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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » Best Created "Construct" Worlds

   
Author Topic: Best Created "Construct" Worlds
History
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Stuck in bed this week and a bit foggy on pain-killers (suffered some facial trauma and repair), and have been thinking of some of the most unique created worlds in science fiction--particularly since I'm still in WOTF mode. Many of the award-winner's in sf have many such settings within constructs: Larry Niven's Ringworld, Arthur C Clarke's Rendevous with Rama, Robert Heinlein's Orphans in the Sky.

One such caught my bleary eyes in my library the other day that I recalled fondly and wondered if any/many of you have read it: John Varley's 1980 Hugo and Nebula nominated and Locus Award winning novel Titan which takes place in a hollow world reminiscent in structure to a very large Stanford torus discovered by the crew of the DSV Ringmaster in orbit around Saturn.

I first read the novel over thirty years ago and just popped it off the shelf and re-read it. It is a marvel of world-building and an entertaining adventure story. I may read the two sequels Wizard and Demon as well, since I don't recall their plots. Still, Titan is a great example of sf world-building and I recommend it for those with interest.

Please share any other unique world "constructs" in SF that you would recommend.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Robert Nowall
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How big does the construct have to be? 'Cause I remain somewhat enamored of Larry Niven's "Ringworld"---more the concept than the storyline (or sequels), though I favor the first of 'em...

Speaking of which...Varley's "Titan" was sort of the last straw for me---wonderful worlds and brilliant ideas, populated by people I couldn't bring myself to care about, who often behaved irrationally, besides. It was a growing disenchantment, and after that I tended to avoid Varley's work.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Dr. Bob, if you have told us somewhere why you are suffering from facial trauma and repair, I can't recall seeing it.

Could you please tell us what happened to you? Auto accident? Angry and under-sedated patient on the operating table? Being in the wrong place when a southpaw batter swung the bat?

I am really concerned (as well as curious) about this, so please?

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LDWriter2
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I think I would agree with Robert and Dr. Bob about "Ringworld" and "Titan".

But I would add Larry Niven's "The Integral Trees". Unless you mean just ones made by hand-machine.

There have been others but I can't recall them at the moment.

I haven't read the other two mentioned by Dr. Bob.

But if you are including all Constructs there is Sector General of James White. Not a world but large enough to be the size of a moon.

I know something about what happened to Dr. Bob, I will however let him explain it but he did mention it on another thread somewhere on the Gist forum I think.

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Grumpy old guy
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Barsoom.

Phil.

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Robert Nowall
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I'm taking construct to mean setting for a story that's plainly an artifact...for something that might stretch it, I'd take Asimov's futuristic New York City in The Caves of Steel, possibly 'cause I have a (limited-but-hands-on) familiarity with the present-day one...
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History
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Robert Silverberg's The World Inside -- Life is now totally fulfilled and sustained within Urban Monads (Urbmons), mammoth thousand-floor skyscrapers arranged in "constellations", where the shadow of one building does not fall upon another. An Urbmon is divided into 25 self-contained "cities" of 40 floors each, in ascending order of status, with administrators occupying the highest level. Each building can hold approximately 800,000 people, with excess population totalling three billion a year transferred to new Urbmons, which are continually under construction.

William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land -- The Great Redoubt is a mountain-sized building, seven miles high and 100 below, containing Earth's last millions of people and vast underground farmlands all powered by "earth-current." The upper levels of the redoubt are at so high an altitude that they must be pressurized, and the residents have developed enlarged lung capacity. Each level of the Pyramid contains a great city so that there are, in total, "one thousand, three hundred and twenty cities of the Pyramid."

Jack Chalker's Midnight at the Well of Souls -- The Well World is a Markovian construct existing outside our universe, a planet that is an enormous computer whose surface is divided into contiguous hexagonal environments where Markovians experimented in creating new forms of intelligent life. If successful these species would be sent off into the universe to evolve on their own. The planet contains many of the approximately 1,500 races that were still on the Well World when the Markovians disappeared.

