This is the third installment in a set of blog posts about my current science fiction series. The first book, THE SILVER SHIP AND THE SEA, is now available in paperback. The sequel, READING THE WIND, will be out on July 22nd. Each post explores one way the books address a problem we are also affected by, or probably will be affected by in the future. I hope you enjoy this one: Worldbuilding: We’re Doing it Now
In my last blog post about these books, A Wild World, I suggested we are significantly changing the world and ourselves. In other words, we are becoming the primary actors in the evolution of both the human race and of the planet we live on. In some cases, this is based on conscious decisions like “engineer a better wheat” and in other cases it is because technologies we choose have side effects (climate change). In this post, I’ll dive a little deeper into some world-scale engineering projects we are doing or discussing.
There are, of course, huge historic projects along these lines. The Panama Canal comes to mind.
One of the places you’ll visit if you pick up READING THE WIND is Pilo Island. It floats, and there are engines that move it one way or the other, keeping it free from the influence of tide and current. Off the coast of Dubai, there already exist two man-made island projects: The Palm Islands, and The World Islands. These are both significant engineering projects, designed primarily as playgrounds for the super-rich. Both are finished and being sold.
In the sequel to READING THE WIND, tentatively titled WINGS OF CREATION, our heroes explore Lopali, a planet where, among other things, the climate is completely controlled. This is another area where I’m closer to writing about us today than you might think. China has been working on climate control for many years, with the most storied efforts lately being about trying to keep it from raining on the opening ceremonies. Many ideas have surfaced about engineering away global warming. These range from making nearly every roof in the world white to dumping iron in the ocean. They include an Idea Larry Niven and I explored in my first published story, the collaboration “Ice and Mirrors, Asimov’s, 2001): using mirrors to cool a planet by reflecting away the sunlight. A good fiction read which explores some big-engineering ideas about climate change is a trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson that starts with FORTY SIGNS OF RAIN. In these books, the gulfstream must be stopped from changing.
As we engineer more and more of our world, replacing natural balance with man-made balance, it seems likely that we will have to take over most of the work nature has done in the past. It may become a constant process of tinkering to create new things, and then to mitigate the unforeseen consequences, which will cause us to create new things, which may cause yet more unforeseen consequences…
The planets I’m writing about are set so far in the future that much of this learning curve has already happened, but I suspect our current grapple with climate change may be only the beginning of a process that leaves us in far more in charge of the places we live, for better or worse. If we survive the process. While I think we will, I also don’t think it’s certain.
Here are some interesting sites to visit to explore these ideas more:
Feel free to comment! And for those of you in the Seattle area, don’t forget I’ll be doing a reading with Jay Lake on July 24th. That should also be a good opportunity to pick up a copy of READING THE WIND, which comes out the 22nd.