Worldbuilding, Part 5: Travel

I love to write about travel, and when I think about each of the books I've written, travel of one sort or another is an important, or even central, theme. 

Space travel is one of the hallmarks of science fiction – a lot of classic science fiction has to do with travel to other planets, or other stars, or, aliens traveling from elsewhere here. All of Star Trek was basically built around space travel, and the ramifications of it. I've talked a little before about my tendency to do my best to obey the laws of physics, as they are currently understood, but in reality, all of the space travel that  I have envisioned in my books is impossible using any current knowledge or technology. Space travel is fun to imagine and write about.  

There are several ways ot exploring space travel in the world (or universe) one is building. Some people choose to downplay the technology and knowledge invoved in fast interplanetary, or interstellar travel, and just focus on what happens when people travel. Other people imagine complex new star drives that work by extrapolation of current technology. Or, some embrace interesting completely wild ways of accomplishing interstellar travel, like Frank Herbert's spice-modified pilots who fold space. I tend to do my best to pick one specific strategy, like, wormholes, or ion drives, or some such, and allow that to be as commonplace as something like jets are for us. I have two universes (both forthcoming) where interstellar travel takes a long time (not as long as some authors, who have imagined generation ships.) I have two universes, one the Casitian Universe, and one the universe of a forthcoming novel called “The Artifact” that uses wormholes and jumpgates built and/or tended by ancient species. (This is not a new idea.)

But space travel isn't the only kind of travel I spend a lot of time on. I love to imagine travel on a planet. It's fun to think about what one can come across on a place that isn't Earth. However, in one case, the Expedition, I have written basically a travelogue, set in the 19th century United States. What makes it different than other fictional narratives describing that time is that it is a travelogue by a human that was not born on Earth.

Travel is an amazingly great engine for plots, which is why it is such a big theme in many genres of fiction. It provides novel situations to explore, provides context for great conflict between traveling companions, and great contexts for development of characters. One of the favorite travel narratives I've written is the story of the young Leticia, in The Story of New Earth, and her escape with others from her restrictive home, and around one part of New Earth. It's fun to really show how the new experiences that a character has during travel effects them, and how they develop as characters.

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