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extrinsic
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Trantor for its many expressions in Isaac Asimov's Foundation milieu. Over Asimov's writing span, Trantor changed and showed the time and people who had moved through the world. Exquisite world building.

And Frank Herbert and later Brian Herbert's Arakis in the Dune saga. Again, an exquisite world that time and people moved through.

[ May 11, 2013, 11:58 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Robert Nowall
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How about Pohl's Gateway?
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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What about Blish's CITIES IN FLIGHT?
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History
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Phillip Jose Farmer's Riverworld and his The World of Tiers.

Dante's Inferno and Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's modern iteration of the same title.

Edwin Abbott's Flatland

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History
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Jay Lake's Clockwork Earth trilogy Mainspring, Escarpment, Pinion.

Our Nick Tchan's world of G-d's Body in his WOTF award-winning tale The Command For Love

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Robert Nowall
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Now, after though, I'm not sure a pre-existing, rebuilt city would qualify as a construct in my original meaning...any city would qualify by that. Or a terraformed world. Or any canal-covered incarnation of Mars. Or a writer-created world, say, Mesklin from Clement's Mission of Gravity.

I might include Diaspar from Clarke's The City and the Stars if it still fits the definition...

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History
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World-building is one of the delights for readers and writers of speculative fiction.

"Yes", Dune, Mesklin, Middle-Earth, EarthSea, etc. etc. etc, are wonderfully realized worlds. And if you wish to include these in the broad definition of great examples of world-building, I have no objection

However, having just read John Varley's Titan, I was specifically thinking of "constructed" worlds that were more unique than a planet with its own geography, flora, fauna, cultures, etc. Yet, I might include Mervyn Peake's colossal edifice Gormenghast and friend James Stoddard's The High House as such unique constructed settings that are intimal to the characters' narrative and not merely a backdrop across which they move.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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extrinsic
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So then a world constructed by artifice and not nature in the sense that sentient beings reshape nature as though apart from it?
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History
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
So then a world constructed by artifice and not nature in the sense that sentient beings reshape nature as though apart from it?

If you like, extrinsic.
But not necessarily.
Most of those I've shared would meet your criteria
But if an author invented a completely improbable world, let's say a pyramidal one (or a Flat one like Mr. Abbot's) which figured prominently in all aspects of the story, I'd also consider these "unique" and intriguing constructs.

But it is of no matter, I was just thinking of many such unique constructed environments I've enjoyed reading and exploring with their story's characters in literature while I idle away my time in bed. Perhaps you've read some of them or have others you wish to share.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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extrinsic
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I have three criteria for enjoying a constructed world: sufficiently vivid and plausibly believable that I'm transported to the exotic secondary reality and participate in its mystique. Actually, that's the three meaning spaces Kim Falconer discusses in "Fiction in Another World."

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's theory of willing suspension of disbelief.

J.R.R. Tolkien's theory of exotic secondary worlds.

Lucien Lévy-Bruhl's theory of participation mystique.


Ms. Falconer's thesis "Fiction in Another World":

http://www.falconastrology.com/pdfs/Fiction_in_Another_World.pdf

I graduated from a master's English program, creative writing concentration, today! Time now for some decompression then on to writing the next great global novel.

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Robert Nowall
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Come to think of it...in Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, Earth itself is a construct...
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History
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I graduated from a master's English program, creative writing concentration, today! Time now for some decompression then on to writing the next great global novel.

Mazel tov, extrinsic!
That is an admirable accomplishment.
[I would still like to read something by you someday]

quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen:
Dr. Bob, if you have told us somewhere why you are suffering from facial trauma and repair, I can't recall seeing it.
Could you please tell us what happened to you?

Passed out mid-morning while walking and made the acquaintance of the cement hospital corridor floor beak first. Don't recall a thing. But made quite a mess of my nose, lips, teeth, and chin. Had surgery on the nose and began fixing the teeth. Gave my brain a helluva shake in its pan as well. Slowly (painfully slowly) on the mend, thank you.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Grumpy old guy
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After reader Kim Falconer’s paper, it suddenly struck me that when I am reading a story I like, there is no suspension of disbelief on my part. I do immerse myself inside the world and accept everything that I read as real and actual—inside that world. I identify with the characters and situations they find themselves in. And what about the stories I don’t like? I think, for me personally, unless the author can grab me emotionally right at the get-go, I put the story down.

