Monday, April 2, 2012

Inventing a Universe

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch,
you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

Let me begin with a confession: I believe in parallel universes. I believe that any possible universe that can exist, does exist. There are people much smarter than I am who could tell you all about string theory and probabilities and lots of other stuff that it requires a degree in physics to pretend to fully understand, so I won't get into that. I will only say that I have no proof for this belief. There is nothing supporting it besides faith. Just as I have faith that there is a creator, I have faith that there are parallel you's, parallel me's.

As a writer I am completely astounded by the fact that everything I write, everything that I put down on the page, has or is or will happen to someone in one of these universes. The Myriad Spheres universe in which the Sullivan's War story line takes place is really out there (or over there, as the case may be). When I write, do I somehow subconsciously tap into this reality? Probably not, but it's an idea that I fancy.

So when I find myself writing about this universe, I feel like I owe something to the people in it to get it right. And this is where another confession comes in: I didn't get it right.

The very first story I wrote in this Myriad Spheres universe is a short story called Sleep. All the elements were there that would eventually lead to this fully-realized universe, encompassing forty-six inhabited planets, most of them governed by an interplanetary body called the Stellar Assembly. This idea of thousands of freighters traversing the cosmos via hyperspace was also there. But I didn't quite know why all these freighters would be, for the most part, privately owned. In fact, the justification for this system wouldn't come until much later, in Sullivan's War: Book I - All Good Men Serve the Devil:
     The interstellar passenger ships were among the largest of the space-faring vessels. There were, of course, larger cargo vessels operated by a few corporations but most freight was transported by smaller ships. Due to the vast distances and long travel times between markets a system of small-fleet operations, or even individually-owned cargo ships, had developed. A corporation, no matter how organized, simply couldn’t keep track of its ships and cargo on such a large scale, especially when news of any problems or delays took months to reach headquarters.
     Passenger operations were a little different. Flights didn’t have to be arranged on short notice to fulfill the varying demands of the interstellar marketplace. The passenger flights were scheduled years in advance. Every Monday a flight left Earth for Faris, every Tuesday for Oceanus and so on. And with an estimated sixty billion people spread out across forty-six inhabited worlds, there was never any shortage of passengers.
     Often, those who needed to make last-minute plans would have to book passage on the much more frequent and flexible freighters.
Now, this is something that worked to my advantage when it came time to write Sullivan's War. Rick Sullivan needed a way to get from planet to planet under the radar and he could do this on freighters but not on passenger ships. But this has nothing to do with my mistake. In fact, in Sleep there are two.

First, I list the travel time between Silvanus and Faris as thirty days aboard the Ares, which I mention is an older ship and isn't moving as fast as newer vessels. When I finally sat down and plotted out all the distances using tokens and a tape measure (writing science fiction is sophisticated work!) I discovered that it would have to be one month and twenty-seven days for all the other travel times in Sullivan's War to make sense. Oops! I highly doubt that any reader would ever realize this (or care) but it made me realize that it is very difficult to invent a universe, even if it is already out there, fully formed, just waiting for my psyche to tap into it.

The second mistake I made has to do with the planet Faris itself. In Sleep, the main character Jane searches the Freight Transporters' Database and finds out that Faris allows for orbital disposal of waste. If you've read Book II of Sullivan's War you'll know that the Farisians are highly protective of their planets' environment and probably wouldn't cotton to this sort of thing. Oops!

I know that as I continue with the Rick Sullivan novels and write other stories in this universe (I have half a dozen ideas to develop) I will make more mistakes. But you should know that I really am trying to get it right. I am trying to keep the details of this universe consistent, I am trying to create a believable world, given a few not-outrageous suspensions of disbelief. And I think that readers are responding to this. I have had several nice reviews commenting that they enjoyed the political nuances that are at play throughout the Sullivan's War series and that the universe seems plausible and authentic. I am trying to make this universe as real as possible, and that includes creating a full history that takes into account politics, technology, the biology, geology and environments of various planets, inter-planetary conflict and more than a few remarkable individuals like Rick Sullivan who are destined to have a greater impact on history than most other people.

I take great pride in inventing this universe and if you have read Sleep or the Sullivan's War series, I want to tell you a secret: there are many elements within each story that, if you like my writing and continue with it, you will see come into play in future stories. It is my hope that each story I release will contain a small nugget of information that savvy readers will pick up on and remember when they read the next book. Just to reveal a couple, the hyperspace entities that are introduced in Sullivan's War: Book II will play a very big role in Rick Sullivan's future adventures. And the Squamata, the species native to Edaline that were introduced in the Prologue to Sullivan's War, Sergeant Riley's Account, will make an appearance in Sullivan's War: Book III.

If you haven't read any of my work but do decide to pick up one of my books, I hope this information will enrich your reading experience and bring the Myriad Spheres universe alive for you. It is very much alive for me and despite the unsavory elements that inhabit some planets (and the Stellar Assembly) I think it's a place full of wonder and excitement. If you would like a glimpse of it, please see the links below.

Michael K. Rose

Related Links:

Sullivan's War: Prologue - Sergeant Riley's Account
Sullivan's War: Book I - All Good Men Serve the Devil
Sullivan's War: Book II - A City without Walls
Sleep - A Science Fiction/Psychological Horror Short Story


  1. Hehe I like info like this lol makes me want to go back and read all of them and see if I can spot them. Like goofs in movies lol.

    Here's one reader that's super pumped for future stories based in your universe.

    I too think parallel universes exist but when I mention it around here I just weird dumb expressions lol