products, the post New Era products of the mid-aughts (which give us the Fourth Imperium and some answers to things like the Empress Wave) and other GDW rpgs.

                  One little heralded advantage of T5 is like Hero Fifth (especially Hero Fifth Revised) is it is thick enough to stop a bullet below a certain caliber at normal ranges. At least I think it is having the seen the demos on Hero Fifth and comparing my copies of the two books.

          3. Once I created a baseball simulator based on the rolls of 2d6 and 2d8. I tried to toss in a d20 for “random mishaps” to cover really oddball events, but that part never worked to my satisfaction. The core of it worked surprisingly well, though. Inadvertently, I anticipated something first theorized and researched by Voros McCracken – pitchers have much more control over whether a ball is hit vs. what happens after it’s hit.

            In my game that worked out to having very complete batter charts, and much more basic pitcher charts: basically, the pitcher simply modified the batter’s entire statline up or down. If the player was out, the type of out depended on the pitcher (more groundballs/DPs for certain guys, others with lots more strikeouts, etc); but if the hit was successful, the type of hit went by the batter’s chart.

            A lot of effort to reinvent strat-o-matic, I know, but I was quite obsessed about it.

    2. You rang?

      I’m afraid I don’t have the time, energy, skill, and gaming experience for the job. I’d want to do it in GURPS, but do not have the sourcebooks, play time, or GM time to do a good adaptation. (My own GURPS hobby writing time is already scheduled with material for Dungeon Fantasy and Infinite Worlds.)

      Steve Jackson Games is pretty busy right now with GURPS Dungeon Fantasy.

      1. Wait, you’re on the GDF team? I have been considering giving it a try but my GURPS years are…well, a while in the past (says the man running Type IV right now).

        1. No, just a fan writer. If that. (I’m hoping I can help Dungeon Fantasy revitalize GURPS. I get really optimistic some times.)

          SJG posts yearly (or more) updates on how the business is going.

          They had a pretty big kickstarter for DF, which is taking more manhours than anticipated, and the other two GURPS hardcopy projects didn’t do very well.

          1. I haven’t check their yearlies in a while. My last big SJG interaction was the Ogre weight challenge but I’ve been playing Ogre since Metagaming.

    3. I’ve been in it from way back (when “GM” was called “DM”).

      But I shall leave it to you, sir, no need to visit my house. I’ve not kept up on the latest and greatest.

  9. I have an excuse for confused times, and characters thinking things happened earlier or later, too.

    This is smart, and the reason why you stuff your future history into snips of academics spouting on about what happened – if one finds a need to retcon, one just has a different academic start an academic flame war by denouncing that last fellow, the blithering ninny, as totally and completely wrong; any fool can see this is what really happened…

    1. Jane Yolen had a fantasy series like that. You had a song or game snippet, and a bit about a historian going on about that time period, and then what “really” happened. Near the end of the second book, the historian started getting snippy about another historian (whose theories happened to be closer to the events as depicted, but which involved magic.) And the third book was that historian’s child, going full-on obnoxious in an attempt to restore her father’s reputation.

      1. Katherine Kerr has an academic article at the start of one of the later Deverrry books that apparently got some fans really confused.

        1. She’s also written books on the Holocaust, so I don’t think this falls on the grimmest end of her writing spectrum. (Briar Rose is a book I adore, but it’s not for the faint of heart.)

    2. When you see ‘manperson on the street’ interviews with folks who think that Abraham Lincoln won the Revolutionary war, or that we won our independence from France, people being cornfused about current hysterical details millenia from now wouldn’t surprise.

      1. Nod, in one of my “universes” I make a point about “Popular History”, “Official History” and “Real History”.

        Popular History is what the average citizen believes to be “what happen” (mainly from “historical” fiction).

        Official History is what various Powers-That-Be want to say happened.

        Real History is what actually happened.

        Popular History is often completely wrong (even though some fictional works try to reflect Real History).

        Official History may or may not be correct, depending on the Power-That-Be. The alien species in this universe don’t have a united government so some Official History may be correct (while biased) and other Official History may be completely wrong.

