From Science Fact to Science Fiction:
The Shared World of Avenir Eclectia
by Grace Bridges www.avenireclectia.com
constellation of the Whale, or Cetus, is one of the largest constellations in
the sky. It lies slightly south of the ecliptic plane, just below Pisces.
planet orbits the star 94 Ceti, which has a much more distant binary star. This
double star system is 73 light years from Earth, making it a plausible target
for a generation ship that does not reach lightspeed.
planet orbits its star once every 454 days. We have incorporated this directly
into the setting, this being the length of the colony's years: 15 months of 30
days each, plus the 4 day Festival of Founding. The years are also called
real planet's average orbit is 1.3 astronomical units from its star, i.e.
30% farther than Earth is from our sun. This means it is within the range able
to support life.
this planet's mass has been estimated at twice that of Jupiter. Here is where
we cross the line into fiction: our planet Eclectia is only a little larger
than Earth. However, one way we could explain this is if the gas giant shared
an orbit with Eclectia, but on the exact opposite side, and therefore invisible
from Eclectia—just as Eclectia is invisible to current astronomy.
this is only the 94th brightest star in the constellation, we decided to have
the people who live there call it the Whale Star, while its binary companion is
the Twin Whale. The planet orbits the star, and the binary star orbits them
both at over 100x the distance. Therefore, the binary star would be about as
bright as our moon when viewed from the planet.
Whale cycles don’t match Eclectia’s orbit, and its visibility from the planet
varies from nothing at all, to nighttime or daytime, sometimes too close to the
primary star to be seen.
gave Eclectia a moon, named Sheba, which split in half in a violent volcanic
cataclysm just before the Founders arrived. Yes, this is the fictional part,
but its science is still important. The smaller part of Sheba was named
Quatermain, and the two are in close planetary orbit, and still close to each
Quatermain and the Twin Whale all exert strong and opposing gravitational
forces on Eclectia, giving the signature "planetary wobble." The
angle of its axis travels between two extremes every five days, which in turn
gives short and extreme seasons of heat and cold to those on the planet.
gravitational forces are also partly responsible for the highly seismic and
volcanic nature of the planet.
Into this world, we placed the following
The Avenir, the original generation ship that came from Earth, now an
orbiting station expanded far beyond its original size. As a general guideline,
we have imagined the technology here to approximate the late 21st century.
There are huge gaps between the rich and the poor. Types of inhabitants
At the highest level of Avenir are the Dreamers, a leadership team
descended from the original ship's crew. They live in virtual reality.
Bureaucrats/aristocrats: The rich live in safety on the station.
Ordinary people: merchants, workers, security, etc.
Cyborgs (sentenced criminals who do menial work)
Undersea cities: safer than land-based, because they float, and
thus are protected from earthquakes. Water also serves as a measure of
protection from volcanoes. The technology level here could be described as
early 21st century.
Zirconia (North Polar Sea, near Adagio)
Port X (North Polar Sea)
Christchurch (South Polar Sea; home to the University)
Land settlements: Hunting, mining and gathering still have to go
on. It is here that the worst extremes of nature must be endured—earthquakes,
volcanoes, dust storms, and giant bugs. Technology here is largely pre-industrial.
Moon and asteroid settlements
Various vessels that travel between these.
of these facts inform the writing of the stories and characters set in these
Land-dwellers (grit-breathers) are hardened survivors.
City-dwellers (undersea or Avenir) are more what we could consider
"normal", except for Dreamers and cyborgs etc.
Natural circumstance and disasters can be the beginnings of
The Collaborative Work of Avenir Eclectia
of the above details were created together with the authors of Avenir Eclectia
who came on board at my invitation. To start everyone off, I laid out the
basics: colony ship turned space station, dangerously seismic planet, undersea
cities, giant bugs and telepathic sea creatures. There was not much more to it
than that in the beginning, but everyone’s stories working together have built
a mosaic view of a much deeper world with hundreds of episodes—and yet because
these episodes are short, they still all fit within the length of about two
who join up with us now are encouraged to read the existing material, whether
online or in the book, where selected storylines have been woven together in a
more coherent manner than we were able to do on the run as we went along. There
are background articles and also a mail loop where questions can be asked and
story overlaps discussed.
often feature other authors’ characters. This helps bring the whole narrative
together as a unified storyline. Of course, this necessitates discussion and
approval from a character’s creator.
a contributor is a challenge on the one hand, because you have to know all the
existing parameters of the storyworld. But on the other hand, this makes it
easier because all you have to do is read a book or two and you’ll have all the
background you need—without having to set it all up yourself.
