Worldbuilding Under the Midnight Sun

I’ve posted on here recently as to what becomes of the “Children of the Storm”, from baby Gunston’s romance when he comes of age to Fintan and Fia deciding to end their lives together, complete with quite a few ideas as to some cool locations. But there’s a lot I haven’t covered. Marina, a character who’s the sole offspring of Aoife and Aoifan (and sole heir to a multi-billion-dollar fortune…), will no doubt be raised on the beaches of southern California. The loss of Fintan and Fia, and perhaps Decca as well, around the time the story takes place (2064 in what’s both a future and an alternate history; the timeline diverges around 1900) might spur her into taking action with regard to getting her life started, having a family, and so forth. But aside from this and her inheriting all the family’s best traits (she’s basically a perfect girl), I have no idea about her characterization.

It has hit me recently, though, that she might be a rather ascetic type, which isn’t something I’ve written about too much. What if our Marina was monk-like, indeed Jed-like in temperament? Her mother Aoife already does a lot of qigong exercises and so forth in the first story; what if this is heightened in the daughter’s case into spending a lot of her everyday life meditating, praying, and getting into the mystical aspects of tai chi? Or something like that. Truthfully I don’t even know all that much about it, so I won’t go into details as to what that might even look like, but the general idea at least intrigues me.

Another idea I have for Marina’s characterization is that she might be a total gearhead, specifically into motorbikes, monowheels, or some such, working on and riding her bikes on epic road trips, perhaps across Siberia to Europe and back (or perhaps even to other destinations in the eastern hemisphere). The Bering Strait is well connected in this timeline, and it would be so awesome as far as hobbies go.

I’m a bit biased myself in as much as I’ve road tripped through northern Scandinavia, and I’ve really wished I could just go from the land of the midnight sun back home to California through Siberia driving a car the whole time. It really beats the train (seriously, even in Europe public transit kinda sucks compared to having a car), and especially beats commercial airliners; the last flight I had to take yesterday probably literally gave me a silent stroke (yes, I got all the same symptoms as the other times I think I had them).

Airliners to me feel like Death, as in being in one of those things is what dying must feel like, and as of my last time I’ve figured out why: it’s because it literally is taking away from my life expectancy, flying in these conveyances! To be clear it’s really the environment and the security goons that do me in; when I fly privately like in the air tour I took of Los Angeles last year I don’t have a problem. But I don’t have $100,000 to drop on a charter plane to take me back to America. So ugh.

Anyway, moving back to the story ideas, it’s really cool, since having been into the arctic for the first time (from the circle all the way up to 78 degrees north), I’d like to incorporate more midnight sun and such phenomena in my story. I think the low golden glow of the nearer parts of the arctic at midnight would be perfect for Fintan and Fia to dim their lights for the last time on their yacht, but it’s a bit problematic, since I also have in mind that they should be in some paradisaical tropical setting. Tropical paradise and midnight sun don’t occur in the same areas, at least not in our geological epoch on this planet.

But the waters off Norway are mild enough to permit some warmth and sunshine to peek in on a good day in the summer, and palm trees and so forth could be sequestered in greenhouses. I even have an idea that there could even be an installation somewhere in the European arctic, the Garden of the Midnight Sun, that’s carved into a north-facing cliff and has big gothic windows looking like they were hewn out of a natural rock formation, that’s designed to catch the midnight sun (which always shines from due north) on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, creating a spectacular golden glow in the garden for any observers out on the water (or inside the cliffside garden) to see. Again, I’m short on the details, but I do know for a fact that parts of Alaska sport some of the best growing conditions in the world for plants in the summer, due to the long daylight hours (some crops can grow to enormous sizes), so an arctic garden might be possible. I’m not sure how many spectacular north-facing cliffs there are in arctic areas that even once in a blue moon get warm and sunny weather, but if my experience at North Cape is any indication there’s no shortage of such landscape in that part of the world. One of these days I’ll go on Google Earth and scope some out…

So the upshot is I’m thinking Fintan and Fia go to the arctic on some exceptionally warm and clear day on the summer solstice and drink out of their poison chalice, the golden reflected glow of the Garden of the Midnight Sun hewn into the distant cliff being the last thing they see, their awareness fading out as they embrace each other on deck, caressed by the midnight sun and some sultry sea breeze fluttering the sails, surf sparkling as ripples flow past them.