Now, when I say, “unless the author can grab me emotionally . . .,” I don’t mean that they need to make me laugh or cry, or even feel pity, sorrow or happiness; I mean the story piques my interest at some emotional level right at the beginning. It could be as simple as an idea/concept I find interesting, however, in the end, it is character that will keep me immersed, simple, or complex, cleverness of situation or world building will not keep me there.

And, I think that’s what makes some writers ‘great’ for some people, and not so great for others. A writer and a reader ‘share’ an emotional connection inside the world the writer has created. If this is so, then the more care and depth a writer uses to build their world, the quicker and deeper the emotional connection will be made.

Phil.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
Passed out mid-morning while walking and made the acquaintance of the cement hospital corridor floor beak first. Don't recall a thing. But made quite a mess of my nose, lips, teeth, and chin. Had surgery on the nose and began fixing the teeth. Gave my brain a helluva shake in its pan as well. Slowly (painfully slowly) on the mend, thank you.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

Ouch! I hope there is also something being done to determine what caused you to pass out, and to fix that as well.
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Robert Nowall
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Somehow I managed to miss that all the way back to the original post. Get well soon, History.

*****

What kind of categories would a construct---redefined here by me as a setting within a story that is an artifact within the story.

(a) A space station of some kind (including space factory and space colony).

(b) A ship for long-term space traveling, say, a multi-generation slower-than-light starship.

(c) A terraformed (and possibly created) single planet.

(d) A larger-than-a-planet construction, say, the Ringworld or a Dyson Sphere.

I suppose there are others I haven't thought of.

****

Is Pratchett's "Discworld" an artificial construction? Only read a couple of his books, and don't remember it coming up in them...

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
After reader Kim Falconer’s paper, it suddenly struck me that when I am reading a story I like, there is no suspension of disbelief on my part.

Part of Coleridge's theory is that willing suspension of disbelief is a contract between writer and reader that a writer will not jeopardize. A reader comes to a story priorly suspending disbelief. Readers of fiction know it's fiction, at least on a subconscious level.

A writer's duty and due diligence under the contract then is not to overtly remind readers the story is a fictional construct. Artless voice, craft, or mechanical style will call undue attention to the fictional construct.

Artful voice, craft, and mechanical style, on the other hand, yes, uses the contract to advantage, through character and setting development calculated to elicit readers' emotional responses. I suppose, due to science fiction's comparatively recent emergence in the literary opus, a few readers might find difficulty accepting many of the fantastical premises of constructed worlds and milieus in order to maintain willing supsension of disbelief. A motif from the Turkey City Lexicon illustrates a perhaps arftul method for proportioning of character, setting, and milieu development:

"The Edges of Ideas
The solution to the “Info-Dump” problem (how to fill in the background). The theory is that, as above, the mechanics of an interstellar drive (the center of the idea) is not important: all that matters is the impact on your characters: they can get to other planets in a few months, and, oh yeah, it gives them hallucinations about past lives. Or, more radically: the physics of TV transmission is the center of an idea; on the edges of it we find people turning into couch potatoes because they no longer have to leave home for entertainment. Or, more bluntly: we don’t need info dump at all. We just need a clear picture of how people’s lives have been affected by their background. This is also known as “carrying extrapolation into the fabric of daily life."

The Turkey City Lexicon in its entirety (2009);

http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops

[ May 13, 2013, 09:36 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
Mazel tov, extrinsic!
That is an admirable accomplishment.
[I would still like to read something by you someday]

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

Thank you, History. The entire ten-year journey was not so straightfoward as I'd hoped due to unanticipated complications. Several close-family deaths, internecine rivalries, personal bigotries, toxic cultures, and my age and health and own toxic personality notwithstanding.

You will encounter a fiction written by me presently.

