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Author Topic: Story concept timeline...  (Read 962 times)
Acheron
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« on: December 26, 2009, 12:24:52 am »

So I had this brainstorm just recently, and as I've always wanted to put together a steampunkish sci-fi story, I tried to come up with a bit of background setting. I whipped up a small timeline, and now I'm sort of interested in hearing people's opinions. Haven't decided on a working project title yet, but...

Basically it's supposed to be a story with a bit of a transhumanist lean to it, mixed up with adventure and sinister plots, romance, the question of humanity versus morality, and some social commentary.

-o-


'It is amazing, really, that we should hold such delusions, and make such distinctions. That we should think of "modern" and "ancient" times. That we should believe that the nature of humanity has somehow changed over the years. That we should hold the idea that civilization has ever altered in its behavior and purposes - that people have altered, somehow, in spite of both evidence and reason. That there is such a thing as cultural advancement, rather than simply cultural development. There is not. If ever there were a distinction, then these are the times when we have slowly begun to realize it. We have largely rejected the illusion that humanity was ever about anything but humans enforcing their will on the world around them. It is not. The only change there has ever been is that humanity has gradually gained increasingly advanced and vast means of exerting this will. The goal remains the same, although the means alter. And the goal is, as always, survival and the acquisition of more power. Because without power, ideas like progress, prosperity and glory are merely so many ideas and words.'

   - Leonard Forte, founder of Fortis Incorporated, in his autobiography "Foundations", published 2301.


2085: There is world-wide economic instability and dangerous political tension in the Middle East, a result of the growing pressure between developing nations expanding their industrial and commercial might by leaps and bounds, and a severe global fuel and food shortage. Said tension has been building since the very start of the 21st century, with China, India and Pakistan as the main players and instigators. Western powers represented by the United States and various agencies under the European Union, pressured by economic mayhem and political and medial instability, force military action, using an incident where China's military enforces a trade embargo as a pretext for moving in to secure foreign interests and assets. Events coincide catastrophically. On the 21st of November, China declares a state of war with Pakistan and of military conflict with the United Nations. It takes three months before the U.S. Congress passes its own declaration of war.

2086: Global economic ties and political dependancies force more and more nations into the still relatively chilly stalemate. A complex set of barriers, both physical and political, now divides all lands and countries between the Korean peninsula and the Kaukasus, even more so than as it were at the start of the century. Globally, the situation is even more convoluted. A few secessionist movements form across the globe and both nations and independent organizations and companies make various attempts at cutting foreign ties to avoid being drawn into the growing situation. Their efforts are fruitless; on the whole these actions worsen the tension as much as they allieve it.

2087: On October the 23rd, a relatively small nuclear explosion wipes out a significant portion of a Chinese forward armored strike force while they stand by a short distance in across the Russian border. It is not known who is responsible, and no launch is confirmed, however the proximity of Russian launch vehicles cannot be denied. Minutes later, Chinese jets bombard those launchers and a Russian base along the border. Another nuclear warhead goes off, this one apparently one of the launchers self-detonating as a result of a technical malfunction caused by the attack. Circumstances surrounding this attack, supposedly a retaliatory strike, are also uncertain. The Midnight Offensive, as it is to be known, takes place; an armored rush that results in three days of constant fighting before Chinese forces seize hold of Novosibirsk. Heated negotiations erupt. Emboldened and enraged, other nations follow suite, skirmishes breaking out across the globe. With almost every nation involved seeing its economic security and future on the line the conflict, previously a chilly near-stalemate, turns violently aggressive and heated. 'Free radicals' in the form of private or corporate-employed armed forces start appearing publicly for the first time. Gradually yet unstoppably, the situation spirals out of hand.

2144: The end of the Third World War, formalized on February the 7th at the Delhi Summit. It has proven the largest, most costly and intensive war in human history, leaving humanity at large in tatters.