        There are some in this alien society that look for and debate “what actually happened”. These historians will admit that they not get things completely right.

        1. Oh, you mean like A) all those shooters crowded together on the Grassy Knoll, motivated by conservatives and the mob and Johnson and aliens and stuff, B) a lone nutjob gunman acting alone, all lonely and nutty, up in the schoolbook depository; and C) a lone nutty gunman acting alone up in the schoolbook depository, who had really, really strong and recent ties to the USSR and Cuba, and who happens by random chance to get offed by an Italian mob asset.

          Nope, completely unbelievable.

  10. Accurate predictions are boring. Strive for interesting predictions — that’s where the $$$ is.

    1. “Not only were his predictions inaccurate, they were uninteresting, which is unforgivable.” 🙂

      1. Perhaps, story universes not set in our world.

        IE the writer doesn’t have to worry about “how we get there” because the character’s history is completely different. 😉

    1. LOL… WordPress killed the rest of that post, and left the lead paragraph. WTF? Is Coyote doing the software for them, or something…?

      Anyway, to reconstruct:

      Let’s posit this: Any bypass of the lightspeed limits via leaving this universe takes you out of the game, and resets your relationship with the time/space continuum. So, as an example, you sidestep the speed limits by going into what we can term “transit space”, and bang, there goes everything, from your quantum entanglements and reference points. Then, you “come back”, but you aren’t guaranteed a perfect match to the matrix you left–You might wind up in a close parallel continuum, or you might wind up a few million years off. Re-injection into your starting reference point in terms of where/when ain’t guaranteed, and we take advantage of this by going out and “seeding” various stellar nurseries in order to have them form small rocky planets in the Goldilocks Zone, periodically checking in as happenstance takes you there to seed the resultant worlds with compatible life.

      Which leads to situations where you get to meet your own ancestors “out there”, as chance encounters, and you stand a fairly good chance of running into your own descendants. Who may-or-may-not be interested in leaving continuity alone, considering what you’ve been up to…

      That mix-match of timelines and continuum continuity enables an author to pretty much do near-continuous reboots as they wish–There isn’t really a “continuity” to the future, just a nice, big, confusing ball of interlocking, self-referential timelines that start, stop, and jump around. You might have post-humans living next door to folks that just left Earth, and that’s something that could really get to be… Interesting. How would, for example, modern-day humans look at having a collection of various proto-human hominids dumped into the modern day, and having to relate with them? Would you look at them as agricultural pests? Revered ancestors? Embarrassing precursors?

      And, for the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae, I’d throw in, for grins and giggles, the idea that while these descendants of ours have put the Earth and Sol on a “do not disturb before X” list, mistakes have been made, and that’s what happened to the dinosaurs–Some of the planet-builders blundered into the system, didn’t recognize it as being proscripted for whatever reason, saw that the ecosystem had gone down a path they didn’t want it to, and then dropped a rock to reset things before seeding again with mammalians… Only to realize, not-too-long after the fact, that they’d just caused the K-T Extinction event. Cue embarrassed slink off-stage for our planet-engineers…

      Not to mention, a whole lot of sudden “WTF?” on the part of those paying attention to human origins.

      The idea is to give the future history resulting as much flexibility and freedom as possible. And, to intermingle post-humans with humans, and so forth.

      I’ve never understood how you could posit getting around the lightspeed limitations via departure from our space-time continuum, and then somehow re-inject yourself into the continuum at the precise time you left it, somewhere else. A transition in space should almost certainly imply a transition in time, and from that… Bang, goes the continuity. Star travel, I think, is going to imply time travel on a macro scale to go along with it. Depending on the means of travel you use, that is…

      So, there’s that idea. It obviously requires some work, but the salient features are that you can really only talk about continuity along your personal timeline, and the effect of someone changing stuff you’ve encountered is basically stopped because you separated yourself from the effect of all that by passing out of the frame of reference. You experience what you experience, and the universe simply doesn’t give a damn about how it looks from your total frame of reference/continuity. And, because the entry points are sufficiently random to really prevent predictably going back and forth along your own timeline using this method, you don’t see a change to things–Although, there may be entire lines of continuity that just vanish, from your perspective, because they were cut out of things in the real universe due to changes.

