October: The Sketch

Today I’ll be roughly sketching the outline of the setting I’ll be working on, explaining what I mean when I call something “hopeful” like I did, and explaining why I want to make a hopeful setting.

The setting itself, at the core of it, extends from a central star out past four rocky worlds, two asteroid belts, and three gas/ice giants all with a host of moons. Anomalies exist at several points – in one of the asteroid belts, suspended in the eye of a vast storm on the largest gas giant, embedded in the volcanic crust of the innermost world, and so on. It’s a star system with multiple factions and nations, all testing their new freedom.

Freedom from an empire that held a powerful sway over the entire star system until recently, specifically. Unlike most stories, it wasn’t taken down by lucky heroes or Chosen Ones; it was taken down by a thousand acts of revolt and resistance across years, chiseling the grip it held away until it finally collapsed in on itself. Now, in the aftermath, civilization is rebounding into the empty spaces and societies both new and old are claiming room to grow.

The setting lacks anything but humans – no space elves or bugfolk or other proxies for human civilization here, save for what humans themselves have chosen to become. Cybernetics and biotech both exist, allowing modifications, but they’re all human underneath the changes. People are people, and that’s part of the story to be told.

As for why I’m calling the setting a hopeful one, I want to make a place where anyone can make a difference; one that has a future and there aren’t doomsayers on every corner. The empire has fallen, the hard times after the fall have passed, and now everyone is looking up and out at the other worlds and beyond to the stars themselves.

It’s hopeful because no one is a Chosen One, no one is one of the plucky few who can save the world. Everyone matters, and everyone gets to fight for the future they want and the life they desire. There are still petty, mundane evils and would-be villains, but there are no world-shaking villains or apocalyptic threats lying in wait. It’s important that any group or individual matters in this setting, that anyone can be a hero or a villain by their choices.

And as for why it matters – I want to do this because I’m tired of the tide of gritty reboots and grim stories and dark retellings of everything that we’ve been getting. The world is already hard enough, with the existential threats we’re facing and the way a huge chunk of the population is choosing to engage in denialism, bigotry, and hatemongering. I don’t need comic books going “What if the Nazis won?” and TV shows asking “What if the Confederates weren’t defeated?” and movies delving into dark, gritty reboots of fanciful stories. Life’s got all that covered already.

What I want is a place where the stories are about hope, not dread; where the balance doesn’t hang in the fate unless a few heroes succeed against the odds, but instead where the heroes are regular people who choose to make a difference in the world. I want to make a setting that doesn’t need existential threats to make it compelling when mysteries, curiosity, and the better side of human nature can drive the stories forward instead.

I don’t need an unstoppable horde of alien locusts or a God-King bent on subjugation for that. I just need people being themselves in a place where they don’t have all the answers and where others who don’t agree with them have their own goals.

I hope it’s going to be interesting enough for all y’all to stick around while I build it, and maybe even enough for some of you to consider chipping in so I can do more with it.

October: The Sketch

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