Questions for a single-galaxy story

Emissarius

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Hello,

I'm new here and I'm hoping to discuss all things sci-fi in these forums. Having said that, I've been a fantasy author for the past six years with two completed manuscripts. My WIP started out as a fantasy as well, but somewhere along the way it kept screaming "space opera!" at me, so I changed it. Since I'm nowhere near as experienced in sci-fi as I am in fantasy, I'm having some problems "transposing" the story's map from high fantasy to space opera. I've some questions and would be grateful to get some answers and other suggestions.

My original fantasy setting consisted of four continents, each with 3-5 kingdoms. For the space opera makeover, these continents became star systems, each with 3-5 planets max. One thing that worries me from reading space opera is that most of them tend to feature numerous galaxy, but my story simply does not require that huge scope. One reason is because most events tend to take place planetside rather than aboard spaceships. The first book, in fact, features only one instance of space travel where the MC journeys from his homeworld to a planet in one of the other three systems. The rest of the story takes place on that planet (think Arrakis in Dune). Later books certainly contain more scenes aboard spaceships, but even those will not consist of actual space battles because in my story, the technology isn't advanced enough for huge cannons and planet-destroying weapons.

So is not having multiple galaxies alright?

What's more, I plan for the four star systems to have no prior contact with one another. Each system is governed by a monarchy that rules all the planets within that system. Most space opera books I've come across feature some sort of Federation or/and interplanetary alliance and especially, an Empire.

Would it be too unconventional for my story to be completely devoid of words like "Alliance" and "Empire?" and "Federation?"

Finally, and this relates to the single-galaxy question, will I need to employ "sectors" and "quadrants" in my work if it's only going to be four star systems within a single galaxy?
 

goldhawk

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I'm not sure what you're getting at. There is no rule that says you must have more than one star system, yet alone galaxies. Do whatever needs to be done to tell a good story and stop worrying that your story must fit into some sort of mold. Many sci-fi stories take place on a planet and have no spaceships.
 

Parson

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What Goldhawk says! There are no rules. You could have a Space opera out of 4 planets, to say noting of 4 star systems. As an avid reader of S.F. I think 4 galaxies or more is more of an exception than the rule.
 

Emissarius

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What Goldhawk says! There are no rules. You could have a Space opera out of 4 planets, to say noting of 4 star systems. As an avid reader of S.F. I think 4 galaxies or more is more of an exception than the rule.

You're right. I'm currently researching when to employ faster-than-light travel. Once again, I feel like this sort of travel is between galaxies, not within a single galaxy.
 

Biskit

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In a galaxy far, far away...
1: What @goldhawk and @Parson say.

2: Stars are a long way apart and you will need some sort of FTL travel to get between them. Galaxies are so far apart they make stars look like they're standing side-by-side and you will need and even faster FTL to get between them.

3: There's no need to get hung up on what everyone else has done. Pick a transport mechanism for what it does for your story. Instantaneous if you just need to get from A to B, or more time-consuming if you need things to happen on the journey. You don't even need to explain it - Frank Herbert used drug-addicted pilots, Star Trek has dilithium and antimatter, George Lucas just does it - push the lever and it happens. (I wrote a space opera (Streamrider) where the transport mechanism was based on streams of hyper-relativistic grit running across the galaxy.)
 

Antemurale

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Quadrants and sectors are tools for organization in an environment where there is no up or north. They can be useful in this context for establishing proximity but if you use a form of instantaneous or near instantaneous FTL then organizing a galaxy only really matters as a means to establish topography. There's always wormholes to play with too, which could explain why your states are locked to their systems while also giving a mechanism for travel or contact.

I don't see a problem with having no structural concept of an empire or federation. A lot of sci-fi tends to have a deterministic approach to societal organization whereby every actor is just a human with a different coat of paint and maybe some extra eyes or limbs. But there is no rule that empires or federations are the only way. :p
 

BAYLOR

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Hello,

I'm new here and I'm hoping to discuss all things sci-fi in these forums. Having said that, I've been a fantasy author for the past six years with two completed manuscripts. My WIP started out as a fantasy as well, but somewhere along the way it kept screaming "space opera!" at me, so I changed it. Since I'm nowhere near as experienced in sci-fi as I am in fantasy, I'm having some problems "transposing" the story's map from high fantasy to space opera. I've some questions and would be grateful to get some answers and other suggestions.

