Now that ‘A Confession’ is out, I’m back at work on my highly ambitious speculative sci-fi project that I’ve been working on off and on since 2008. The first draft, which is quite a ways from complete, is already longer than ‘A Confession’ and almost as long as ‘The Trouble With Being God’ – and it’s many levels more complex than either of those were.

The reasons for the complexity are going to stay under wraps for now, but I can say that it’s a piece of cautionary speculative futurist sci-fi fiction, taking place in a future vision of the world, where things are considerably different than they are now. Politics have changed, and technological advances have shifted the world as well – and therefore a lot of what is being written out is my speculative possibility of what the future could look like in about a hundred years from now (given specific circumstances).

That said, portions of the story take place in imagined places – but I’m at a major portion of the story now that takes place in an mostly uninhabited version of Chicago, now overgrown by nature. What’s particularly worth noting here though is that this is the first time I’ve written a story that takes place in an honest-to-goodness real location, and it’s definitely a lot harder to do than to imagine a place – especially as a major goal of this piece is to make the world believable. That’s the challenge of world-building when your world takes place in a version of the real world – to make it seem like it could be real.

So to work on the piece I’ve taken a few trips to Chicago (it’s only a few hours away – and I have been there quite a few times in my life already) and am doing as much location research as I can. It’s proven to be extraordinarily helpful, and I’ve already taken several hundred photographs which I keep in a photo book to use as reference as I describe the scenes. They are helping to guide my vision, as are reminders of the location through various online photographs, Google Maps and Google Earth. Honestly it’s amazing how much modern technology can help to transport you to a place, to spark memories and to help with visual cues (which can spark reminders of sounds and smells from your own visits).

I’m back in Chicago again today, and was driving down Lake Shore Drive today imagining the views from the lake, figuring out if a forest on Northerly Island would block the view of the city if you were at the edge of the east shore and an imaginary adjoining forest immediately to the west. Tomorrow I’m going to take a drive down Roosevelt to further improve my understanding of what a trip down that road would be like. I’ve been there before, I’ve researched it online and have followed it via street view – but my goal is to make this all to be believable.

All the science I’m writing is extrapolations of current technology, and thoughts on where technology could go. The places where the story takes place need to be just as believable if I’m going to build a future world where people can truly get lost in the story and be taken to a future time and place they can believe might someday exist. After all, what good is cautionary speculative sci-fi if it’s beyond imagination?

Challenges of Building a Believable Future Version of the Real World
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