Monday, 2 March 2015

Jacobeans versus Aliens: worldbuilding

Yeah, I'm still not super keen on any names I've thought of.

One of the big issues with this game is deciding how to represent aliens. Basically, I think there are two choices (thanks Dan).

The first one is my initial instinct: try to create aliens as they might have been depicted by Jacobean sci-fi if that actually existed. So they have wood and metal vessels, use weapons that Jacobeans can imagine (even though they didn't have that science), and so on. This has a sort of appeal in that I just like the idea of Jacobean sci-fi. On the downside, that didn't actually exist. And I have very little idea what it would hypothetically have been like. And when you get right down to it, would it really be all that different from either sci-fi or steampunk? Because it's kind of going to be somewhere between the two, to be honest.

The other option is a bit harder to articulate. Basically, the aliens are more or less like aliens as depicted in 20th century sci-fi, but described entirely in Jacobean terms. I'd also try to incorporate strong flavours of Jacobean worldview. A disadvantage here is the suspension of disbelief: how can these spacefaring aliens not just eliminate their human foes?

At this point, my inclination is just to go for the latter.

Building Jacobean aliens

I am actually trying to research Jacobean natural philosophy and cosmology to some extent, because I'd like this to feel roughly authentic (whatever that means).

One of the big useful tools here is to bring in alchemy and astrology. As well as there being cosmological ideas about the planets, there's also a certain amount of theory linked just to alchemy. Each of the eight planets has associated metals, and there are ideas about how planets tie into personalities and behaviour. Thus, Jupiter is associated with joviality and tin. To quote Wikipedia:

Astrologically, Jupiter is associated with the principles of growth, expansion, prosperity, and good fortune. Jupiter governs long distance and foreign travel, higher education, religion, and the law. It is also associated with the urge for freedom and exploration, humanitarian and protecting roles, and with gambling and merrymaking. The 1st-century poet Manilius described Jupiter as temperate and benign, and the greater benefic. It was regarded as warm and moist in nature, and therefore favorable to life. In medicine, Jupiter is associated with the liver, pituitary gland, and the disposition of fats; it governed the sanguine humor. In modern times, Jupiter is said to be the ruler of the ninth and twelfth houses, but traditionally, Jupiter was assigned to the second and ninth houses: the house of values and the house of beliefs, respectively.

That, right there, tells us what jovian beings and culture are like. They have a prosperous, educated civilisation probably quite like the Greco-Roman setup, and probably quite benevolent - for jovians. They're cheerful and not actively malicious, although this doesn't prevent them from coming to Earth with the expectation that they can just kind of do what they like. I'm essentially seeing these as genial, educated and utterly patronising, to the point that colonising Earth and dominating its people doesn't even strike them as problematic. Think overbearing huntin'-shootin'-fishin' ex-Etonians. Additionally, they will have a very tin-themed technology base, and I think, a very spherical sort of aesthetic. I'm seeing spherical tin ships. As a warm and moist planet, its people will struggle with the cold British climate and wear lots of furs and cloaks. They like greens, purples, browns and whites. Their weaponry crackles with bottled lightning.

Mercurians use quicksilver for stuff. The Jacobeans won't understand this, but let's assume it's contained and shaped by powerful electromagnetic fields or something. This means they can have bizarre shapeshifting technology - their weapons flow from blades to firearms, and the latter probably fire fragments of themselves, which then return to the firer and merge back into the weapon. Their ships are extravagant shapes, and can rearrange themselves. They carry lots of simple orbs, discs or rods which then unfold into amazing pieces of technology. Naturally (messenger of the gods) mercurians are fast and agile. They're very analytical and adaptable, but also nosy and distractible. They can probably shapeshift somewhat themselves. I imagine they have communicative powers, like telepathy, get on well with animals, and are very into collecting writing and records. They're used to cold, dry places and hate the rain. They like taking things apart and rebuilding them, which relates to their analytic minds. Their favoured colours are blue, purple and grey, usually worn in tight-fitting garments.

Venusians travel in copper discs, or ships based on discs and flat planes. They are preoccupied with appearances, comfort and style. They're very interested in relations, deals and diplomacy, although this will tend towards quite a lot of corrupting (or outright seducing) mortals to advance their cause. They find the cool British climate only mildly uncomfortable. They're used to a very lush, fertile landscape and inclined to terraform. Their weapons fire crystalline slivers that often bear poisons. They like pastel shades of blue, green and yellow, and each has a distinctive personal style.

Martians have long, angular ships of iron. They favour red, iron-gray and black, and their skin is either green or red. They are physically powerful, athletic, confident, competitive, passionate and aggressive. For martians, sport and warfare are noble callings in and of themselves. They are disciplined, yet impulsive, and often allow challenges to override their better judgement. Martians are perhaps the most likely to come into direct conflict with humans, since they enjoy the challenge. They favour physical combat, but will take up firearms when necessary. Their firearms create beams of light that cut like blades.

Saturnians are sombre, pragmatic, dutiful types, and rather ponderous. They are very hidebound, placing great importance on social structures and procedures; though ambitious, they seek to progress along defined paths with the approval of their superiors, rather than strike out and win approval through sheer merit. They are highly resilient in mind and body, and think in the long term, enduring temporary hardship or trouble for the sake of what is to come. It is a very cold world, and the saturnians find even British weather uncomfortably warm. They are fond of crescent shapes, arcs and curves. Their ships are made of lead, and form elegant curves. Their weaponry seems to rend and tear using the very air itself. They wear black, grey and similar sombre shades, and their clothing is uniform.

Lunarians are highly empathic and emotional, and spend a lot of time in reminiscence. Their ships are silver tubes. Despite their strong emotions, they are rather inscrutable and full of mystery. Lunarians rarely come into conflict with humans, but often make inexplicable visits and exert influences, which may themselves be damaging. When they do use weaponry, it uses unearthly sounds to deafen, madden and pain. As well as silver, they wear orange and yellow robes.

Solarians travel in great golden vessels with incredible arrays of rippling sails, very much like earthly ships. They are large, imposing beings who seem to burst with life and vigour, and very fond of music. They are proud, self-possessed and tend towards great works and projects. Solarians are a fairly benevolent race, but sometimes inclined to catch humanity up their great projects; differences between the two species can result in disaster, as human frailty undermines the grand aims of the solarians. In addition, solarians may undertake 'improvements' on behalf of humans, without considering the practicalities. Their weaponry sears and scorches, unleashing the fiery rays of the sun. Their favoured colours are red and yellow, sometimes with black, white or purple.

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