      Still needs work, though… Been playing with this general idea, for years.

  11. 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.

    Yep, that will give you lots of elasticity. Add in a rabidly Lugenpresse so that characters can’t really believe things they didn’t actually witness/reported by a trusted source …

    I like the back histories of series, but I also dislike the overly detailed ones. For me, more general benchmarks are just fine: 500 years from now, 200 years later, 47 years after that. And if you throw in an entirely new system of time keeping (i.e., Year 472 AFD) …

    1. I recall an otherwise interesting story where the author had decided to maintain multiple (at least four) separate year-dating systems across the colonized human worlds. I understand why – the author had Jewish settlements sticking with the traditional Jewish year system, Christian colonies using Anno Domini, TheoMarxist colonies using years-since-Divine-Revelations-of-Marx, and I think several using something technical (years-since-Neal-Armstrong’s-first-step maybe?, or years-since-the-first-human-FTL-drive?). As world building I suppose it added depth, but in the end for me it was just confusing.

  12. I love worldbuilding, and generate a lot of backhistories. The two things I’m plotting right now involve different sets of alternate earths. The bigger more interesting project involves time travel induced changes in the history of one of the Earths, and the smaller one does not.

    I also like analyzing other media universes for the purpose of fanfic. There’s an obscure item for Turn A Gundam which apparently claims that all Gundam properties (one assumes aside from Build Fighters) are in the same universe. If one assumes this is true, it implies lots of year zero historical revisionism, which fits a lot of the existing Gundam worldbuilding.

  13. 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.

    On my part? No. Why should we?

      1. We might be upset yesterday if time travel works, just because of what they’re going to serve in the cafeteria next week.

  14. On a more serious note I don’t think there is anything wrong with SF authors having a future history. Piper had one and last time I thought about taking up writing John Carr writing about Piper’s future history was part of the trigger. Those old notes are part of why I am looking for a good history of the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s reign including the transition on his death, and Pinochet’s Chile including the transition (I might take a swing not at what Post-Trump’s Removal America is like but at how we recovered from what came after).

    Poul Anderson had at least two.

    C. J. Cherryh has one with an over detailed front end that left no space to write stories much earlier than Downbelow Station.

    The fact I realized you had one in the shorts is a big reason I had a lot of early buy in to you as an author.

    Future histories are a weird form of series that I think SF needs (and has had too little of in the post 1990 era).

    1. That “post 1990 era” might be because the year 2000 was a nice round number during the early years of scifi. A *lot* of things happened around then (heck the genetic wars of Star Trek – Khaaaaan! – started in the 90s) because it was a discernibly “future” moment. Until, of course, you got close to it.

      The problem is the next “nice round number” is a long ways off. At least, if you want a bunch of ‘0’s in it. “2100” sounds good… maybe, sorta. And, of course, we have all those old scifi stories with predictions about the 90s and 00s and they’re off…. So the lack of future histories might be fear of getting it wrong?

      1. I like the idea of squabbling academics.

        And don’t forget to throw in some people with the same or similar names. “No, you idiot, it was the other Neil Armstrong. The one that walked on the Moon was not the Tyrant of Mars. You’re off by a century!”

      2. “The Door Into Summer” was written in the 1950’s and it had two nice round dates: 1970, and 2000. It’s a little weird in that we got to see what Heinlein thought both 1970 and 2000 would look like, and both what he got right, and what he got wrong, for both dates…

  15. Oh, and Alan Steele has one (or maybe two) and, yes, again it played a big role in my buy in to him as an author.

    Alastair Reynolds might (what is the difference between FH and just a “universe”?)

    1. IMO a “Future History” is part of what allows an author to write stories in a “Story Universe” in different periods of that story universe.

      1. Hmmm…as obnoxious as this sounds define different periods? Does relativistic time dilation and enhanced life spans affect it? Even if many characters remain across a major cultural event boundary (or even two) does it qualify?

        1. Yes. 😉

          Seriously, if the writer wants his stories to be set in one fictional universe even though the stories are set “years” apart, then a Future History is IMO helpful.