'People have spoken so many times before of the dangerous drives and tendencies of mankind, of the human propensity for impassioned evil. But it was not a thirst for blood that created the greatest war in history; in spite of all historical precedence and all the lives lost for the sake of that belief, it cannot be said that any passion, any studious or directed malice, was what drove us so close to destruction. Such things burn out, for not even the most cruel individual is capable of sustaining hatred like that. Instead, it was that most lowly of human emotions that led us astray, that particular thing that lies closest to our basic desires, so rooted in our prosperity and progress that one cannot but fear that it must all happen again, for we will never be able to manage without it.
   It took the destruction of half our world to make us realize that the true evil lies not in the passion, the drives that our species is so capable of, but in the egocentric disregard, the way we cease to internalize the knowledge and image of the world around us when we grow too heedless of anything greater than ourselves. Truly, men become evil when they ignore their cause or vocation and listen only to that inner voice which wishes for and is only satisfied for itself. It is both ironic and symbolic that the two should be so close to each other as to be like two sides of the same coin, because the only thing that separates self-absorption and selfishness - one the single-minded pursuit of an idea and a passion, the other the pursuit of pride or a whim - is the invisible, indeterminable force of intent.'

   - Mirian DeWalt, "The Results of Modernity", published 2156.

2150-2200: Most power bloques, nations and alliances from the start of the millennium lie in ashes, as do most of the world's industries and many of its cities. Just under four billion people now populate a deeply divided Earth. What political powers still exist have more or less been absorbed into or serve only as a medium for privatized organizations or agencies. The major powers of the new world are entirely made up of the corporations and privately owned bodies that have managed best to sustain their assets throughout and profiteer on the war, and those who have expanded in the ensuing rebuilding efforts. The Earth Directorate is officially formed on January 5th in 2168 as a mediating governing entity between the largest corporate bodies and houses. A desire for preservature of human culture, both ancient and modern, is the essential drive behind a conservatist second cultural renaissance, later to be named first the Resurgence, then the New Imperial Era.

'We know now that, despite its good intentions, democracy was as untenable a governing system as those before it. It was a natural step along the path of progression, true, but in many ways it was much too identical to communism in that it was too naive. Too dependent on the basic idea that all men should be equal in all regards, that they should hold the same values and motivations and the same capabilities to exercise these, and that society can evolve as a whole in unison. The difference was that while communism demanded this of the populace, democracy merely presumed it. But people are not perfect. People are neither wise nor kind unless given the freedom to be so. And they cannot afford that freedom if they are taxed by a society plagued by politicizing and poor decisions caused by a lack of insight, or motivation, or by the agendas of those whose best interests do not go hand in hand with those of society itself. Democracy is at an end. Now we return, in a manner, to the ways of old. We must discriminate and discern, not to infringe on the freedoms of men, but to protect them.'

   - Isak Waldemar Sorensen, Head Chancellor of the Earth Directorate 2168-2178 and Chief Executive of Chiron Holdings 2159-2168 and 2179-2201.

2221: The first FTL drive prototype, the Jones-Weissman Massive Entanglement Quantum Drive, is licensed to and tested by Forte Corporation. It proves a failure, the proposed instant-travel method completely unsuitable for personal or mass transport, however it does provide vital insight and data concerning faster than light communication and relative simultanity.

2259: The first mining colony is established on Mars. Several large-scale permanently inhabited space stations exist in orbit around both Earth and Mars, and construction is planned for one over Jupiter. At this point, technology is sufficiently advanced to allow for relatively quick and human-tolerable travel within the solar system, though low public interest and the lack of both any major breakthroughs and any pressing need to leave the confines of Earth and its nearest space is holding back any major investments into or plans for interstellar expansion. The main pool of human expertise arguably lies in the fields of information interpretation and processing, and medical technology and cybernetics. With humanity in the middle of a century-long cultural introversion, and competition between corporations intensifying, tension is beginning to rise once more.