My original fantasy setting consisted of four continents, each with 3-5 kingdoms. For the space opera makeover, these continents became star systems, each with 3-5 planets max. One thing that worries me from reading space opera is that most of them tend to feature numerous galaxy, but my story simply does not require that huge scope. One reason is because most events tend to take place planetside rather than aboard spaceships. The first book, in fact, features only one instance of space travel where the MC journeys from his homeworld to a planet in one of the other three systems. The rest of the story takes place on that planet (think Arrakis in Dune). Later books certainly contain more scenes aboard spaceships, but even those will not consist of actual space battles because in my story, the technology isn't advanced enough for huge cannons and planet-destroying weapons.

So is not having multiple galaxies alright?

What's more, I plan for the four star systems to have no prior contact with one another. Each system is governed by a monarchy that rules all the planets within that system. Most space opera books I've come across feature some sort of Federation or/and interplanetary alliance and especially, an Empire.

Would it be too unconventional for my story to be completely devoid of words like "Alliance" and "Empire?" and "Federation?"

Finally, and this relates to the single-galaxy question, will I need to employ "sectors" and "quadrants" in my work if it's only going to be four star systems within a single galaxy?

Have you ever seen the series Firefly ? No aliens , just humans, multiple planets that look like the old west . It's essentially the old west transposed to outer space . Simple and it works. In otherwords , make things as simple as possible.:)
 

ginny

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The first problem is how you travel from planet to planet.
As mentioned above^.
The next is that if you restrict it to one planetary system then you have to devise how it works that more than one planet is inhabited.
Are they all in the goldilock zone or have there been ways to terraform or otherwise colonize other less hospitable planets.
 

Emissarius

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All your responses have given me great writing prompts! I appreciate it.

Another issue I'm grappling with is what to do with the eleborate magic system that I've developed for the original fantasy story. I certaintly can't have wizards hurling around spells anymore! I've seen it done in some older SF works like The Silent Tower and Darkover Landfall, but those works aren't the best examples to model your magic system after, especially in outer space.

Have you ever seen the series Firefly ? No aliens , just humans, multiple planets that look like the old west . It's essentially the old west transposed to outer space . Simple and it works. In otherwords , make things as simple as possible.:)
Yes, and it having only one season is imo the biggest crime in television history. Could u refresh my memory as to whether Serenity's travels was: all within a single solar system? Or multiple systems in one galaxy? Or multiple galaxies?
 

Parson

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Magic does not automatically move a story out of S.F. and into Fantasy. One notable example is Jack Chalker's "Charon: A Dragon at the Gate." the third in his "Four Lords of the Diamond" series. It's a planet where, because of the presence of an alien micro-organism, magic works. It is not uncommon to see S.F. Fantasy mix in a little "hocus pocus."
 

Emissarius

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Magic does not automatically move a story out of S.F. and into Fantasy. One notable example is Jack Chalker's "Charon: A Dragon at the Gate." the third in his "Four Lords of the Diamond" series. It's a planet where, because of the presence of an alien micro-organism, magic works. It is not uncommon to see S.F. Fantasy mix in a little "hocus pocus."

Yeah, same with Darkover Landfall by M.Z. Bradley and Ursula L. Guin's Rocannon's World, but I'm not sure how these four-decades old ideas would translate in a modern story. Firefly/ Serenity and the Lunar Chronicles did have super-powered/ psychic characters in River Tam and Cinder, but if we're talking an all-out sword and sorcery theme in space. I honestly haven't seen this done in a recent works. I'll probably have to curtail my magic system a great deal for this to work.
 
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Biskit

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I certaintly can't have wizards hurling around spells anymore! I've seen it done in some older SF works like The Silent Tower and Darkover Landfall, but those works aren't the best examples to model your magic system after, especially in outer space.

