Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An Exercise in World Building: New Phoenix


A frontier planet on the edge of inhabited space, New Phoenix was founded in (xxxx) by missionaries from (planetname) to escape the religious persecution they faced at home. While some missionaries remained behind, they quickly became a marginalized and repressed political afterthought -- the Pilgrims of New Phoenix, as they came to be known, were left to chart their people’s course in the galaxy.

Led by Simone Montreaux, the Pilgrims were initially funded by (a corporation on Planet Y), and were intended to be but the first wave of a massive colonization effort on New Phoenix. The Pilgrims’ craft, the Reconnoiter, was a subluminal long-voyage craft built and launched before the people of (Planet Y) had access to FTL communications. By the time the Reconnoiter landed on New Phoenix and established a surface communications disk, however, they were able to receive FTL transmissions that had been broadcast from Planet Y since their departure. They discovered (pieced together?) that a number of catastrophes had befallen their homeworld since their craft’s launch, and that not only would no further colonists be sent to New Phoenix, but the remaining human population on Planet Y had been reduced to a non-spacefaring, pre-industrial age civilization. Messages they sent back to Planet Y went unanswered and, in fact, unreceived.

Initially colonization on New Phoenix itself went according to plan. Reconnoiter landed on the surface of the planet and was deconstructed to form the basis for Reconnoiter City, the colony’s first outpost and capital. (There was some initial debate upon learning the fate of Planet Y’s people concerning returning home, or perhaps simply not grounding Reconnoiter and attempting to establish the colony another way, thereby giving them a possible route off-planet if it was deemed necessary, but ultimately they decided to follow the colonization plan and commit to the grounding.) The planet’s surface was harsh and desert-like, requiring terraforming techniques in order to be made truly ideal for farming; while initial and rudimentary terraforming equipment was shipped on the Reconnoiter, the intent was to ship a separate terraforming vessel, one that would remain permanently in orbit, in a second wave of ships that was never launched. Thus, the Pilgrims were forced to make due with cloud seeding aircraft and high yield, low moisture crops that, though viable on New Phoenix’s surface, were not intended to do more than help establish the initial colony.

Starvation and sickness was a problem in the colony’s early years…..

Initially established as an oligarchy, with decisions made by a council appointed by Simone Montreaux, Reconnoiter City had descended into a fascist regime with a singular head by the end of Montreaux’s life. Her controversial death (assassination? Unexpected suicide?) led to a brief but far-reaching outbreak of violence before control of the city was seized by Walker Percy, the head of the ((Pilgrims’ Military Organization)). By this time the Pilgrims had spread beyond Reconnoiter City, with most of the population living on secluded farms, but with six other permanent settlements that, though they did not rival Reconnoiter City in terms of size, were nonetheless major centers of trade and religious worship. Walker Percy’s rule effectively ended at Reconnoiter City’s walls, and the other cities were left to develop, thrive or fall on their own accord.

Several generations passed before the ruins of a previous sapient civilization was found on the surface of New Phoenix. Ruins carved into the rock proved to be burial tombs by and large, but some evidence of trade centers and roads were also found, sometimes in the same places as where the Pilgrims had settled and established regular routes of transportation. That their existence had not been noted before was curious, but not altogether surprising. There had been no evidence of, or reason to suspect, that New Phoenix had ever been the home of another intelligent species.

Carvings in the tombs showed what appeared to be a reptilian race of two-legged humanoids who wore jewellery and headwear, but otherwise no evidence of clothing. Empty containers slightly smaller than human-size were discovered in some of the tombs, but they were otherwise empty of remains. The reasons for this were never discovered or ascertained by the Pilgrims.

Despite the occasional outbreak of violence between cities, the terrain of New Phoenix and the difficulty of day to day life even outside of warfare prevented any long-term campaigns of war. Nonetheless, within a hundred generations the Pilgrims civilization had dwindled below sustainable levels. Small pockets of humanity may remain to this day, most likely descended from Pilgrims that eventually moved below ground, but it is expected that New Phoenix will be completely devoid of human life within another four generations.


-After arrival of the Pilgrims and the establishment of Reconnoiter City, during the rule of Simone Montreaux. Gradually becomes a totalitarian, religion-based rule. Other settlements appear over time, usually founded by leaders who have fallen out of favor with Montreaux.

Wild Years
-After Montreaux’s death, during the generations of New Phoenix’s slow fall. Many settlements of varying size and sustainability. The ruins of the previous civilization are discovered. Possible interaction with megainsects (unintelligent) that live beneath the surface.

-After the collapse of the Pilgrims’ civilization. Remaining humans live below ground, are often insane or small multi-family units. They may even be unaware of any other human survivors on the planet, or even of the planet’s own history. Reconnoiter City itself is practically reclaimed by the harsh wilderness at this point.

-desert planet

-giant monsters, underground

-scattered settlements -- none above ground?

-ruins of such exist, however.

-giant star, two other planets: one outer gas giant, one inner small hot rocky world.

-crosses gas giant’s orbit? Allowing transfer of large gas-dragon-type creatures?

-ruins of a prior civilization found? Just before a catastrophe of some sort?

-religion of the Pilgrims -- Mormon based?

((but moreso was the existence of unknown and unexpected ultrafauna that lived beneath the planet’s surface. Massive insect-like creatures that existed in tunnels and mountainsides, the creatures would spend several years -- sometimes several generations -- in a kind of hibernation, only to awaken without warning, destroying crops and sometimes attacking and destroying entire settlements. Poisons were sometimes effective in killing the creatures, or furthering their hibernation, but physical weapons proved unable to pierce their thick exoskeletons.))

1 comment:

Drew said...

Consider this one big, fat endorsement of the gas dragon. Burnination!

Would love to be sitting in a room with you again, tossing out crazy-ass story ideas and seeing what comes of it. Until one of us has seized the reins of the media empire, then, I'll just say: Keep building those shining new worlds, you crazy diamond.