Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Realms of Exile from Siberia to Planet Zero

A realm of exile, a remote desolate place, where hardy adventurers find themselves struggling to survive has been a much-used setting in science fiction. Often, the exile is of a personal nature, such as Obi Wan Kenobi's voluntary exile to Tatooine. Or in a similar fashion, Arrakis serves as an exile of sorts for Duke Leto Atreides and his family in the sci fi classic, Dune.

But not all exiles are solitary or are reserved for the select few. Like the Russian Empire using exile to Siberia as a way to get rid of "undesirables," sending millions of people there over the centuries (while at the same time developing that miserably cold and remote stretch of northern Asia), some science fiction stories have featured whole societies founded by citizens fleeing to planets of exile, sometimes sent by deliberate acts of an empire or other government wanting to get rid of them.

A classic example is Ursula K. Le Guin's Planet of Exile, and other similar stories (e.g. Saga of Pliocene Exile). In general, the planet reserved for exiles resembles Siberia in being perhaps beautiful, but remote and deadly, difficult to survive. Or perhaps it is difficult to survive due to unexpectedly discovered hostile inhabitants of the harsh land. Part of the appeal of this sort of story has been to see the characters struggle through the basic tasks of survival in the challenging setting of their new land or world.

In the Colony Zero origins story universe I've had the opportunity to contribute to, the classic world of exile has been turned on its head. The government of a future Earth does expel its unwanted citizens, just like the Russian Czars used to send the oppressed to Siberia. Though in the case of Colony Zero, exiles are sent away specifically for being genetically "defective" or for demonstrating defective (i.e. criminal) behavior. The planet it sends them to, Planet Zero, at first glance seems even worse than Siberia--a planet tidally locked with one hemisphere perpetually facing a dim brown dwarf star (Y class), a place barely warm enough to live at best, with no significant oxygen on the surface, with perpetually rushing winds and every day and night darker than night on Earth. But the hidden reality is the planet contains underground treasures in caves of light, native plants, and breathable atmosphere. The world seems to be a harsh land of exile, but in reality is a place of sweet refuge and unexpected delight.

The inhabitants may also seem, at first, to be harsh and dangerous even. But the truth is that it isn't the exiles who are the ones that pose the greatest threat to peace. Rather, it's the people of Earth, the so-called "normal" or "desirable" ones, who show themselves to be dangerous, aggressive, and cruel...


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8 comments:

  1. You did such a fine job of worldbuilding for this series, Travis.

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    1. Thanks, Tracy. Though the basic story ideas we all got from Giovanni. I just tried to make them make sense to me. :)

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  2. Sounds like an interesting premise for a story. :)

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    1. It's gonna be a story series, Cindy. All of us authors in the mix cooperated on the origins story, then each of us will produce a 7-9k word short story that covers various aspects of the story world. For multiple cycles, leading to an anthology that's more like a book...like Avenir Eclectia, but with longer stories.

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  3. Great post, Travis. Our story premise reminded me of Anne McCaffrey's Freedom series and also that movie with Ray Liotta's movie No Escape (1994). Oh, and that whole Australia thing...

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    1. I haven't read the Freedom series. Based on your comment, it sounds like I should check it out. As for Australia, yeah, there's a similarity. I picked Siberia as my Earth model because even though criminals were sent there, many other people were sent at the whim of the Czar, i.e. through no fault of their own. That aspect reminded me more of Colony Zero than Australia. Prisoners sent to Australia, as I understand the history, pretty much deserved to be there...

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  4. Awesome!

    I'd be more articulate, but that one word pretty much sums up everything I'd say. :)

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