Friday, December 2, 2011


Hey now, would you look at that!  I'm not dead, and neither is the blog!  My apologies for the long hiatus, but...well, the ends of classes and mountains of grading demanded my attention, and they were extraordinarily persuasive.

Anyway.  In what will, I suspect, be a recurring pattern, I think I'll need to renege on my earlier decision to simply barrel on ahead with infodumps regardless of backstory; the background of my world is so tightly wound into all the foreground details that it's often impossible for me to separate them.  It seems best, then, to take the King of Hearts' sage advice and begin at the beginning, go on until I get to the end, and then stop.  From the very beginning, then...

My world, Gavanna, spins through the spacetime of a not-terribly-unfamiliar universe, whose laws of physics don't differ from those of our own universe (or if they do, they differ so slightly that only academic interest could be found in the variations).  The speed of light is 3.00•10^8 meters per second, Planck's constant is 6.626•10^-34 Joules times seconds, and the gravitational constant, whatever the gravitational constant is in our universe.   Six point sumfinoruvver times 10^-11 meters cubed per kilogram per second squared.  Doesn't matter, you get the picture.  It should be noted, incidentally, that I don't currently know whether Gavanna actually is in our universe, or whether it's just in a suspiciously similar universe right next door.  It's somewhere and somewhen, and the somewhere, at least, would be familiar to any mote of interstellar hydrogen within Earth's recent lightcone.

But not the somewhen.  Gavanna is a world of a far older universe than ours, a universe that celebrated its 13.8 billionth birthday many, many, many billions of years ago.  The longest, reddest, tiredest photons of light in this universe are...well, I must be cagey in some way, mustn't I?  Let's just say they've traversed a good three hundred billion lightyears of space, but haven't yet wriggled their way past a round trillion lightyears.

Such a universe, of course, is different from our own in many ways.  Naïvely, one would suppose it to be a dim, dead universe, as all of the normal stars we're used to--stars like good 'ol Sol--live hot, fast, furious lives, burning out within a few tens of billions of years, at most.  But one must have a little perspective.  Our star, and stars like our star, are a comparative rarity in the universe.  Far more common are a more unassuming, retiring group of stars:  the red dwarfs.  These little beasties are, at the very most, two-fifths of the mass of the sun, and often much less (although even the very lightest are above about 7.5% of the sun's mass--below that, they aren't massive enough to fuse hydrogen for energy, and become either brown dwarfs or planets with delusions of grandeur, depending on who you ask*.  Now, in our young, hot-blooded (there is a fantastic joke in there about interstellar plasma just waiting to be made) universe, the red dwarfs haven't really come into their own; they mostly just hang around in the dark of space being dim, dark, and red.  Oh, they'll occasionally amuse themselves by swooping in unannounced on a hapless solar system, wreaking a little gravitational havoc, and then departing, snickering evilly, back into the dim dark, but in general they don't do much to draw the interest of a proud, hot-burning star like ours, or for that matter of the creatures living on the worlds orbiting such stars.

They're just biding their time, though.  For reasons a bit too lengthy to go into here (although check out this paper if'n you're interested), although red dwarfs burn dimly they burn long.  Eons after our own sun has cast off its hydrogen and shrunk to a rattling, screaming white dwarf, the red dwarfs will still be burning, and they won't be quite so red or so dim anymore.  Unlike normal stars, as red dwarfs age they're expected to skip that whole uncouth red giant phase, and instead of bloating themselves out they'll just get brighter--much, much brighter, and bluer to boot.  As the young, massive suns die, the galaxies will still shine as the far more numerous red dwarfs begin to brighten, and they'll shine not with the yellow-white of today, but with a pure, piercingly beautiful blue.

