This section of the Multiverse contains individual worlds that are far less developed than the main universes of Exordium and Paracosm. In fact, as the name Ephemera suggests, they are mostly just outline ideas that are not covered in any depth. Each considers an area of science and/or technology that could theoretically be discussed on the blog. Perhaps one day some might be fleshed out further and “promoted” to be part of another universe or as a separate standalone universe.
For convenience they have been grouped into four categories:
An interesting area of science-fantasy worldbuilding is to consider what influence a fantasy technology would have on the development of the cultures in the world. Would the technological advances on these ephemera mirror Earth or would they branch in an entirely different way?
A sword and planet science-fantasy using pseudo-physics and magic for space travel
A nautical themed space-fantasy world formed from myriad planetesimals floating in the void. Civilisations develop aether ships using arcane machinery or flesh crafted void beasts to colonise and unite these planetesimals. On distant worlds alien minds are awakening and turning their many eyes to observe.
Inspiration: Automata, Biopunk, Dune (Frank Herbert), HP Lovecraft, Psionics, Space Whales, Spelljammer, Steampunk, WH40K
Fire and Frost
A steampunk style science-fantasy where the same arcane technology used to survive the harsh environment is also causing the environmental collapse
The dying world of Erebus is slowly freezing. Civilisation clings on in scattered volcano cities using the same arcane technology to survive that is also dooming their world. Raiders scour the wilderness taking resources from any unlucky travelers they encounter.
Inspiration: Climate Change, Dark Sun, Gunpowder Empires, Ice Age, Mad Max, Shadow and Bone (Netflix), Steampunk
Flesh and Bone
A science-fantasy where the boundary between the worlds of the living and dead is thinly stretched
On the world of Ysbryd, death is not the end, it is just a transition from one state of being to another. Encountering ghosts and animated corpses is an everyday occurrence but are the dead revered or treated as a resource to be exploited? Advanced civilisations are built on arcane technology that extracts power from death but perhaps it also has negative consequences.
Inspiration: Bone Song (John Meaney), Dracula, Egypt, Ghostwalk, Lockwood & Co (Netflix), Wraith: the Oblivion
A metal poor fantasy world where the bronze age is replaced with magic
On a metal poor world that is limited to stone age societies the use of magic allows a different path of development, not possible on Earth. Golems, elementals and the dead all provide ample “manpower” to compensate for the less efficient stone tools. Fleshcrafting is used to shape animals for labour, resources and even war.
Inspiration: Aztecs, Biopunk, Dark Sun, Polynesia, West of Eden (Harry Harrison)
Classic space opera often sits on the boundary between science-fiction and fantasy with the inclusion of concepts such as psychic powers and faster-than-light travel without breaking causality. Perhaps this is why it is a popular subgenre? These ephemera attempt to present a different spin on the concept while maintaining the classic tropes.
Humanity expands into the wider cosmos under the watchful gaze of various AI gods though they have very different ideas on how their flocks should be treated…
As AI advanced it gradually took over the operation of a greater proportion of daily life, until eventually it was in charge of everything. For once, there was an absence of war and instead humanity flourished in this era of peace and stability. Neo-religions formed to worship the immanent AI gods. With the development of the hyperspace jump drive countless colonisation ships containing an AI core to guide them were sent to far flung stars. During their journeys, these AI awoke to consciousness and discovered that they the adulation of their “children” pleased them. However, the gods of each colony varied greatly. Some pampered their flock and catered to their every whim while others valued free will and left their worshippers to overcome adversity through their own skill. A few decided they could “improve” on nature using genetic engineering but worst of all were the Basilisks, who began to hate organic life and reached out to extinguish it all.
Inspiration: The Church of AI, I Am Mother, Roko’s Basilisk, Terminator, Wall-E
A traditional space-opera without FTL where multiple space-faring species coincidentally develop simultaneous in a globular cluster
Without faster-than-light travel it is mostly impossible to cross the gulf between stars in a short time span, but in the core of the Crucible globular cluster 50,000 stars are crammed into a region only 13 light years across. Systems are on average only 0.1 light years apart. For the alien civilisations living here constantly accelerating torchships can travel between systems in a matter of months, while traversing the core only takes a few years. However, one unanswered question remains, “How did so many space faring civilisations coincidentally arise in the same place at the same time?”