          IE Can Character A know of events in Story B or does Story B take place after Character A’s story.

          Things like relativistic time dilation or increased lifespans can mean that Character C from a story set hundreds of years before Character A was born might be able to interact with Character A.

          1. But the key is you have a methodology for checking that. Because some of your readers will notice things like that. 🙂

  16. Hmm. Probably not a member of a large group, here, but I can still enjoy Ringo’s “Centurion” – and it is set in the now.

    I’m figuring that so long as I can write before the now, I can get away with it; it then transmogrifies into “alternate history.”

    Which means I’d better get cracking along much faster, here – my FH starts with the 2021 State of the Union Address. (No, I shouldn’t need 3+ years to write that first book, at least I’d better not. But I decided to start with a period much later – while I can write dark, I don’t think it’s the best thing to start building my yuuuge fan base with…).

      1. Well, the RAH timeline is definitely in the “alternate” category now. (Although perhaps not the “other” timeline he had for the Friday universe.)

        There are days I would prefer his version of the present – then remember that I’d be sitting in one of the cave systems around here right now, as we would be in the days of the Prophet. (Although a nice cave in the 60s would be preferable to the 97 my inside temp is right now…)

        1. Well, 60s as your inside temp would be a problem, actually. 97 is much closer to right……. 😉

            1. Heard rumblings of that, too. I actually don’t recall any “date” for Shipstones – in fact, I can’t really assign any years to the Friday timeline (um, maybe another unwritten lesson from the experience of the Master?).

              Pretty sure they did not exist yet in the “germinal” novella (“Gulf”). Although there was a colony on the Moon in that, which we obviously don’t have.

              I don’t think we’ll actually have a “fork” there until and unless those nutcases on the West Coast go ahead and secede. (Apparently, that was the start of the Balkanization of the US. Maybe. Really not an easy one to figure out, especially as it was apparently merged into the multiverse later.)

              1. there was a colony on the Moon in that, which we obviously don’t have.

                Are you sure? Perhaps all of those “moon landing was faked” theories are a cunning blind, and all the Area 57 technology has been transported to the Dark Side? Perhaps the real reason the Apollo program was ended (or was it?) with #17 in 1972 is that we had already planted the Luna Colony by then?

                It isn’t as if the government and MSM only just recently started lying to us.

                    1. Good grief! Don’t confuse her! She’ll be writing Julie and Grant into the Darkship Universe! And having the Witchfinder Universe cross over into the Shifters!

                      (I’m running as fast as I can, now.)

                    2. Speaking of belt sanders …

                      You Seem Tense! Hang On, I’ll Go Get My Pneumatic Sander
                      Turned off by high-priced massage devices, some professionals are turning to basic power tools. ‘Nice sort of vibration.’

                      By Rachel Bachman
                      June 13, 2017
                      Randy Fruchter says the exchange has happened a few times. He leans over a man lying prone on his massage table and turns on a buzzing, hand-held device.

                      “Hey, that sounds like a jigsaw,” the client says.

                      “Actually,” Mr. Fruchter replies, “it is a jigsaw.”

                      (Behind paywall, so search engine for lede to access unblocked content.)

                    3. Don’t know if it would be cheaper or not, but when I was doing prep work for the screen printing company I worked for many years ago, I found that wrapping the hose of the power washer I was using around my back gave it a wondrous massage.

                    4. I thought of using a jig saw for massages once, but the idea of having a blade go up and down in my insides just didn’t appeal to me.

                      [checks article]

                      Huh. They removed the blade. It didn’t occur to me to do that!

  17. I did one early on — 70’s, with Mote — that stretched the CoDominium into interstellar space. I was involved in writing space policy for Reagan’s team, and we came up with strategic defense (sort of out of Strategy of Technology) which Ted Kennedy called Star Wars. Down came the Soviet Union, which makes the CoDominium rather unlikely.
    Ah, well.

      1. Younger Me (read: high school) had the same experience, and snobbishly dismissed Pournelle as having been short-sighted. Older Me can appreciate how he well he depicts the political situation, even if it didn’t play out like that.

        1. I recall reading a non-fiction book where the author used Cuba as an enemy country in one example, he explained, precisely because the idea was ludicrous. Published in 1958 or so.

