The Lords of the World…building

The Continents of Mars

The Continents of Mars

I’m always eager to see how authors produce stories, so in the interests of do unto others, for the next three weeks I’ll be taking you through a project from the beginning.That project is “The Lords of the World” (aka Martian Law), now available in Alternate History Fiction magazine.

The Lords of the World began with an image from a friend. C. M. Kosemen, in an online conversation about my preliminary work about the World’s Other Side mentioned an idea of his own about an alternate history in which the War of the Worlds actually happened and a 21st century Muslim Martian discussed the problem of Christian terrorism in a Turkish cafe. It was such a cool idea I immediately went and worldbuilt it. I made maps and timelines and even a language based on the shapes of wiggling tentacles. Too much worldbuilding, I know now, but it did turn out to be useful since I used the world as the setting for a short exploration of the themes in the World’s Other Side.

Then I let the world sit for more than 2 years until Simon Roy, Memo and I decided to do a podcast where we’d build a shared world. I pitched a bunch of ideas at them and we singled out this HG Wells fan fiction for development.

You can hear for yourself what happened next.

The first thing I did after our conversation was draw sketches of the characters. Usually I have to wait until I get close to the end of the story before I know what the characters look like, but perhaps talking with such great artists did something to my brain because I made these:


You can see some ideas for tripod walkers, the female character, and the main character. The little chicken-looking thing is a very bad attempt at a Martian with a fez.

Next I pitched some title ideas at Simon and Memo:

Martian Law (get it??)

Vast and Cool

Small Invasions

The Un-vasion

The Martians

…some sort of clever out of context quote from Wells?

To which Memo responded:

Unloading the Burden (as in “The Martian’s burden to civilise earth)


The Empire Retreats

Mars Lets Go

The Pygmies’ War *(As in “When the war of the giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin.” – WinstonChurchill)

Mars Retrograding

I eventually went with The Lords of the World)

I also thought of some plots of episodes, set in roughly chronological order, which Simon and Memo responded to.

1) Singh helps out the wife of a general in the English dictator’s army  (how exactly? by helping her escape? perhaps their plans to smuggle her to Wales are undermined by…)

Simon:Well if I remember correctly the idea started with the concept of martians randomly elevating scots to ruling caste of britain – so perhaps she’s a scot fearing a rising ultranationalist dictatorship (and accompanying ethnic strife)? I’m sort of thinking of a british/martian version of hotel Rwanda, where the ultranationalists are starting to gain momentum towards genocide while the martian authorities, happy letting their subjects test out self-rule, merrily ignore impending disaster… it could be singh’s attempt to justify saving an individual while her whole race gets attacked… depending on how short and banal you could make it, (ie the concept stripped of 70% of its over-the-top emotional manipulation and direct rwanda references) it could be cool without being too over the top or melodramatic. I feel like that story could work well without becoming too intense and thriller-ie…

2) The last remaining Martian colonists in England are discovered to be living in filthy refugee camps at Dover. Without proper sanitation, Earthrot has set in and they’re about to die. Mu-rau (our Watson) character helps them encyst, a process that will produce “new” Martians without memories and some genes swapped around horizontally (see tardigrades and bdelloid rotifers). By hanging around with the cyst-eggs, Mu-rau becomes gene-donor (father) and caretaker (mother) to them. 🙂

Simon: I like this but it could have more conflict in it, perhaps? I keep on coming back to the same themes of Martians and western colonial powers… the martians are killed when encysting despite Singh and Mu-rau’s efforts to help them, and only upon their deaths do the reactionary martian colonial powers take action… but that would perhaps feel like more of an opening story to a martian-human civil war story then a nicely closed vignette….

3) Later, Singh, Dunwitty, and Mu-rau are a team of “consulting ethicists,” going around helping human-run governments build ethical and rational legal codes (according to Martian ethics and rationality, of course). They  run into a boy in Boston who wants to be a suicide bomber for a radical humanist organization.

Simon: Would this be largely re-tooled from the suicide bomber story you already have? I do love that one…. that one is also the perfect intro to the concept of a mars-ruled earth in flux…

With these stories firmly set, I was almost ready to start writing.

But first we had to bring more development to the characters

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