The yacht itself might have some tropical or perhaps Californian style plants in it; yes, they’d never survive the winter (or even the summer…) if they were outside on deck, but who’s to say they couldn’t be protected if adverse weather happens, and then they could just be brought out when conditions are suitable? Yes, it’s a bit contrived, but it’s just such a strong image I can’t resist. My original inspiration was some palm-tree-studded coast of Lake Como, something like the villas of Naboo where the entire edifice is like a work of art, but why can’t there be similar villas in places like North Cape, only styled to blend in to the arctic landscape, taking advantage of everything the unique environment of the polar day and polar night has to offer?

It actually fits into the vibe I’m going for with the timeline as well, where arctic and antarctic development, as with most remote and frontier areas in general, is far more intense. I’m mulling over in my mind an idea of exploring what becomes of the Olympics, and I’ve got a concept that in a world flush with cash and new technology and where war has taken a back seat to subterfuge and spectacle that the events might escalate in size to the point where they’re used as an impetus to develop entire new cities in remote but geographically promising regions. Think sports complexes on arctic glaciers, that sort of thing, for the Winter Olympics. The story I have in mind takes place in 2064, the year of first contact, which is a Summer Olympic year, but they used to have the summer and winter games in the same year anyway, so they might have just kept that tradition going for all I know rather than changing it to be offset by 2 years.

I even have an idea where the Marina character will be into skiing or snowboarding, largely motivated by my own dreamy experience learning it for the first time in the arctic, but it’s at odds with the idea that she’d be a gearhead and primarily into motorbikes…or maybe not. On the flip side, I might see fit to transfer that aspect to another character, perhaps Gunston’s love interest? Hmm…I’ll need to think more about that.

Anyway, one idea I have is that rather than the World’s Fair fading into obscurity in favor of the Olympics the two could meld together to where they’re almost part of the same huge event, throwing in a music festival and film festival type of thing too. All the good stuff in one massive gathering.

Another angle I’m working on for this story, which, inspired by how the freakish La Niña pattern is called La Niña del Diablo, I’m tentatively titling “Diablo’s Wake”, is the great storm of October 2047 which hits Japan, seen in the epilogue of “Children of the Storm”, when Gunston is a toddler.

My latest thinking is that storm, which is similar in setup to the already record-smashing Great Christmas Blizzard that struck the US in 2045 but substantially more intense, spans the Pacific clear to Alaska and Hawaii as part of one massive weather pattern, suffusing a vast region in cold and stormy weather…offset by a massive blocking high pressure system centered over the United States that delivers scorching heat and bone dry conditions from coast to coast. For bonus points, have it persist all winter…except in November, where, pumped by the massive typhoon activity that spawned the great storm, a massive cold wave delivers by far the coldest and snowiest late-fall weather on record to the entire United States.

The idea here is that ski resorts nationwide have a hard time that season but there’s unprecedented snowfall across the more northern regions and especially in the Arctic (the Cordillera into Greenland), helping to spur interest in and development of these regions. So the El Diablo years, with their extreme weather, go down in history as when these area truly come into their own as winter sports destinations.

How exactly all this fits together into one cohesive story is an interesting question. It’s all rather scattershot, but at least I have some ideas. I haven’t even gotten to Henrietta yet, Decca’s protégé as far as taking over the dance studio in Nashville is concerned; by this point in time she’d be not 12 but rather 31, and the way I have her characterized as she comes of age she’ll grow up to be a total sensual slut type…perhaps serving as a contrast to Marina?

Heck, at 31 it’s entirely possible Henrietta has already gotten started on having a family, assuming she’s ever going to have one. But then again she doesn’t strike me as the type to do any such thing. On the other hand, for her I feel like having a baby at an age like 40 would be a better fit. And would be a nice contrast to all the teenage mothers that show up in my stories; believe it or not the median age at first birth in this universe is not supposed to be like 16.

Admittedly there’s a chance it actually might be; after all, if people don’t have to go to school, nobody needs a job to earn a living, and about half of all women are going to the sperm bank anyway, then if you want to ever have a baby there’s really little reason not to just go ahead and do it in your teens. You’ll have more energy and vitality then than even in your twenties, let alone later. On the flip side, people in this setting practically guzzle substances like steroids and cocaine, so a fortysomething burning the candle at both ends to keep up wouldn’t really be considered unusual.

In any case, it still might make for a nice contrast. As you can see with that digression, worldbuilding can take you to some pretty odd places, but as my next story comes together I hope it’ll be one fun place to visit!

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