    1. Dr. Pournelle: Don’t count the CoDo out yet. I can think of a couple different paths from here that would join back up with that future history.

        1. “Modern historians often overlook the brief interregnum between the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the modern Russian Empire, which rules with the United States under the CoDominium Treaty.

          Much as the Roman Empire maintained many of the symbols and markers of the Roman Republic, the Russian Empire adopted and maintains to this day many of the symbols and markers from the USSR: After all, today the Tsar’s army is still officially the Red Army, though the Marxist religious underpinnings found in the Red Army under the Soviets have been fully separated and heavily suppressed on Earth. On the civil side, the Tsar’s titles also include President and General Secretary of the Russian Imperialist Party.

          Historians less familiar with the detailed history of the few decades subsequent to the 1991 fall fo the USSR can be somewhat forgiven for missing the differences given the massive intentional similarities, and conclude that some slight political turmoil may have followed the fall, but that the Russian Empire was basically a USSR reboot.

          A similar and roughly coincident set of societal changes in the United States ultimately set the stage for the CoDominium Treaty…”

          From the introduction to article ‘The CoDominium in The Modern Interstellar Political Landscape’, Dr. Robert Hightower, University of Calcutta Press Historical Review, (text banned by CoDominium Security Order dated November 27, 2073, Hightower involuntarily transported March 2074, location unknown; text retrieved from hidden data archive recovered in excavation of Tralos 4 colony ruins.)

      1. Tyranny is a perennial. And it’s persistent. Like bermuda grass, it’ll eventually worm its way in, and you can never really get *all* the roots out.

        1. Shoot, I could write a plausible alternate-future-history, starting with today’s date, in which Trump turns into a tyrannical dictator worse than Hillary would have been. (Note that I am not claiming that the real Trump would act this way). All it takes is observing two facts:

          1) He has been accused of so many things without evidence that many people are starting to disbelieve the media that cried wolf.

          2) If he DID do something tyrannical, pretty much none of his supporters would believe the reports coming from the media that cried wolf.

          And there you go — a plausible starting point for a tyranny-in-America alt-hist timeline.

          1. He’d need the people skills to get men very capable at high level violence and covert government power loyal enough to risk jail time for his cause. There is reason to suspect that this is not the case.

            Many such men in American government are capable of very careful calculated statements. It is possible that Trump, like Obama, does not impress much outside of his cult of personality.

          2. Of course then I start world building a dystopia or pseudo-dystopia set in the Year of Trump 87.

            It doesn’t have Donald as a tyrant worse than Hillary Breckinridge, and the situation is mostly the fault of Democrats for undermining institutions and escalating violence to where it could happen. (Note that this is not relying on my theory that Donald is a Democrat.)

    2. Wouldn’t mind having the Alderson drive back in 2010. Could do without the transnational alliance dominating the world, though.

        1. At least they don’t show up for a few centuries. All we’d have to worry about is grinding tyranny and WW3 . . .

    3. Still a very viable notion, although with a few modifications. I can see it going two ways:

      Ultra-conservatives allying with a resurgent Russia, very close to your CoDo. We see some of than in approval of Putin right now; the “At least he’s DOING something!”. (Do not read that as any smidgeon of belief in the narrative of Trump / Putin collusion, please.)

      Ultra-leftists allying with an up and coming Red China, much more to their tastes these days. The financial and social links are already quite strong there, and the Left does frequently express their envy of the Beijing method of governance.

      Either way, of course, there will be far less freedom after than before.

  18. So I’m looking for a Granny Weatherwax quote for someplace else and I find the following from the film Wyrd Sisters (1997):

    I don’t hold with looking at the future… But now I think the future’s looking at me. And I don’t like its expression.

    It’s in that last part where lies great trouble. Somebody advised not to worry about tomorrow, today has problems enough of its own. Of course, if we followed that advise where would speculative fiction be? 😉

  19. So now i tell Sarah that i have a vague idea for a short story set during the fall of the USA…

    and yeah, i am reluctant to flesh it out much less write it down, for the same reasons you don’t want to write that story.

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