Nomad at Sea by Grace Bridges
clapped a hand over his mouth as the fishing boat plunged down a particularly
sudden wave. All sense of direction and horizon vanished as water blocked all
but a scrap of sky. Thunder rumbled in his head—would he die here? A sudden
wish flooded him to be at home; but no, he was glad he’d left his father’s tent
and the endless deserts. He’d crossed a continent and already seen sights none
of his people would believe. The traveller who had visited his tribe had told
him of these wonders, but it was a far different thing to behold them himself.
Eron had also spoken of the professor under the sea who wanted to study the
nomads—well, soon he’d have a real live one to talk with, and Nole had so many
questions for him, too.
rose up the other side of the trough, up and up so that Nole felt he stood on a
peak of the Five Rims, except the sky was clearer. There was certainly a lot
less volcanic ash out here than over the barren deserts of Eclectia. He thought
at times he could make out the Twin chasing the great Whale Star. As they
crested the wave he caught sight of a structure ahead, and blinked. A tall
spire on a wide round base swayed gently in the seas under the light-red
that be Christchurch.” Remy, the skipper, came up beside him and jabbed a blunted
finger at the object.
thought it would be bigger.” Nole grabbed on as the wave passed below and left
them on a calmer sea.
just the entrance. There’s a cablerider connecting it to the city proper.” The
old man’s face grew wistful. “I hear say that’s big all right.”
kept his eyes on the upper part of the spike. “You’ve never been down?”
not me.” Remy turned away, and was that a shudder?
felt for his jewel pouch and jiggled it. It should be enough for passage below.
As for returning home? He didn’t know if he ever would. But Delri…
more hours passed as they chugged closer to the elegant edifice. Finally it
towered over them and the vessel slipped into shadow under the wide lip of its
eyes slowly grew used to the dimness and he made out a dock at the core of the
circle. As they drew alongside he stared at its strange texture before
realising it was made of metal.
and his shiphands made the boat secure with only a little bumping. They set about
unloading great heavy bins and shuffling them towards a doorway in the round
wall of the core. Nole, thus ignored, scrambled onto the dock.
strangely-dressed man waited there and opened each bin to inspect the contents,
releasing a strong smell. “Good haul, Remy,” he said, in an even more peculiar
accent than the fisherman’s, and drew an object out of his clothing. Suddenly
there was a similar object in Remy’s hand; the two bumped together and held for
a moment or two, then the fisherman pulled back and peered at it, grunting.
thumbed over his shoulder at Nole. “This young feller wants to go under.”
man looked him up and down. “First time, hmm?”
dipped his head deeply and caught sight of his well-worn sand-coloured desert
robes. “I, uh—”
can go down for free if you ride with the fish.”
Herding the Cats of Avenir Eclectia
by Travis Perry—Co-Editor
of Avenir Eclectia Volume 1
authors clearly enrich an overall story universe and Avenir Eclectia has been
no exception. Each of us think of things that others would not think of and
pursue different story aspects of the shared universe that other authors would
not touch. At times though, dealing with the diversity is a little like herding
cats. Yes, it's true that the Avenir Eclectia story universe is very large,
with many corners to explore, but especially at first, authors produced ideas
that directly contradicted those of other authors' stories. Part of this is
because we were all submitting stories at once and each of us defining things
without seeing what anothers had brought about. Money was described in various
stories as both coinage but also as “credits.” Bibles were both printed books
like we know and human beings trained over decades in the memorization of every
word of Scripture, then sent out to churches. The “Peace Council” was treated
as the government of Avenir--no wait, the government of the entire colony,
land, sea, and space--no wait, as a sort of grand jury and administrative
supervision of the peacekeepers and enforcers, those who do the work equivalent
to the FBI and local police of our world. Grace created the idea that the story
world would have what we call “wizards.” But from the beginning, some writers
treated the wizards as another name for “scientist,” while others treated them
more like what you'd see at Hogwarts. And there were a number of other
contradictions in things both large and small.
nobody wanted to create a unified story history deliberately. So we didn't. The
bits and bobs of our common story history have been built by individual writers
doing their own thing, like writers tend to do. Contradictions, such as they
are, have been dealt with on an ad hoc basis. But most contradictions have
tended to disappear by the nature of each of us reading one another's work and
getting a unified feel from that of what the story world is and contains.
the alien dwellers of Eclectia's oceans have powers we might call “psionic.”