That universe is the universe that my world finds itself in; an old universe and an old galaxy, filled with aged, aged planets whose night skies glimmer with the light of blue stars.  And the world itself, the planet Gavanna, looks something like this:

Not my best work, I grant, and I know that it looks like I loaded a few dozen hurricanes into a blunderbuss aimed in the general direction of Gavanna and let fly, but it'll do.  The thin blue transparent lines indicate the world's axis of rotation, with the north pole visible up-a-top (the native inhabitants use a different system of directions than our north, south, east, and west, but that's a matter for a later post).  Also visible is one of Gavanna's two continents, the polar landmass referred to by certain offworlders (more on them later, too.  Don't worry, they're worth the wait.  Well, one of them is.  He's fabulous, and will gladly tell you so whether you ask him or not) as Scriven.  The first thing that the attentive observer should note is that it's,  Surprisingly so, considering the example set by our own Antarctica.  Gavanna, however, is a far warmer world than our own, and just as Antarctica was a far more clement land during the Mesozoic, Scriven manages to scrape by with nothing worse than harsh winters and cool but not cold summers--no kilometer-thick ice caps to be seen.  Scriven is also, regrettably, not all that developed; I've worked out little about the life and characters to be found there, and other than being the home of Tulla, Heireggan (certain readers may recognize these individuals as extremely altered versions of a pair of characters who, some years ago, went by the names of Ms. Sunshine and Hedwig. Incidentally, I believe I did once ask you about this before, but if the original creator of both of these characters is (A.) reading this and (B.) objects to my playing about with their names and stories, just let me know and I'll take the appropriate action (whatever you might deem that to be), and Iliaka (more on them la--Oh for goodness' sake, I should just abbreviate that.  From now on, M.O.T.L following a namedrop means you'll hear about it again), Scriven does not play a large role in my stories.

The same is very much not true of the southern continent, Tregillia (the name is, again, that used by the offworlders previously mentioned, M.O.T.L.).  This is where most of my stories are set, where most of my characters live, and where I've devoted the most attention to biota, geology, paleohistory, and pretty much everything else.  Tregillia is a little knot of rock thrust up from the ocean floor, a tectonic oddity that, properly speaking, should not exist--it's essentially one immense, Saudi Arabia-sized mountain, an Olympus Mons of the seas, with its highest peaks rearing three times higher above sea level than the Himalayan plateau manages on Earth.  Just like Mauna Loa on Earth, this gives it an immense range of biomes, stacked atop one another as the elevation rises, and many of which have no direct cognate on Earth.  M.O.T.L.

And more on Tregillia later, as well--and for that matter, more on Gavanna later.  We still have another world to mention.  Gavanna is a binary world, orbiting around another planet of approximately the same mass (a bit more massive, actually, but who's counting?), and this other planet--Oblu--is also rife with life.
Unfortunately for sky-scryers, Oblu is not very photogenic from orbit.  This world could best be described as a temperate Venus, a planet that, like Earth's evil twin, is cloaked in a thick, crushing sea of carbon dioxide and suffocated beneath a runaway greenhouse effect.  Unlike Venus, however, Oblu is not heated nearly so intensely by its dimmer stars, and although the pressure at the surface would still crush a human like a walnut under a triphammer (thank you, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!), the temperature is well below Venus' Hadean temperatures, with an average of about 40˚C.  Still too hot for humans or most other multicellular Earth life, of course, but below boiling--and that's what counts.

To really do justice to it, I'd need to do a separate post entirely devoted to Oblu, so I'll leave off with that extremely brief summary, pausing only to leave an exercise for the reader.  For insight into one of Oblu's chief oddities, I recommend looking up the phase diagram of carbon dioxide, the chief component of Oblu's atmosphere, and then...thinking about it, and what I said above, for a bit.

This post draws to a close, but before I depart one more thing must be mentioned.  The following logograph is a more elaborate version of the symbol that the native inhabitants of Gavanna and Oblu use to indicate their own kind in their writing (which, incidentally, is a logographic writing system).

It is also, incidentally, a reasonably accurate (if-stylized) depiction of the solar system in which my worlds exist.  The deep blue and gray dots represent Gavanna and Oblu, respectively, while the light blue and red orbs in the middle are the twin suns of the system, Gan and Tul (I mentioned that my system has binary planets orbiting around binary suns, didn't I?  I didn't?  Silly me).  Far down at the bottom, the distant, far-orbiting third planet in the system, the gas giant Relau.  It tends not to bother anyone.  The thin, blue connecting lines and curves indicate various things, but mostly they map the journeys of the local intelligences themselves, both within their star system (the closed curves) and without (the bow-shaped lines branching off from Gavanna).

And that, I think, is really quite enough.  Auvoir, all, and thank you for reading.

*Astronomers who know what they're talking about say that they're brown dwarfs.  I say that they're planets with delusions of grandeur, because I think it's amusing to anthropomorphize inanimate objects.

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