2304: A taxation and research independence issue starts the Ares War, or the Martian War. It is over within six months, the technologically superior forces of the semi-corporate religious organization known as The Church of Devotion to Faithful Progress standing victorious over those of Helix Industrial. The latter is acquisitioned by Fortis Corporation before the end of the year. This marks the first true inter-corporate military conflict where political motives or agencies are practically uninvolved.

'In hindsight, it does not even make sense to me why anyone should want to fight [the Devotion]. I will not say that they are fanatics, but I will say that they fight like no other people. And not only because of that tech they use. They have so many people to rely on, so many soldiers and so much resources. They can afford trying unconventional things, which often saves them more effort and money in the end. They are just too big, too sure of themselves, and too unpredictable for any sane man to be comfortable with going up against them.'

   - Col. Andre Verdi, Stellar Security Force, an oral assessment of the combat strategy of the Legio Dedicies, the armed security branch of the Devotion To Faithful Progress, upon his transference from former employment at Helix Industrial.

2331: Induced sympathetic neutron motion is discovered by an anonymous source, and although many attempts are made at proprieting the principles of the technology or keeping it under wraps, the efficiency of modern industrial espionage means that it is soon a very public secret. Gravity manipulation technologies of slightly differing types are subsequently invented by a number of researchers, all at more or less the same time. Very soon, the first forays into space-bending technology and what is to become known as 'Schwarzchild tech' are made.

'It's called the weak force of nature, but that doesn't mean it will let itself be kept down. No, it keeps us down. Usually. But that's the thing; you can't say 'as undeniable as' or 'constant like' anymore, because we can change that. We can make it work for us. We just had to learn what it was telling us. You don't fight it. You don't try to bend or break it. You don't push; you pull. Give and take. You just have to be clever about it, and use your influence. Nobody affects no body.
   Omniforce knows how to work it. The ups and the downs. We can provide solutions anywhere, for any application and to any system. The workload isn't an issue, because we know how to lighten it. We deliver to specifications, whether it's on planet or in orbit, tea trays or spaceliners. Whatever floats your... well, your
anything, really.'

   - Jeremiah Sinclair, CEO Omniforce Systems, part of the holdings of The Church of Devotion to Faithful Progress, short promotional commercial for Core Business Networks.

2375: First recorded faster than light manned flight. The Devotion-owned ship 'Libertas' makes its journey between the 'Favor' space station orbiting Mars and the 'Virtus' research vessel above the rings of Saturn in just under two minutes, using a fold-space gravity drive. The ship takes heavy damage, losing four crew members to 'unexpected environmental circumstances'. Nearly all information concerning the flight is suppressed. The crew itself is never mentioned in official media again. The event is not repeated, though reportedly The Devotion makes use of the plentiful data gathered for further research.

2389: On the 12th of March, a luminous phenomenon destroys the top of a Fortis corporate milescraper. No organization or corporation takes responsibility for the incident. Rumor spreads about aliens, angels and experimental technology. General awareness is that the event would be too hard to cover up, thus some corporate agencies twist the story to their own end, while others make use of the myriad conflicting reports and accounts to confuse and bury facts through joint media manipulation.

'The fire drives us, raising us up above the sea of blood that is history. Even now we soar on the flames of destruction. We bask in the light of the fires of Hell. This is as nothing compared to what is to come!'

   - Unknown apparition, Almerian Incident, 12th Mar. 2389.

