Science fantasy worldbuilding in Phoenix 1: Establishing norms

Establishing the Norms

10% futuristic, 90% conventional

Before we get into writing, let’s take a moment to notice something very interesting about this snippet, and science-fantasy in general. Let’s take each of the futuristic elements (the security matrix, the starships, etc.) and substitute them for something completely ordinary.

He put down his phone and opened his window, gulping in fresh air, trying to cool himself. It was still dark outside. But high above the suburban apartment blocks, the stars were shining. The sight calmed him just a little. He’d lived in this midwest city all his life, yet he never tired of gazing at the stars. They seemed so free, up there in the sky. Nothing could ever harm them.

He could hear the distant roar of traffic, going down the highway. Soon it would be morning, and his mother would wake up.

PhoenixS.F. SaidSource

With just a couple of tweaks, this passage now sounds like it's about a kid living in a regional city who is thinking about moving away.

You’ll notice this fact throughout Phoenix, and across science-fantasy in general: it’s often a very conventional story but with fancy costumes and set design. Instead of a phone, we have a security matrix. Instead of a regional city, we have a remote moon.

Sci-fi and fantasy concept artists (who draw and paint character, environment and prop concepts for games, movies and TV shows) often use this same technique of tacking something ordinary and dressing it up to look fantastic. 

For instance, can you guess what the inspiration for this image was?

Space station

What everyday object inspired this space station?

Like what you see?

You’re not logged in!

If you want to save your writing, login and either assign this lesson to yourself or access it via your class.