Building a science fiction world word-by-word…

Until recently, most of my fiction has been contemporary, set in the here and now in Anytown, USA. Familiar. Comfortable. Even my paranormals (A Scent of Longing, Destiny’s Chance) edge closer to contemporary than “woo-woo.”

But when I got the story idea of a society in which women were relegated to the role of sex slaves by law, I knew it called for science fiction, set in an extraterrestrial world. So the planet Parseon, a Terran ally, emerged from the big bang of my imagination. I chose to make my aliens humanoid because Breeder is an erotic romance, and I personally am not attracted to two-headed green men with tails.

No two-headed green men with tails for me. Dak might be an alien, but he's one buff, macho motherfucker!

One can take the great creative license with science fiction and its genre cousins fantasy and paranormal, but I wanted my alien world to feel as authentic as possible. And since language and vocabulary are the bricks and mortar one uses to build a fictitious world, I was very selective in the words that I chose. I tried to separate my American/western/Earth culture from the alien world. Here are some of the ways I did that:

  1. Avoiding common English words for everyday items and instead describing the item in general terms. Hence, a wagon becomes a “conveyance,”  and a bed is a “sleeping platform.”
  2. Avoiding slang sexual terminology. What are the odds than alien calls a penis a “cock?” Slim and none, I’d say.
  3. Employing more formal language and dialogue, fewer contractions, and more unusual English vocabulary. I sent my editor running for her dictionary on several occasions. 🙂
  4. Creating new English wordsfor Parseon objects such as sweetcake (a type of Parseon dessert), androcentric (male centered) and whisperfly (a winged insect).
  5. Creating a Parseon vocabulary such as panna (bread), sudon (a type of paddle), monto (a mild swear word) and drakor (the vilest insult on Parseon). I limited the use of these words to not bog down the reader.
  6. Putting meaning into characters names  from their motivations. Hence Omra is Parseon for peace. Peace is what Dak seeks. The meditative chant “om” evokes a feeling of peace…Hence, “Omra.”

Writing a science fiction novel showed me (once again) how entwined culture and language are and how difficult it is to untangle them. Although my self-imposed language restrictions were challenging, in other respects science fiction was liberating to write. When I started the story, I struggled to come up with a last name for hero Dak. Then I realized: hey, they’re aliens. They don’t have to have surnames (see how culture affects one’s assumptions?). They don’t have to wear underwear or use condoms either!

Breeder is in editing with Loose Id now, and is tentatively scheduled for an October release. It’s my longest work to date at 60,000 words. I am seriously thinking about turning it into a series.

Revised, but still unofficial Breeder blurb

Dak and Omra belong to an alien humanoid aggressive species on the “androcentric, androsocial” planet Parseon where male domination is enforced by law. “Protocol” separates the race into castes: ruling Alpha Commanders at the top, dominant alpha males second, then submissive betas who serve as domestic partners, and lastly, females, who are breeding slaves.

To secure his legacy, Alpha Commander Dak must produce a son. He purchases a breeder named Omra with the intention of impregnating her and then handing her off to his beta, Corren. Only Corren hates her. But Dak falls in love with her and begins to question everything he was taught, jeopardizing not only his anointed union with Corren, but the political stability of Parseon.

Breeder explores the concepts of gender roles and social prohibitions against deviant behavior. It includes graphic M/F and M/M sexual content and violence, including nonconsensual domestic discipline.

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4 Responses to Building a science fiction world word-by-word…

  1. sue says:

    great post – especially since I wish to write a fantasy and am using similar techniques as you described. How did you come up with the name of the planet?

    • Cara Bristol says:

      That I just made up. What did have to think about was what to call the people and the language. I decided that since it was sci-fi, Parseon could be the planet name, the people and their language. Aliens are very pragmatic, you know.

  2. sue says:

    I see I can’t follow this blog’s comments so if you could e mail me that would be great

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