My story is science fiction of the spaceship-zipping-around-the-universe-with-vaguely-explained-FTL variety. I partly did this because it’s freaking cool. People are always throwing out the question of, “If you could go to Mars but you knew you would have to spend the rest of your life there, would you still go?”
Yes. In a goddamn heartbeat. Because it’s awesome.
That’s one thing I really liked about Mass Effect: Andromeda. Where the original trilogy was focused on soldiers and military campaigns (which were great, don’t get me wrong), Andromeda was more focused on the philosophy of exploring, on pushing the boundaries of where human beings had been, where we were going, and what we were capable of. There’s something romantic in there that appeals to me on a very deep level, and it’s something I tried to emulate in my story.
It’s a kind of philosophy you see in Firefly, with Mal and the show’s refrain of “You can’t take the sky from me.” You see it in Star Wars with Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon as well as in Pirates of the Caribbean with Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl. To me, the ships aren’t important, what’s important is what they represent, namely the ability to live the life you want to live, and to see and do things that had never been seen and done before.
Lately, though, my thoughts about setting have turned into something of a campaign to prove to a certain person I know that science fiction isn’t boring. He is far more interested in fantasy stories, mainly because the settings are so vivid and fantastical whereas, in his own words, “flying around an empty void in a tin can is boring”. Well, I’ve been trying my damnedest to make it not boring. This means creating cool planets with interesting features for the ship to visit, cobbling together whacky space stations, and making my characters so interesting that even if the setting is boring the story sure as hell isn’t.
One of the more challenging ways I’ve been working to prove this particular fella wrong is by making the actual ship as endearing as possible. This is one aspect of science fiction that I’ve never really latched on to. Everyone is always so attached to the ship. Every time I thought I was in love with the ship, I thought about it a bit more and realized I was actually in love with some character closely associated with it.
I don’t love the Millennium Falcon. I love Han Solo and Chewbacca.
I don’t love the Serenity. I love Mal, Wash, River, and the rest.
I don’t love the Normandy. I love Joker and EDI.
I don’t love the Galactica. I love Starbuck and Lee and Admiral Adama.
So I challenged myself to take the ship in my story–named the Wayfaring Stranger–and to turn it into a real character. It doesn’t have a mind of its own, but I tried to give it a personality and tried to convey how much the characters themselves loved the ship. Along the way I think I got a little attached as well. Since the ship itself is a huge part of the setting, this has certainly given me a new perspective on setting and how characters interact with it.