2400: The turn of the century is marked by the breakout of a de facto war between Fortis Corporation and The Church of Devotion to Faithful Progress, when the former allegedly steals an undisclosed yet apparently crucial piece of technology from the latter. Before The Devotion can close their appeal to the Earth Directorate to dissolve the commanding body of Fortis Incorporated though, the latter puts forth evidence that suggests that the Almerian Incident was in fact the result of a Devotion operation, and that the technology, referred to only as 'the Fifth Component', was present at the time and place of the Incident. Forte Legal claims that they were about to purchase the technology from an undisclosed party, however the legal process soon becomes more or less an inconsequential formality beside the real power struggle between the already hostile organizations. As direct military conflict on Earth has been banned by the Directorate in order to prevent any sort of devastation like that of World War Three from repeating itself, the space between Earth, Mars and Jupiter becomes the battleground instead, surgical tactical insertions and political maneuvering the main weapons. A new Cold War comes into fruition, as corporations side with either Fortis or The Devotion in order to protect their interests.

2409: Present day. Roughly seven billion people inhabit the solar system, more than half a billion outside of Earth itself. Humanity, living in a still scarred and silently divided world, is burdened with infighting and amoral, ruthless strife in a callous and massively corporate and classist society, clawing desperately for the stars, for a way of escaping the confines of the solar system, merely for the sake of hope. The boundaries of race, religion and nationality there used to be either have little or no meaning anymore, or have been completely redefined. Life is hard, dirty and lurid, technology the great working force of civilization, society whirring with the cold mechanisms of industry and sizzling with the fierce activity of information networks. And in this complex, sensitive, powerful system, telltale signs of change are starting to arise.

« Last Edit: December 26, 2009, 01:23:45 am by Acheron » Logged

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neon_suntan
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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2009, 01:05:11 am »


That's a great piece of work on the timeline. But keep the story itself kind of vague about the background... most people in out time don't have a pin-sharp recollection of the past 20 years in socio political history let alone the past 400... Keeping it fuzzy allows you as a writer to have more freedom too.

The concepts vaguely remind me of some of the synopses of a polish writers work... have you heard of Jacek Dukaj?

Sadly only one of his stories has been translated into english but the synopses sound amazing...

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Alain Raethorne
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2009, 02:29:29 am »

I skimmed over it, but I immediately thought that you may be interested in this Alternate History Timeline forum.

So far this looks pretty solid, but I'll give you a better review when I have time to read it all.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2009, 02:31:13 am by Alain Raethorne » Logged

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cyberjacques
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2009, 10:57:55 pm »

Very cool, I would love to read more.  Though I have to admit, it doesn't seem particularly steampunk to me.  Does the steamy stuff come in later?

Oh, and Alain Raethorne, where does the little poem in your signature come from?  I like it a lot.
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Acheron
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2009, 03:07:16 am »

That's a great piece of work on the timeline. But keep the story itself kind of vague about the background... most people in out time don't have a pin-sharp recollection of the past 20 years in socio political history let alone the past 400... Keeping it fuzzy allows you as a writer to have more freedom too.

The concepts vaguely remind me of some of the synopses of a polish writers work... have you heard of Jacek Dukaj?


Great and great... Not so sure. I come up with concepts like these a lot, and the real work is just to fit the details together. And like you said, I'm keeping it vague for now. Mostly because I'm not so sure that this is what I ought to start on...

Haven't heard of him, but I'll be sure to check him out.

I skimmed over it, but I immediately thought that you may be interested in this Alternate History Timeline forum.


Thank you greatly! I'll put some time into reading.

Very cool, I would love to read more.  Though I have to admit, it doesn't seem particularly steampunk to me.  Does the steamy stuff come in later?


The 'steampunk' bit comes from the cultural revolution that takes place after WW3. Mostly it's a question of style, but the idea was to picture a society where the technological philosophy changes a lot as well. Possibly, I could tie this in with a theory on pattern establishment and logarithmic data degradation in sufficiently advanced electronics which might make it desirable to have as little integrated electronic systems in things as possible. Basically though, the idea was to have society sort of revert to a pseudo-feudal system with large houses and companies as the main political players, and the culture developing from the whole 'rebuilding' mentality being a sort of nostalgic return back to the blooming days of late industrialism...
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Alain Raethorne
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« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2009, 01:23:05 am »

Okay. So I like it. It seems like a good start to this timeline/game setting/short story. (What do you plan on doing with this anyways?)

