Martin Helmut Fieber

To create a world from scratch …

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A dark planet's surface with an overcasting moon. The landscape is rough, with sharp-edged stone formations in dark brown, gray, and black, partially covered by something that looks like snow but is actually ash. Some of those ash flakes are still in the air.
A slice of the concept art of planet Athree I commissioned from Vitaliy Ostaschenko.

… one must first invent the universe.

Or whatever Carl was saying, but I for sure want more than an apple. Anyway, already as a child, I loved imagining my own worlds, coming up with what the people would be like, the technology, the day of a regular child — now it's the day of an adult, not much has changed. I still love imagining worlds — sci-fi worlds in particular. And because of that, I one day decided to do just that — write down a world, making it more than just the shifting images and words in my head.

I have many ideas about many things. I'm not saying they're all good or original, but I like them. And ideas about things I like are even more plentiful. Cassette futurism, as seen in Blade Runner or Alien (); anything sci-fi, with spaceships, exploring new worlds; software, and what it can or cannot do in our lives.

When I say I want to create a world, writing it down does not feel like enough to capture what I want to pour out of my head. There are images, music, specific sounds, and feelings that need to be invoked. Even though I started this blog to get better at writing, I'm not sure whether I can bring all of this down to words yet, and still, I want to write, tell a story, invoke feelings, show what this world looks like, and …


I plan. I'm a planner. Sylvain Neuvel once said he plans and writes his books like lasagna. He starts each chapter very thin, sometimes just one sentence, and layers them up until he is happy. Using the same metaphor, I see myself as planning a hunter's pot. I take different concepts and ideas and let them cook forever, taking a bowl out for a specific story and never emptying the pot.

My people, groups, places, and world are not functions of a specific story that solely evolves from one concrete implementation. They all make up everything, and I find a story in that place. This is at least how I would describe what happened when I set out to create a world.

I started imagining the basic setup: where is everyone? How should this world look? Then I filled it with ideas, events, and groups; then people, unions, corporations, and religions; even tech, jobs, and software. What constraints are present, what drives people, and why are they there?

A book, a game, a film?

Yes, all of it. After a while of working on my world, stories emerged naturally.

I could write a short story about that mining corporation on planet Athree and the miner who killed their supervisor with a wrench after they found out what the corp' was drilling for.

A game where you are a train driver who discovers a signal in the middle of nowhere, thinking this could be a sign of the long-lost colony that first came to the system.

Or an animated short film, following a lone space trucker delivering a large crate only labeled "Rats MK4" to a remote outpost to get her union benefits, trying not to care about why the crate vibrates from time to time.

Of course, I have to pick some of it, no? I cannot do it all — probably. But I'm also a hopeless optimist, so I started writing a short story, working on a game, and learning to animate a short film. Even if none of it ever sees the light of day, I'm having a blast. Partially, though, things will see some light as I write this article, taking a first step and telling about my world*.

Alsafi (/ælˈsfi/)

Around , a breakthrough in magnetoplasmadynamic thruster (MPDT) technology enabled faster space travel and greatly reduced the time to reach the stars — or at least objects in our solar system. It took until , with the invention of the so-called GEM Engine, a gravitoelectromagnetic generator that creates artificial gravity, before we were truly able to reach the stars and live permanently in space.

In , a colony ship called the Onveer left Sol on its way to Alsafi, also known as Sigma Draconis, a single star in the northern constellation of Draco. It's a real system, 18.8 light years from our sun, and the name I gave my world.

This starship did broadcast its journey, which took over 40 years, before arriving in the system — it indeed turned out to be as rich in resources as promised. I loosely based it on the real system, though I added more planets and moons besides the currently known ones.

In my world, the system was picked because it was a promising candidate for habitable planets. The most promising planets were one covered fully in water, later called Frisicum Planes, and another rocky planet, just called A3, as the third planet in the system, with a solid surface at 1.2 of Earth's G, covered in water clouds with constant storms around the equator, that can only be traversed via vehicle or environment suits.

Around , and shortly after the new colony reworked the ship that brought them there to its first station, Port Neha, with a permanent orbit around Frisicum Planes, the last broadcast reached Sol in — unremarkable, as usual, reporting on the progress of the colony. After that, no new signal left Alsafi from the first colony.

In , 12 years after Sol retrieved the last broadcast, a second colony ship started its journey to the system. After only 38 years of travel, in , the second ship arrived in the system, finding the colony ship and established station of the first colonists initially closed off, clean, and without traces of the people who once inhabited the space.

Years passed, and people moved on. The system got colonized, stations were built, and trade routes established. Only a few are still looking for what happened to the first colonists. Some see it as a sign, others as a warning. Children tell each other ghost stories about the long-lost colony; most people don't even think about them anymore.

The year now is , 42 years after the second colony ship arrived. The main hubs of this new world are Port Neha, in orbit around the water planet Frisicum Planes, now called Frisland, and Thrumuland, a colony on planet A3, renamed Athree, producing hydrogen as sodium borohydride and being a major economic force, led by the "Thrumuland Trade Union".

What was once unclear in the beginning — if the settlers could survive on their own in this new world — is now clear: yes. Due to the very favorable conditions of Alsafi the new frontier strove in no time, creating their own laws, rules, and customs — eventually a society detached from Earth, where all once began.

That's the short base the world is built upon: a retro-futuristic sci-fi world, leaning toward cassette futurism, grounded, only partially explored, with the feeling of great opportunity awaiting.

A journey, together

I have a ton more information about the world, the people, unions and corporations, communities, places, technology, ideologies, religions, events, etc., and I want to view it somewhere. Currently, everything is in Markdown files managed through Obsidian. I love the tool, but I also want something more visual. So I made the decision to create an interactive website, hosting every information around the world and making it a design and world document I can then share and interact with, as well as gather early feedback to improve the world and my writing.

Hopefully, this will build up the world and fill it with everything to make it feel alive, then enrich it with stories. As said earlier, the idea is to create a small game, a book, and an animated short film, all following a different person in that world, doing their job and living their lives.

Everything will help everything: synergies. The book will fill the world further, making it just that much bigger. This will help create the stories for the small game and short film. Furthermore, I will be able to reuse the assets, like 3D models, graphics, or sounds, I create for the game for the animated short film that I plan on creating with Blender, and vice versa.

Subject to change

Even though I already have a lot of information created for the world, I'm not shy about cutting, changing, or reforming the world and the stories in it. Everything is subject to change if it helps create a better world. And until the actual release of the first story in that world, there is no reason not to, even if it means reworking large parts.

In the end, that is the idea behind creating this world more or less in the open: getting active feedback to improve all aspects of it.

A plan, next?

Next, I will work on the interactive website that will be available online at, expanding the universe, as well as write updates here on my blog. As said, I want to create the world in the open, getting as much feedback as possible.

The site will also already include some concept art of places and technologies in that world, created by the amazing Vitaliy Ostaschenko, as well as a set of short stories I've already written.

I know this is a lot, but I have time*. I have a day job, so I'm doing this on the side as a hobby because I like to. No deadlines, no financial pressure, thankfully. And due to the many different aspects of what I'm planning, I can switch things up: do something visual, write a new story, or work on code. It will never get boring.

Even more important, I will create my own tools to support this work as good as possible. I already have the basics of a world-building tool to help map events, locations, and people to a timeline. I will extend this tool to support the website I build and also integrate it into the game. A slice of that tool will even be open source, as I did with other projects of mine.

And with this 18.8-light-years of journey ahead, I will chop it away, one step at a time.

Until then 👋🏻

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