Friday, August 14, 2009

Shared Worlds

Thinking of shared worlds again ... playing Fallout 3 and a new D&D 4E campaign has me itching to world-build. I think my perfect vision is a wiki based around a concept that would be split into different eras or specialties -- and four or five writers would contribute, each specializing in a corner of the universe that may or may not overlap with the others. One of the basic rules would be that whatever you did had to build on what someone else did, but not negate it.

It would have to be a group that worked together well, that was keyed into the same ideas and wanted similar things from the project. There would bound to be disagreements, but hopefully the wouldn't turn nasty, and would ultimately lead to something even better than what was there before.

The ultimate goal would be to have a world that any of the contributors could then set stories within -- novels, screenplays, games or whatever they wanted to write.

I started something with this basic idea with Pato -- god, about a year ago now. But I haven't ever been entirely comfortable with the "hardware" issue -- with the wikis that we found, and with my own capabilities of building it. So I've tended to let the actual wiki sit, even as I keep taking notes on the world and even writing stories set within that world.

Anyway. I've got airships and tentacles on the brain these days.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Everything I Know About Time I Learned From Steve Miller

I was just reading A Brief History of Nearly Everything, particularly a chapter that dealt with the age of the universe -- where I'm at right now some scientist or other has speculated that the universe is 20 billion years old. And it got me to thinking -- probably too simplistically -- but it got me to thinking, how can we really think about "years" on a scale like that?

Because a "year" is the time it takes for the earth to travel around the sun. But if the earth is, what, 4.5 billion years old, or something like that -- how can we measure years before the earth existed? If there was no earth to travel around the sun, I mean. If "time" is relative to gravity, if time is relative to movement through space -- I don't know if we can think about "20 billion years" once we're talking about something off of the planet earth, can we? I mean relative to us, sure -- it takes 76 years for Haley's Comet to swing within viewing distance of the earth. But that's 76 years for *us* -- if we were to attach a pocket watch to Haley's Comet, would it calculate the same amount of time?

I think I've read that if you take an airplane from, say, New York to Los Angeles -- when you get off that plane you're a little younger than the folks you left behind in New York, by virtue of the speed you've traveled through space. Space meaning physical space, not outer space. So if even *that* movement alters one's own perception of time...

I guess ultimately what I'm saying is, how can we talk about "20 billion years" when there haven't BEEN 20 billion years -- meaning, 20 billion passages around the sun by the earth?

And somewhat separate -- what if the earth has made some passages around the sun, or WILL make some passages around the sun, either faster or slower? Is it still a "year"? Are we really talking about "20 billion theoretical revolutions around the sun"? We already have a concept of a "Martian day," since it's something like 23.5 hours as compared to our 24 hours ...

I realize I'm thinking myself in circles, and I just got out of bed to type this as a means to not forgetting all about it in the morning. I'm not a stupid guy, but once you start talking about physics or astronomy I get easily confused. I'll just post this, move it to the back of my brain for now, and then go back to reading.