Solar System Design

When I create a new world, I spend a lot of time defining the solar system, but rarely use the info in the novel. Am I the only one?

3 Likes

No, you aren’t. Or rather I muse around the solar system and think I should calculate this and that, but end up deciding the general climate and the length of the year and then – naah, I’ll tinker with numbers later (I took a course in planetary geophysics and I have the formulas somewhere).

2 Likes

That’s pretty much the definition of worldbuilding. “I’m going to define these really cool facts that will never be used!”:heart_eyes:
I don’t get to solar system design (at best I might declare a planet), but defining twelve countries that never really get mentioned? Yup.

4 Likes

In one of my stories (but it kinda bleeds through into the others), the planets are the gods. Even the “Earth” is a god, but none of them care much about humanity or life, and nobody much cares about them. So they’re rarely even mentioned.

3 Likes

Ahh, certainly not. I’ve spent hours of research on habitable solar systems, but in the end, it genuinely isn’t relevant beyond “this is what the sun and moons look like”. Still…I like to know things. Which reminds me - I just started a new “let’s design the solar system!” kick as of yesterday. Research: mostly done, so I should waste less time on it.

3 Likes

The thing is, that occasionally you actually need to häve calculations to ensure that sun and moon(s) follow the laws of physics (which usually is desirable).

3 Likes

While this is true, (and I’ve done the math, I know) it’s not completely necessary if you’re writing fantasy and your moons/sun aren’t particularly extreme (e.g. a binary system, very complicated to balance, or moons so absolutely huge in the sky they’d pass the Roche limit). I am pretty sure one of my smaller moons will fall out of the sky eventually, as Phobos and Deimos will. But not in any period of time for it to be relevant to the actual story.

3 Likes

I was thinking of Scifi, not Fantasy (where you can do about anything as long as the inner logic of the story is kept).

2 Likes

I like to work out the details, so I say keep on researching, @Architeuthid .

2 Likes

You hit on my greatest weakness, though indirectly.

If I add another planet or shift the orbit and then a year is 330 days instead of 365, then you aren’t 18 until your like 20 and that just breaks my brain because their is no way to remind the audience of that.

Or what if I shave some time off a day so it’s exactly 24 hours, not 24.??? What happens then?
panics just thinking about it

4 Likes

I happened to come across a website that did the calculations on the viability of binary systems a couple of years ago (StarGen), and if I need to make an entire solar system, I generally just use that or I go through the donjon solar system creator, mostly because I know I’ll get sucked into pushing myself too hard on that rather than going into more details on my main settings.

With that said, most of my recent stories have been space-based, so knowing the contents of a few planetary systems can be fairly necessary settings-wise. And I do go into a lot more detail on a planet-sized scale. Like mapping out the movements of tectonic plates and their boundaries and figuring out the general weather patterns sort of details.

Honestly, even if I don’t use a lot of the information in the story directly, I find that it does impact the way cultures and species develop and it gives me a chance to dive deep into my true worldbuilding love, the natural and cultural histories.

4 Likes

I’ve done this in one story, but not another SF series. However, the one story I’ve done it in, while I don’t need all the detail I’ve gone into (planetary density, specific gravity, number of planets, orbits, etc.), I do need some of it (stellar grouping, because of the visual sensory system of some of the species on the planet, which got translated to the ancestors of certain characters through genetic engineering; number of moons and size of moons for the inhabited planet (because of weather and also the attached space stations); planetary rotation and orbital period, for the length of the day and the length of the year (approx. 1.6x that of Earth; it has an effect!), etc.). The one thing that I haven’t done yet that I do need is an actual map of the surface!

I just find worldbuilding (including solar system building) fun and addictive, and I also find that, like with creating characters, having apparently extraneous information on the setting can help even if it’s not specifically referenced in the story text. It can add flavour!

5 Likes

Does anyone have software or system for creating a galaxy or star system? Do you use an existing map and superimpose your own names or do you start from scratch?

My collection of sundry links for making planets or worlds (no guarantee, some of these I’ve not even used myself, just hit “bookmark this” thinking it might become handy):

https://www.orionsarm.com/page/310
http://topps.diku.dk/torbenm/maps.msp
http://hjemmesider.diku.dk/~torbenm/Planet/

This is a commercial program for about $25. I don’t have it, so no personal experience:
http://universesandbox.com/

4 Likes

The amount of information I have on the solar system of my main con-world is rather ridiculous. Sure, some of the details are relevant (and wildly implausible by themselves, never mind when you start to stack them), but for the most part, the fact that the solar system is actually a trinary system (rather than the binary it appears to be from the surface) does not actually matter.

Lets not get into the moons of the out-system gas giants. The con-world is firmly pre-WWII at it’s most advanced. They haven’t even seen those moons through telescopes.

2 Likes

I’ve got a story brewing that takes place on another planet and on Earth, so I have got to design a solar system to fit into the basics of the story before I flesh out the story and solar system. Ah well, to research I go!