Welcome to another fantastic stop in our World-building Showcase blog hop! On this stop, we’re highlighting a story that isn’t dependent on the Earth for the action, but you can find a full list of authors and topics on the OWS Cycon website. Let’s dive in!
Welcome Sherry D. Ramsey!
Before we dive in to the nitty gritty, what is the Nearspace series about?
The Nearspace series is set about 250 years in our future, when we’ve learned to travel interstellar distances via wormholes. The back-of-the-book description for the first book, One’s Aspect to the Sun, will tell you how the series starts out:
Captain Luta Paixon of the far trader Tane Ikai needs to know why she looks like a woman in her thirties–even though she’s actually eighty-four. She isn’t the only one desperate for that information.
The explanation might lie with her geneticist mother, who disappeared over sixty years ago, but even if her mother is still alive, it’s proving to be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the furthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart.
Many things that are set in motion in the first book carry over into others in the series, although I tried to make each book standalone to some extent. No cliffhangers! But there are story threads that run through the series, so reading in order is probably the very best way to dive into the series. One reader called it “space opera with heart” and I loved that, because it’s as much about family as it is about adventure and future science and all that fun stuff.
Does language play any role in your world? Does everyone speak the same language, or is there variety? Did you invent any new slang or terminology during your world-building process?
In this envisioned future, the common language for humans and the aliens we’ve encountered is Esper, which is an evolved form of Esperanto. I decided to sprinkle a few Esper words throughout the books for linguistic flavour. Personally, I love reading books with bits of strange or invented languages, so it seemed a natural fit for Nearspace.
As with a lot of futuristic sci-fi, there are also science and tech terms for invented items or ideas, like “chameleon fabric” (a type of biofabric that changes color, either randomly or in sync with the wearer’s mood or biorhythms), “priddattii” (facial tattoos common in a specific culture), and the slang term “techrig” (a general term for any portable personal technology).
What kinds of climates do your characters experience? Do they see a lot of change or is it always the same? Has your world always had this kind of climate, or has it changed over time?
Since the characters in Nearspace travel to numerous planets, I tried to think more in terms of inhabited areas of planets, or where colonists or corporations would choose to place settlements for ease of colonization or access to resources. Having the luxury of choosing which planets to settle and where to settle on them though, there are few instances where colonists would choose to set down roots in particularly harsh or inhospitable zones, so most of the inhabited worlds are actually pretty nice. In a couple of situations, characters do come up against climate or weather conditions they can’t control, so it’s definitely something I had to think about as an aspect of world-building.
What do people in your world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?
Absolutely! Several of my characters practice ritualistic martial arts, and of course there are still books to read and movies to watch (even if the technology for how those entertainments are delivered has changed). My humans of the future have changed in some ways, but they’re still basically pretty much like us, and interstellar travel still involves lots of long stretches of time where leisure activities are necessary, because space is, you know, big.
What kinds of transportation and other interesting technology do your characters have access to? Are they ahead, behind, or a mix of different kinds of tech compared to where we are now?
One of the cities my characters visit in the first book of the series has moving sidewalks, which is something we could certainly create today, but it would be expensive and problematic when you think about scaling it up to city-size. I’ve assumed that in the Nearspace future, some of those obstacles would have been overcome. They also use “flitters,” which are basically flying cars, and a whole host of sizes of spacefaring ships.
Other everyday technologies include forearm implants which serve as identity cards and as a way to “hook up” to other kinds of information technology; “healstrips,” which are a kind of high-tech bandage; and “notebugs,” which are tiny airborne robots used for private communications delivered directly to an identity implant.
I’d say the tech level is a mix of existing tech, and ideas that have been extrapolated from existing tech to either a small or large degree.
Do you have different races or enhanced humans with their own unique abilities inhabiting your world?
When the series begins, humans have become allies with two alien species—Lobors and Vilisians. The Lobors are doglike or wolflike, and the Vilisians are humanoid but very different from humans in some ways (they have a layer of communication that is scent-based, for example). In the distant past, there was also a war with an aggressive species known only as the Chron, who are still very mysterious. Over the course of the series, more aliens are introduced as well, and more is also learned about the Chron and their reasons for attacking Nearspace so long ago.
When you build a world, what is your process like? Do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?
Tending more to being a discovery writer than a planner, I guess it’s a mix…I did plan out the Nearspace worlds, their governments, inhabitants, and resources to some extent. Most of it I do on the fly, however, as I’m writing. This does cause problems sometimes—I wrote wormhole connections and travel times between the worlds very much as I needed them for the plot to work, and then only at the end sat down to try and actually draw them out and make them make sense (I had to recruit my husband to help with that because it was in such a mess!). I’ve learned to keep notes in my series bible as I go, so that I can quickly refer back to a piece of technology or cultural detail I’ve inserted on the fly. My memory is pretty terrible, so I need a reference document to keep things consistent!
How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?
Nearspace is definitely integral to the events of the story—there are many elements that simply wouldn’t work without the interconnected systems of a fairly vast “world.” I tried to make the various planets and cultures distinctive—the facial tattoos of Erians, for example, or the Vilisian scent language, or the particular gestural greetings of Kiandon culture. On my website there’s a recipe for a certain type of cookie the crew love to bake, picked up on a certain planet.
(Funny story as an aside: I was invited to attend a book club meeting one time, when they discussed the first Nearspace book, One’s Aspect to the Sun. The only real complaint they had with the book was that there wasn’t enough food in it, because their custom is to make food from whatever book they’re discussing and bring it to that meeting. Ever since, I make sure there’s food in my books. You have to listen to your readers.)
How much of a role does realism and hard scientific fact play in your world-building? Do you strive for 100% accuracy, or do you leave room for the fantastical and unexplainable in your world?
Well, there’s definitely tech that’s far outside what we consider possible today. However, I do try to extrapolate from existing science wherever I can, and I do research to add as much believability to the technology as I can. Some would say that the idea of wormhole travel is “fantastical,” which of course it is—as far as we know right now. But even now there’s scientific thought on how such a thing might be possible, so that’s something I can take and run with.
How do you keep all of the details of your world and characters straight? Do you have a system for deciding on different factors and keeping it all organized, or does it live more in your head?
I’ve already mentioned my bad memory—so I need a series bible! I have a thick binder with sections for characters, the world, technology, etc. to keep it all organized and easy to reference when I need to. Besides the physical binder, I have most of the information also in Scrivener, so I can drop that reference section into each new project file for easy access. Honestly, I don’t trust myself to remember a particular character’s eye colour, so I need to keep ALL of that information somewhere outside my head.
Where can people find you on the web?
I keep a website at www.sherrydramsey.com, and of course you can find me at CyCon!
Readers can also keep up with my much more pithy musings on Twitter: @sdramsey and catch glimpses of my geeky, bookish, and creative life on Instagram: @sdramsey
Want more choices? Get the latest in writing news and other interesting reads on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SherryDRamseyWritingNews/, or follow me on BookBub for news and deals: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/sherry-d-ramsey
Thanks so much for hosting me here and letting me ramble on about Nearspace! It’s been really fun to talk about world-building with you.