Fantasy magic = SciFi Psi powers
I'm not quite sure whether you would call the various Marvel superhero flavors scifi or fantasy, but it feels like the presentation is scifi, even though it's basically "magic".
Or you can follow something like the Babylon 5 technomages - advanced science/tech to create the appearance of magic.
 

Venusian Broon

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You're right. I'm currently researching when to employ faster-than-light travel. Once again, I feel like this sort of travel is between galaxies, not within a single galaxy.

Firstly fiction can be anything, space opera (in my eyes) has a lot of fantasy in it and is a mish-mash of the SF/Fantasy genres, of varying degrees. Don't worry too much. Write somethat that is you :)

But just thinking about your query, having read a lot of space opera, I've not really seen many novels using people flitting between galaxies - perhaps a few that hint of travel to such places...but, oh boy, galaxies are such a long distance away! There is, off the top of my mind, Stargate: Atlantis on the TV which used the galaxy hopping to refresh the enemy roster and settings (although it's surprising how much of the universe looks like Canada. ;))

Most space opera uses FTL and uses it within the milky way/home galaxy. If you have FTL why just use it all the time, a la Star Wars? To paraphrase Douglas Adams, Space is big. Really big.

Just thinking through your logic above though...having FTL outside the galaxy but not within doesn't quite make sense. Because just use the FTL to fly to a point outside the galaxy, then hop back to your 'internal' destination using FTL again. There you go, FTL within the galaxy.

Would it be too unconventional for my story to be completely devoid of words like "Alliance" and "Empire?" and "Federation?"

IF you think about it - the type of space travel dictates what sort of organisation and relationship develops between different parts. If you have to take a journey that lasts a hundred years to go from one part of the universe to the other, or even send a message, how can an something like an Empire exert any power, when it takes a lifetime (or four generations in our case)!? :) Which is why virtually all Space Opera uses FTL, to allow the galaxy to be 'joined up' and form actual political unions of any sort.

But on a broader point, I've come across loads of different types of intra-galactic societies, so I wouldn't say it's unconventional at all. I do think certain terms have certain resonances. You mentioned 'Quadrant' before - that's a term I exclusively link with Star Trek, so I'd avoid it. Plus dislike the blocky cutting up of the galaxy.

Empire is a bit more generic - Star Wars, Dune, even Iain M. Banks utilises the term (although his Space Opera is, iIMHO, more complex and vibrant than some of the big ones....)
 

Elckerlyc

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About the Galaxy. Look at it as astronomers look at it today. They give names to stars, which often includes numerals. Spirals are given names, clusters can be named.
But I wouldn't concern myself overly with this when your 'inhabited universe' consists of a mere 4 star-systems with their planets. You can remain vague as to the layout of the rest of the galaxy.
As mentioned above, you will need some manner of FTL-travel anyway. Traveling between star-systems without FTL is unrealistic to the extreme (even when they are neighbors and only 4 light-years apart). Especially so if you want your 4 star-systems to interact in any meaningful way.
Even with the availability of (affordable) FTL-ships, the exchange of goods or people between star-systems will remain costly and time consuming. Hence I don't think Galactic Empires are very likely to occur any century soon. (Perhaps in 10.000 years with the help of some spice.) Star-systems will remain worlds on their own. [You should read Charles Stross' ideas on the subject. The High Frontier, Redux)

Of course, there's a huge between difference between what I think is likely to be achieved in the future and the, until then, unimaginable world a writer creates with his writing. Everything goes as long as he is able to suspend my disbelief.

About magic, allow me remind you of what Arthur C. Clarke said: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I don't know what role the magicians played in your original WIP. Is it possible to translate that into some technology? Or anything that has the look of magic? Nothing in the - or your imagined - universe excludes the existence of magic, somewhere, somehow.

Let your imagination run. Don't look back to see if any idea has previously been used, before you can use it or should. Rather look back to see if an idea is totally new, unheard of and capable of rocking me of my feet.
In the end It is not what you write about, but how you write it.
 

JNG01

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OP, your setup reminds me of the third act of Seven Eves. Excellent book, and the "restricted" nature of the part of the galaxy that mattered to the story didn't inhibit it at all.
 

