I like to read about worlds that are coherent and fleshed out. I don’t necessarily need a fully described and realized explanation of the economic system, or a blow by blow of the exact history of the realm. but it helps. I can’t say I’ve gone that in depth with my worlds, though I’ve gotten pretty close. For the Fifteen Systems, for example, I started with the basic idea for the setting: A series of close star systems far out in space that holds the fragile remnant of humanity.

That was a promising start. Right from the jump, I knew that humanity either had developed faster than light travel, or used generational travel of some form. I also knew that something had to happen with Earth. I worked on the Earth angle, because that thread had to be short, and it would help me figure out the rest.

For inspiration on what could happen to Earth, I had to look no further than the lamentable and broken state of our current climate condition. It’s clear that those in power only have eyes for the number of zero’s in their bank accounts, leaving the needed changes and work to the wayside for “future generations” to worry about. So the specter of overpopulation of the planet plus the catastrophic effects of a rising sea and worsening climate became my crisis point.

The thing with any story, and in my opinion the thing that makes fiction what it is, is the single-handed diversion of a looming crisis. It always comes down to one character to Make the Choice that Saves the Day and Drives the Plot. So to enact the grand story that would turn into the Fifteen Systems, I settled on the idea that one philanthropic person would make the decision to get people off the planet in a unified fashion.

I spent some time daydreaming about what humanity might do, realistically, when faced with a dying planet. I figured the first thing to happen would be the creation and development of arcologies. These aren’t just a long-held sci-fi staple, we’re building structures in real life! That would be an easy first step for humanity. plus it would have the side effect of making the rich richer, and that is always a driving force unfortunately.

As the environment grew hostile, the invention of stasis of some kind would become a necessary technology. The rich, in my story background, began to enter stasis for ten years at a time. But all of this had to be embroiled in another crisis. A near Earth asteroid would fit the bill, one close enough to scrape the atmosphere. This led to a surge in the idea of colonization. Mars is the easiest target, but in the timeline I came up with there would be fighting over the Martian colony.

That sparked my next realization of my story; that humanity has a fractious tendency to balkanize itself. Colonization would be no different; each major country would send its own contingent of colonists, with the idea that their own people would form the “best” colony.

That gave me the opening for the single-handed diversion. Someone would have to make an effort for some kind of pan-national gathering of people, breaking up the single-cultured colonies. A generational ship would need to be operated by something, so I hit upon the idea that the philanthropic person could be the creator of the first AI. An AI to run a colony ship, and eventually the resulting colony. An AI would think logically about the population of a colony, so it would create a cross-culture group of people with a wide range of backgrounds.

Now knowing that my philanthropic ancient hero was likely a programmer, I decided to name her after Grace Hopper. Admiral Hopper is one of the unsung heroes of computing, being one of the first people to believe that an English-language based programming language was possible. She then invented the complier and the progenitor of COBOL. She’s a big deal, you should read more about her.

So following that train of thought, I had a character, Hopper, inventing an AI, and deciding to use that to put together a colony ship that spanned nations and backgrounds to give humanity the best chance of survival.

That’s a lot of world-building, right? And that’s all just background stuff that barely gets a mention in the book. Yet it was absolutely crucial to understand the layout, pacing, and general themes of Pallas Lost.