Wizards are scientists, but one of their main topics of study has been
the angels...and some few of them can reproduce some of the powers of the
angels. So an explanation has developed to reconcile what once seemed to be a
At one time I
attempted to get us to set up a system where we would openly discuss all things
of a contradictory nature and come to a mutual agreement on every detail of
where we were going to take the story world. My labors bore partial fruit in
that Grace established an “Avenir Eclectia Historians” Yahoo group where we can
hash things out as we need to. But we haven't coordinated all things through
that forum. Some authors prefer to coordinate with other authors through
private emails, or not to coordinate at all—and time has shown there isn't
anything wrong with that. Overall, the ad hoc method has worked and has added
richness to the story universe.
Some of the
things that were bothering me I wrote stories to address. For example, what is
the government of this unified colony and what is its money? Well, if almost
all the unified government does is provide law enforcement, then it make sense
that the Peace Council would also act pretty much as a Grand Jury. And also,
since they are treated as the Avenir government, that would mean they primarily
represent the interests of Avenir and to a lesser degree the spacers, as
opposed to the undersea colonies or surface cities. So that means other aspects
of government are handled locally, in a political system that in some aspects
resembles modern Afghanistan—I wrote a tale where the mayor of Adagio and the
Lieutenant of Zirconia (I imagined at least some of the undersea colonies call
their equivalent of a mayor a “Captain”) and the appointed “Governor” from
Avenir are all in opposition to one another, with the Lieutenant bribing the
mayor for greater influence...I also used the story to address the issue of
money. Credits come from Avenir and are the equivalent of electronic or paper
currency. But these are only redeemable for the most part with merchants from Avenir, so their very existence is a means to
maintain Avenir's commercial dominance over the rest of the colony. Unstamped
metal coinage is preferred by Eclectia settlements but is also used by spacers,
but is only used on Avenir in limited circumstances, such as the black market
I wound up as
a by-product of my efforts creating a political situation in which the undersea
colonies and surface dwellers at one time asserted their own independence, but
lost in a brief but bloody war between them and Avenir and the spacers (which is
why the common government, limited as it is, is called the “Peace
Council”--because it ended the one and only true war). That political solution
explains why there is no true military in the Avenir Eclectia story
universe—peacekeeprs and enforcers fill whatever roles a military would
perform, even though they are more like civilian police. But politically
speaking, the undersea colonies are looking to the day when they will finally
achieve true independence, seething against the yoke of the Avenir government,
plotting to overthrow it, even as limited as that government is...
Dreamer and Gamer stories make it plain that for a large elite on Avenir, their
access to technology exceeds what we have in our current world. But clearly,
this is not the case on the surface, where the preferred method to hunt giant
bugs for sale back on Avenir is with spears. So in comparing these divisions, I
found they logically fit together to create a world where the people of Avenir
have limited space for everyone, but a sharp division between rich and poor,
with more access to technology than we have today for the richest, as do the
spacers, though spacers mostly have a blue collar sort of environment
remniscent of what you see on a deep sea oil rig. The undersea colonies also
have limited space and a sharp division between rich and poor, but are more
egalitarian overall than Avenir and live in a way somewhat like the way we do
in the early twenty-first century.
vast stretches of territory, but that territory is very inhospitable, barely
able to sustain a growing human population, but that population is continually
replenished by the overflow of excess population from Avenir and the undersea colonies—who usually
are the most despirate and the poorest of the poor from those places. With
exceptions among miners and to a degree the cities, vast stretches of Eclectia
are like Afghanistan, barely inhabited, with high levels of illiteracy (which
makes training human “Bibles” make more sense), and those who do inhabit it
live with technology that in most aspects is essentially medieval. You have to
be tough to survive on Eclectia...but many do not, which is why there are so
many stories that feature orphans in the Avenir Eclectia universe...
So in the
end, between delibrate efforts and things that happened by chance, between
efforts to coordinate and stories written to make coordination, and even from
failures of efforts to coordinate, the cats of the Avenir Eclectia stories have
wound up pulling a chariot—a rich, diverse, and very interesting science
fiction story universe.