.matthew.

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I think having a single galaxy is more believable to be honest. The distances between galaxies are... well I'd say astronomical but that applies to the distances within a single galaxy as well.

The one thing that jumped out at me was having multiple inhabited planets in the same system, which would be nearly impossible without some crazy terraforming and even if it was done like that, I'd suspect that one planet would be so much more developed than the rest (the ideal first candidate for colonisation for example) with the rest being almost tributaries.

Maybe have 3-4 systems within a quadrant/sector (quadrant/sector seems to better match the idea of a continent to me as well), then have the other quadrants/sectors with the other systems scattered around the galaxy.

As to magic, I liked the way it was done in Starship's Mage books, so magic can definitely work well in sci-fi (and in that world was what allowed for FTL travel in the first place).

I also wouldn't say that monarchies don't crop up in sci-fi and personally I'd like to see more of them (rather than the USA USA USA analogies we see so many of).
 

Parson

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Monarchies aren't that rare. Especially if you include emperors in the equation.
 

Emissarius

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About magic, allow me remind you of what Arthur C. Clarke said: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I don't know what role the magicians played in your original WIP. Is it possible to translate that into some technology? Or anything that has the look of magic? Nothing in the - or your imagined - universe excludes the existence of magic, somewhere, somehow.
Magicians in my original WIP were about as important as half-bloods in the Percy Jackson books or vampires in Twilight. In other words, it was a story about magicians! That's why I'm struggling right now! I neglected to mention that my work (both in its old and current form) is aimed at young readers, the younger side of YA that could easily become upper middle grade. Hence I'm hoping to make it devoid of stuff like Alliance, Empire, Federation, Interplanetary Corporations, or intergalactic warfare. It's more about there being one big Sauron/ Thanos-like figure who subjugates numerous star systems and has a handful of powerful minions stationed in each. The hero and his friends aim to liberate these planets/ systems by defeating those underlings until they reach the big bad himself. The story's a lot deeper than that, of course, but I had to describe in this manner to get my point across.

I think having a single galaxy is more believable to be honest. The distances between galaxies are... well I'd say astronomical but that applies to the distances within a single galaxy as well.

The one thing that jumped out at me was having multiple inhabited planets in the same system, which would be nearly impossible without some crazy terraforming and even if it was done like that, I'd suspect that one planet would be so much more developed than the rest (the ideal first candidate for colonisation for example) with the rest being almost tributaries.

Maybe have 3-4 systems within a quadrant/sector (quadrant/sector seems to better match the idea of a continent to me as well), then have the other quadrants/sectors with the other systems scattered around the galaxy.

As to magic, I liked the way it was done in Starship's Mage books, so magic can definitely work well in sci-fi (and in that world was what allowed for FTL travel in the first place).

I also wouldn't say that monarchies don't crop up in sci-fi and personally I'd like to see more of them (rather than the USA USA USA analogies we see so many of).

Using magic in space is my biggest problem right now. I don't know how much magic should remain in the story now that it's a space opera. As I mentioned before, it started out as a fantasy and I've invested so much in its magic system. Unfortunately, there's just no talking me out of converting it into a space opera because I've been writing fantasy for the past seven years and I got a little tired of forests, medieval villages, castles, and mountains; these elements of the story I'm more than happy to part with, but I do feel bad about losing the magic system. Dozens of unique spells and rules! Darn thing is, I haven't seen many recent space fantasy books with blatant use of witchcraft (I'm talking Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones-style witchcraft, as wizardish as you can get). Apart from Yoo Han Lee's Dragon Pearl, most other titles I've come across with actual wizards and spell-casting in space were self-published books with obvious disregard for industry standards and even age-appropriateness.
Any suggestions for keeping all the wizardry and yet cloaking it in a more psychic form?
 

.matthew.

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If I were you in this, I'd go full magic just in space. You seem to really want the magic system and you should write what makes you happy. That'll bleed through into the finished product and there's nothing wrong with going outside the common.

Maybe add a bit of sci-fi tech that seeks to copy the power of wizards or negate it in some way if you want it to mesh together a nit nicer though.
 

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