I have to agree with cyberjacques, I don't really see much steampunk in it, but it seems like it'd be a good cyberpunk sort of thing, but I don't really fel like getting into that sort of discussion.

A few questions, though:

What is society at large like? I know that the governing bodies are essentially giant corporations, but how is that affecting the general populace?

What is the current level of technology? You mention the first FTL ship, but what is everything else like? Almost stereotypical futuristic sci-fi, or is it sord of hard sci-fi with advancements in a few fields?

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Acheron
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2009, 01:13:17 am »

Okay. So I like it. It seems like a good start to this timeline/game setting/short story. (What do you plan on doing with this anyways?)


Oh, pretty much whatever. Some short stories, perhaps. An attempt at a novel? I'm not sure. I tend to dream up plays and settings much like I dream up machines or devices, meaning offhandedly.

I have to agree with cyberjacques, I don't really see much steampunk in it, but it seems like it'd be a good cyberpunk sort of thing, but I don't really fel like getting into that sort of discussion.


I was speculating taking the whole theme even further back, with Wilhelm Röntgen discovering the 'Empyrean' or 'Aether' in 1895, and Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower actually being built to completion to study the phenomenon, and then taking it from there. I will admit though that most of the stuff I've been influenced by (works by Masamune Shirow, novels by Iain Banks, the Ground Control games and so forth...) are almost all sci-fi, however I was intending to explore steampunk less as a technological and more as a cultural phenomenon.

What is society at large like? I know that the governing bodies are essentially giant corporations, but how is that affecting the general populace?


Largely, with WW3's devastation being targeted first at vital strategic assets, then production means and transportation, and finally descending into less discriminate line-war in the last desperate years, the 'outskirts' of human civilization have been destroyed. This in addition to the rebuilding effort's focus on industrial recovery and efficiency started the trend of industry and population 'clustering up' around the standing cities. The polarized political climate and the way most corporations have standing armies and clear ideas of their legal rights, and of the non-efficiency of building anywhere but around economical assets, has contributed to this, causing people to live mostly in or around tall-built super-cities. The people themselves are born 'free', but who you work for is rather important, particularly as there are few independent instances that can verify credentials, certificates, passports and any other means by which to move around and achieve employment. However, even the corporations are aware that there needs to be some subculture and free space and movement, and I intend to show just how deviously-minded people can be in dealing with each other on that point... Wink

The people themselves? Well, have you seen Gattaca? There's some elements of that going on, and admittedly cybernetics as well. There is no way I'm going to pass up on getting to describe a Swiss-engineered pianist's arm in brass, silver and ebony. I was thinking of having 'homonculi' as well...

Add Victorian style and mannerisms, some self-appointed houses with lords and ladies and ruthless power-mongering and technology-bartering on top of this, and then a few hints of religion and magic so subtle as to be uncertain...

What is the current level of technology? You mention the first FTL ship, but what is everything else like? Almost stereotypical futuristic sci-fi, or is it sord of hard sci-fi with advancements in a few fields?


I was planning on the whole thing being rather far up on Mohs Scale Of Science Fiction Hardness. The only 'fantastic' thing that I had planned for was the 'Empyrean' and its properties, technological possibilities, and effects on people. And those are plot points...

Generally, I was planning to have decidedly advanced technology, but made in accordance with a very particular ethos; as far as possible, it would be powerful, but unsophisticated. Advanced, but simplistic. As little electronics or integrated systems as possible, because of development costs and emphasis and a certain aversion to 'thinking tech' brought on by some mishaps with data networks and AIs in the late 2100s. As much usage of simplified and carefully refined designs, principles and mechanisms as possible. And because of corporate and house and family competition, and ruling cultural ideals, everything is made in as high-quality and artistic a manner as possible, in the steampunk fashion.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2009, 01:21:44 am by Acheron » Logged
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