Get well soon. Do you think you experienced a posttraumatic amnesia and that's why you don't know now why you fell?

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
If you like, extrinsic.
But not necessarily.
Most of those I've shared would meet your criteria
But if an author invented a completely improbable world, let's say a pyramidal one (or a Flat one like Mr. Abbot's) which figured prominently in all aspects of the story, I'd also consider these "unique" and intriguing constructs.

But it is of no matter, I was just thinking of many such unique constructed environments I've enjoyed reading and exploring with their story's characters in literature while I idle away my time in bed. Perhaps you've read some of them or have others you wish to share.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob [/QB]

Philip Jose Farmer has written an interesting series that would fit this description.
The series is called the "The world Of Tiers". In one book in the series the heroes spend time on a lavalite world. Sections of the world come apart and reform into other sections. There are people who live on it.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
World-building is one of the delights for readers and writers of speculative fiction.

"Yes", Dune, Mesklin, Middle-Earth, EarthSea, etc. etc. etc, are wonderfully realized worlds. And if you wish to include these in the broad definition of great examples of world-building, I have no objection

However, having just read John Varley's Titan, I was specifically thinking of "constructed" worlds that were more unique than a planet with its own geography, flora, fauna, cultures, etc. Yet, I might include Mervyn Peake's colossal edifice Gormenghast and friend James Stoddard's The High House as such unique constructed settings that are intimal to the characters' narrative and not merely a backdrop across which they move.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

Some other worlds in the broader definition could be

One by K. E. Mills. A fusion of UF and steampunk in a world like Ours but different names and different Laws.

And a world by Simon R. Green. Three different series take place in his universe.
His Nightside was the first. All types of scientific and magical happenings go on.

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LDWriter2
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Of the purely constructed ones there are more than just those listed.


Besides the Hospital I mentioned already I know there are a couple of others that have not been listed.


I know of one built by aliens who left it still operating. A group of humans had to explore it but found it full of accidental traps. The beings who lived there new how everything operated so it was second nature to them but the humans found they had to keep figuring things out.
Can't recall the writer though.

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Robert Nowall
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How, oh, how, to put it? I'd take "construct" as "the setting, created by something that's part of the story that's been created by the writer," and not just "created by the writer."

How 'bout the Venus Equilateral?

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History
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In that case, I'd include the Battle Room in Ender's Game.
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Grumpy old guy
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How about 'Captive Universe' by Harry Harrison? A generation ship where the inhabitants are segregated into a technological group that is molded into a quasi-religious order whose sole purpose is to get the ship to its destination and then teach the colonists.

The colonists are the second group and they're genetically modified so they'll accept the status quo, an Aztec agrarian society, and genetically separated to deliberately lower their IQ. Once the ship reaches its destination, the two groups will be allowed to combine to recreate the human drive that is their inheritance.

So, in essence, the ship is a technological construct. the protagonist a genetic construct and the antagonist a sociological/religious construct.

Btw, it's a damn good ripping yarn.

Phil.

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History
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Yes.
Similarly, the generation ship of Gene Wolfe's The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_the_Long_Sun), though I do not find the construct worlds as prominent or as interesting in the story as the characters and cultures within them.

Contrarily, I am enthralled by the fantasy world landscape of James Stoddard's The High House, The False House, and the hopefully soon to be published The House Eternal (which I just read) -- think of realms and nations and rivers and forests and mountains all contained within a sprawling universe-containing house of every form of architecture. ( http://www.amazon.com/The-High-House-Aspect-Fantasy/dp/0446606790 ) Highly recommended for classic adult fantasy lovers.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Totally awesome (and huge) houses could qualify as a kind of "constructed world," I think.

Charles de Lint had a house that took up a whole city block and was pretty cool (don't remember if it was in only one or in several of his stories).

There was a magical house in John Crowley's LITTLE, BIG that was way cool.

And, of course, Gormenghast Castle would also fit in this category.

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tesknota
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Also, Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle had a castle whose door would open to somewhere different depending on where the dial was turned. Just throwing that out there. [Big Grin]
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