Friday, November 25, 2011

Points of Departure

A man walking down the street sees a woman working at a diner counter in 1956. Let's say that he goes inside, orders coffee, and chats up the waitress. A few months later, they get married, buy a house, have kids, etc. His third kid makes an ground breaking discovery regarding kiwi fruit, and his daughter takes it further to produce a pill that achieves the same results as kidney dialysis, but dirt cheap. Now let's say that moment, when the man spots the diner waitress, he's late for a job interview so he decided to keep walking. Distracted by the pretty lady, he steps off the curb and gets plowed by a bus.

Wyoming prairie
I've been giving a lot of thought in the past few months to points of departure as it relates to Alternative Timelines. The world we know is a product of individual decisions made by individual people. The man in 1956 is faced with a simple, two option choice. To walk into the diner or not. We know the world where dialysis is necessary for 350,000 Americans alone. All we can do is speculate what our world would be like without it and its consequences in various corners of our lives.

Oklahoma City
This is my consideration for Virgo. The America Sam and Delilah live in is not the one we know. There are differences caused by three distinct points of departure in the timeline, and these departures must be caused by appropriate responses to those departures. The man in my example didn't eschew his choices, jump straight up and fly to Mexico City. He went into the diner door or he didn't. He ordered coffee and talked to the waitress, or he chickened out. Conversely, he stepped out into the street and got hit by a bus, or he stepped back at the last minute. However vastly different the destinations of the man's choices, they were reached by a billion, logical baby steps. So in building Lincoln, Wyoming, I decide how my three points of departure will result in prairie becoming metropolis.

Cities are not just buildings. Venture capitalists risk their cash because they believe that the risk will pay off. In Wyoming, that requires me to look into oil and natural gas industries. Because of the arid climate, I must look into irrigation systems that would convince farmers to settle down. I must look into decisions made by Wyoming's government during the turn of the 20th century and decide if these choices would still have been made, one of which was giving women the right to vote. In the days when the state was still a territory, people came to Wyoming for a variety of reasons. Therefore, I must ask myself if those reasons still matter if I change something.

Delilah (aka Avril Lavigne)
And the crazy thing about all of this? This is all about setting. It's wallpaper. Stage dressing. Virgo is about a girl in possession of property stolen from a defense contractor. She doesn't want it. She'd give it back if she could, but she can't. And unfortunately for her, the military is not the only interested party that knows she has it. The technology doesn't exist in our word, yet, so for suspension of disbelief, I must create a world in which it does exist. Manufacture in our world would be scandalous. In Delilah's world, I must deal with the social/political/legal consequences of the tech. I must create the conditions by which she will come into contact with it. The conflict regarding her and this technology would have to warrant telling a story at all. And with a plot that's been done, I want to make the world extraordinary. I want something I can tie other story lines into.

Yes, I guess what I'm saying is that I want my own world to play in. I want it to impress me. And I have high expectations.

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