world building: introducing the black

I don’t like naming planets. Somewhere inside my head, I reject the idea. Our planet has a hundred different names, and none at all if you think about it. Earth. Terra. Dirt. Land. We’re too familiar with our world to give it a proper name, and the same must be true on any planet that a race lives on. I’ll start by noting the world’s most drastic geographic feature instead.

There is no sun.

This is not technically true, of course. Yes, it’s fantasy, but on the whole I prefer to write low fantasy, which tries to be very realistic. Unless it’s a planned side-effect of my supernatural elements, I try to make every effort not to bend the laws of physics and nature. There is a sun. But the inhabitants have never seen it.

There are stars in the sky, bright ones, and when the day is half over they are replaced by a wall of darkness that sweeps over everything, plunging the world into darkness (and is known by various names, most of which translate to simply ‘the black’). Their world is not a happy place, persay. The surface in uninhabitable for the most part, covered with dry snow that picks up easily in the howling wind. There are oceans, yes. If you can find them under the ice. Temperatures on the surface range from -40 to -50 degrees (Celsius), about the temperature of Northern Siberia in the winter.

The solar system my world is placed in has a sun slightly older than our own, a little larger, not quite as warm or bright. It has several planets orbiting around it, and one of them is a gas giant with several moons of various sizes. One, a little over nine-tenths of the earth’s size, is capable of sustaining life, but the drawback is that it very nearly matches the giant’s rotation cycle. As the gas giant completes a year, the moon orbits around the planet once, and in doing so stays at about the same position in relation to the sun. This populated moon has spent centuries spinning along quietly in its host’s shadow.

Long enough for its societies to collapse, its cities to fall. The preparations for the long dark were spoiled, generations after stopped learning from their parents. As the world rotated from stars to black, men lost their grasp on technology, forgot that the sun would someday return, and devolved into a much more primal race.

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14 thoughts on “world building: introducing the black

  1. If I write up an article going into detail about the world I created for ‘FIFTHWIND”, and put it up on my blog, does that qualify as something you could use in your world-building thingy? What do I do, email you a link?

    I was going to do a in-depth look at Kreggoria and its history anyway. I hope it can be useful for your purposes. Look for it either tomorrow or over the weekend on my blog.

  2. I love it, I really love it. This has so much potential, and is such an interesting take! I would read a story about this world.

    The only question I have is, where does their food come from?

  3. They eat each other! Dun dun derrr. They roam the lands in packs, like wolves and feast upon the non-sun dried flesh of their enemy 😉

    Or, well not everything that grows, grows in the sun…

  4. Oh, trust me, I’ll get to that. That’s for the next few days– food, water, shelter, light. All the essentials first. 🙂

    Though… RG Sanders isn’t entirely wrong… … But then, you’d know that from the excerpt.

  5. Merrilee, two words: Geothermal heat.

    Eliza, how realistic do you want this setting to be? I am not sure the orbital mechanics would work out but I am really not good with the math behind that. You’d probably get away with fudging it. But you may want to calculate how bright the sun will appear at this distance anyway, it may not be enough to provide “days” as we know them.

    One idea may be to use a small companion star instead, one orbit further out from the gas giant – whenever the two are close, it’s bright and warm, and for the rest of the gas giant’s orbit things get, well, cold. Of course I am not sure that would work scientifically, either, I really don’t know.

  6. Well, since the sun doesn’t show up and there aren’t any ‘days’, it really doesn’t matter how bright the sun is. I don’t actually ever use the word ‘sun’. The characters don’t know about it, so I can’t cover it per say. This section is the background mechanics; it will never be explained.

    As long as the moon keeps rotating around its host at a speed relational to the planet’s orbit around the sun, the world can stay in the shadow for long periods of time. That seems reasonable, I think. … Like that car in front of you that goes one mile below the speed limit when you’re in a hurry, but don’t want to get caught doing more than one or two over… 😀

  7. The way I understood it from your writeup is that for some time (centuries, whatever) the world is not in the shadow; sunlight reaches the world and civilization thrives. Then the world is plunged into darkness again and civilizations topple. And that would only work if the sun actually provides enough light at such distances. And my apologies if I missed something again 🙂

  8. I really like the idea, too. I can’t help but think, though, about how depressed I got when it was raining almost continously for a month once. Do the people in this world have the same need for vitamin D? If so, how would they get it?

  9. Hmm. That’s a good point. I suspect that there are a few sources of food there which will give them vitamin D (especially since your best food source for that is in fish skin and fish oil, and they eat a lot of that), but the humans are probably still deficient to some degree. Reminds me of living in Seattle; we’ve gone months without seeing sunlight over there.

  10. Fascinating concept. Like Burrough’s Pellucidar, where there is always light, your world will have its share of challenges as it’s always dark.

    How will you cover the concept of time? Do people sleep whenever they feel like it? Are shops and taverns open or closed at a certain time? (How is time measured?) When are social or community events scheduled? If technology has fallen by the wayside, is there a way to keep track of the passage of time?

  11. You’d have strong tides with a gas giant around. And there will be SOME light (stars, for example, and the moons, maybe the parent gas giant – it’ll probably give off some IR light that people and/or animal might be able to perceive.

  12. Pingback: world building showcase, part i « tales of a fantasy scribbler

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