One of the things I like most about writing futuristic science fiction is worldbuilding—dreaming up new civilizations and speculating about the histories they were built on. I muse about their customs and venerable traditions, their types of government and level of technology, as well as the interesting people that might live there. I find it all fascinating, and have made freewriting a part of my process. Before I take to the keyboard to bang out the first draft, I spend quite a bit of time—days, weeks even—writing longhand to discover the history and nuances of the worlds and people that will bring the story to life. Having an image in front of me to draw inspiration from helps a great deal, something to stir my curiosity and get my mind churning, like an awesome futuristic cityscape.
Below are a few of my favorites, images that—whether you’re a writer or not—are almost guaranteed to get your gears turning. After all, having an active imagination is pretty much a prerequisite for being a fan of science fiction. We all dream, and dreaming is just another form of worldbuilding, which is why—as I often like to say—the most amazing places I've ever lived exist only inside my mind.
One of the things I love most about post-apocalyptic artwork is that it makes me think about the history behind the collapse. As a writer of speculative science fiction—most of which takes place in the far future—I find these periods of disruption incredibly useful when developing the backstory of a novel. They free me from modern conventions and expectations of how things will or should progress and allow me to rebuild the world in a way that best suits the tale I’m telling. I can slow down the pace of technological advancement, or use the collapse as a unifying event that spawns a new golden age of global cooperation. After wiping the slate clean, the possibilities for the future become endless, and I’m free to tell the story the way it wants to be told.
Below are a few thought-provoking images to help your Muse destroy the world and become the master your fictional future.
Click to enlarge image.
I often mention how images inspire me to write, and share a lot of the really cool stuff I find—pictures that stir my imagination, make me long to be in far off places and speculate about the future. But just as those images conjure ideas of places, characters, and scenes I’d like to write about, I also collect images that help me envision my settings and scenes more clearly. For me, observing these images is like being there, and I find all kinds of little details I can use to develop my own unique setting.
We've all heard the saying, “Write what you know.” Well, most of us have never been in a starship hanger bay, but by studying a variety of images, we can make observations and collect enough details, to paint our own picture. And by mixing, matching, and adding our individual perspective, we can create a hanger bay that’s unique to our ship and our story, and full of colorful, descriptive details that help ground our readers in a setting that feels a little more real because we were able to be specific.
Truth is, no two writers will look at anything and describe it the exact same way, so it occurred to me that, like writing prompts, these types of images might be fun to share as well. And, we all know you don’t have to be a writer to appreciate a good futuristic setting. We sci-fi fans love just about anything that stirs the imagination, and these images do just that.
So, that said, you can expect to see similar posts like this in the future (minus the long-winded introduction, of course). Let me know what you think. :)
First up is “Arbor Vitae” a terraforming station created by environmental artists Philip Klevestav and Helder Pinto. There’s an impressive amount of detail in these images, and although your story may not need a terraforming station, chances are—if you’re writing science fiction, that is—there’s at least a scene or two taking place in some kind of facility. “Arbor Vitae” has enough detail to spread around just about any type of futuristic setting.
Also, if you like these images, check out the artists’ websites. They both have a lot more environmental work in their galleries. www.philipk.net and www.helderpinto.com
So many details—the curved outer window, with orange markers; the upper level along the left side; the holo-image and cables hanging from the overhead projector; the shine of the floor plating; the exposed conduit running along the floor and up from the center well; the hard light stations around the room; the ventilation ducts at the base of the window. Take your pick.
Same room, different angle. You can see a lot more ceiling detail and the texture of the wall panels.
The lighting is nice, as is the grated floor, and if you look close, the walls appear to be sweating. I also like that open area in the middle of the pic. Nice place to stage a fight. That drop would make a serious obstacle for the characters to avoid, or use to their advantage.
The upper level: main console and smaller hard-light stations; different sized floor panels; exposed conduit; the lower level lighting is much brighter than the softer recessed lighting overhead; and the whole level has a darker contrast to the natural light illuminating the main floor.