Tag Archive: sketches


Upper deck detail of the Latent Pulse, showing crew related features.

Upper deck detail of the Latent Pulse, showing crew related features.

I find that designing deck plans for imaginary spaceships to be a meditation into pseudo-engineering. At its most basic level, it draws us further into the imaginary world of our creations, encouraging us to think about aspects of it we wouldn’t do otherwise. As a writer and game designer, I’m able to visualize the action of my stories, or the progress of a player, or the inhabitants of this imaginary environment. At the other end of the spectrum, it is an exercise of applying all kinds of reasoning to its imaginary function, strengthening a concept and bringing change to it to make it feel more… real, though it is unlikely any of these exercises will be made into real things.

There is no real methodology for the process of creating one – our approaches will be entirely different based on our purpose for hashing the design out from thin air. It may be about visualizing the environment, so one can describe a single room; it may be the act of arranging obstacles or furnishings to provoke game play strategies, it may be to stage an action sequence in a novel, or an encounter in a tabletop RPG.

Copyright Ken McCulloch 2012

Latent Pulse development Concept sketch

What is going to be put forward here is a collection of points for the Starship designer to consider while planning their decks, in the hopes of drawing about a deeper sense of accomplishment and rationality within the design. Regardless of the actual result of the process – whether a “realistic” design is achieved or not, since how can we prove it one way or another – the most rewarding aspect of it is the thoughts that arise from it. Just as in meditation.

These thoughts are what came to me as I designed the Latent Pulse, a medium sized FTL freight/trading vessel from my WIP novel, Pan Spectrum Analyzer. Each one forced me to move elements about, rethinking their placement, use and relevance both to the design and to the narrative of the novel.

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Karyss-shade3a-FX

Karyss, drawn in 2013

Karyss is the protagonist of “PSA”  the Science Fiction novel I’m currently writing for what seems like forever. Young and unassuming, she lives a life defined by the everyday, never questioning the world beyond that she sees, but a brave, yet foolish step toward her dreams casts her adrift amongst the stars, on a journey she could never imagine, let alone understand.

But my story of her is a little different than the novel’s.

Karyss entered my life back in 1997. She didn’t know it was going to happen and neither did I. I had logged onto an online text-based MUD (I was addicted to them at the time) and was spontaneously asked the odd question “Character Name?”   I knew this question was going to come up at some point while starting a new character on a new MUD, I just wasn’t ready for it then.  Really, without thinking, I typed the word “Caryss” and hit enter. I think I had thought of a strange version of “Chris,” then “future-ized” it. About 30 minutes later, I left that MUD never to return – but I took Caryss with me.

Caryss

Early version of Caryss from 1999.

Since then, she has bobbled to the surface of my imagination quite frequently. I found myself having to write glips and glops for this and that, and she kept stepping through the brain-idea barrier every time. Here, she is a bounty hunter, there an inadvertent terrorist, and over here, a co-pilot of a starship. These versions of Karyss were obvious nods to the pulpy SF I’ve absorbed and desired to write ever since I was six and seeing Star Wars that fateful summer. Then, she was lithe, sexy, full of attitude… In other words, a stereotype and not much else. She needed depth.

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This is it: NaNoWriMo 2012!

(c) Ken McCulloch, 2012I’ve been putting it off for a very long time, but this year marks the first NaNoWriMo I will participate in. I’ve long since stood on the sidelines while others’ fingers bled throughout battlefield November, but not this time. I’m in!

I suppose the big reason that I didn’t enter before was that I already had a writing gig and didn’t feel the need to be published in a traditional manner, even though I did write for myself from time to time. This last year has seen a lot of changes, both personally and professionally, and now is the time to saddle up the horse and head for novel-dom.

So, what’s in the offing? Well, I have been writing my novel-in-progress pretty aggressively over the last few months, and as I develop it, I realize that it will need a lot more effort to make it “work” than I previously thought. Its shaping up nicely, but ultimately, I think its going to a sort of chill and think about books, rather than what I need to get sold. My NaNoWriMo entry will be a sort of mid-level historical-fantasy kind of thing, entitled “The Vale of Odin.”

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Work continues on my in-progress novel, the first part of which mostly takes place aboard a space freighter. I find my best “world building” comes from writing about things and letting the ideas fall out as I go along, as I have previously written about here. I have found some of that very challenging during the course of the novel, mainly as I felt it required some aspects of knowledge that I didn’t have immediate access to and dealt intimately with the spacecraft the action takes place in and around. Its one thing to conjure up an image of what it might be like, but to “realistically” write say, an action sequence that is logically consistent with the layout, furnishings and equipment  one might find in such an environment took a whole lot more planning.

By the time I reached that point, I was still wrestling with “issues” of how the overall ship was laid out internally. I felt that I needed lots of answers in a very short time and because of this, progress became stunted and slow. I found myself in a mire of technical details that I might not really need.  The best constructed worlds aren’t full of intricate details of everything, they are full of the right details of the things that are important.

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