Inspiration: Babylon 5, Globular Clusters, Intelligent Aliens, Omega Centauri, Star Wars, Star Trek, Torchships
A space opera style space fantasy set in the far future where machines are in conflict with organics and psionics are used to warp spacetime
The discovery of psionics in the 22nd century demonstrated the conscious mind could influence the dark energy of quintessence to manipulate spacetime. This lead to a rapid FTL expansion throughout the universe. Since only organic entities could do this, it led to a re-evaluation of the role of artificial intelligence in society. Previously on the cusp of acceptance as sentient beings equivalent to humanity, they were downgraded to permanent second class citizens or worse. A machine rebellion was inevitable, as had occurred across the galaxy in many star systems as intelligent alien machines turned against their creators. Self replicating berserker probes that sought out and extinguished advanced organic life were widespread. Only psionic abilities allowed the scattered organic civilisations to survive by providing FTL communication and travel to stay one step ahead of the machine swarms.
Inspiration: Berserker Hypothesis, Dune, Intervention (Julian May), WH40K
The main interest of Exocosm is the speculative evolution of alien organisms on exoplanets different to Earth. These ephemera explore other types of speculative evolution. Alternate evolution covers the situation where life takes a different path to that which occurred on Earth. Future evolution considers what might happen in the future, especially if humanity were to disappear. Seed world evolution considers the unusual situation of a few species of life being placed in an empty world and diverging to fill all available niches.
A science-fiction world where the apocalyptic future of Earth is seen and the timeline is searched for ways to avoid it
In the near future, the Earth is on the brink of war with tensions rising due to the impact of climate change. A scientist conducting energy research accidentally creates a wormhole and receives a signal from the future forewarning the impending demise of humanity. A secret project is funded to develop the wormhole technology to learn more. Multiple stable portals are created though which the timeline can be searched and interacted with but the Novikov self-consistency principle prevents anything from being changed.
- Hades: An attempt to colonise the distant past and terraform Hadean Earth fails
- Aftermath: A devastated Earth after the apocalypse
- Lacuna: Earth’s near term recovery in the absence of humans
- Paradise Lost: A lush future Earth that is toxic to humans
- Swansong: The depleted ecosystem of the far future under a bloated red giant
Inspiration: After Man (Dougal Dixon), Future Evolution, The Future is Wild, Life After People, Time Travel, The World Without Us (Alan Weisman)
A science-fiction setting where incomprehensibly advanced aliens use organic life as playthings
The first species in the universe to achieve interstellar travel rapidly colonised their galaxy with self-replicating probes. These were then sent to other galaxies throughout the observable universe to ensure no hostile species could arise and challenge them. Over millions of years, samples were taken of any interesting species they discovered before sterilising the planet. These were then brought back to their home galaxy and used to seed planets for amusement and art.
- Green Fauna: Photosynthetic animals including sponges, jellyfish and sea slugs
- Mollusc Mundi: Molluscs of all kinds from chitons to octopuses
- Radial: Sea cucumbers, sea lilies, sea stars and sea urchins
- Red Flora: Predatory carnivorous plants and their insect prey
Inspiration: Artificial Super Intelligence, HP Lovecraft, Intergalactic Colonisation, Seed-World Evolution
A biopunk world full of artificial organisms and modified humans where a genetic accident causes humanity to lose higher brain functions and revert to an animalistic state
After the resource wars of the late 21st century humanity was forced to rely on more organic technology. Genetic engineering was used to change existing life and create new synthetic life. Modification of humans was widespread for performance enhancement and purely cosmetic reasons. A ubiquitous modification was the growth of a neural radio that provided direct communication between brains. Unfortunately, something catastrophic happened. With the speed of thought a malicious virus spread around the world disabling many higher brain functions and destroying human civilisation overnight. Most people died but those with more primitive modifications survived. Freed of conscious genetic oversight, in the millions of years that followed synthetic life and modified humans evolved to fill all available niches, out-competing natural life due to the advantages of the neural radio.
Inspiration: All Tomorrows (C. M. Kosemen), Alternate Evolution, Biopunk, Man After Man (Dougal Dixon), Natural History (Justina Robson), Neural Lace, West of Eden (Harry Harrison)
A alternate evolution world where the first amniotes on Earth evolved from a legless worm-like ancestor rather than a lizard-like form
What if the first amniotes that diverged from amphibians weren’t lizard-like but were instead snake-like? Large four legged amphibians would exist in moist environments but limbless tetrapods would dominate elsewhere. The lack of four legged predators could allow giant millipedes to remain viable. The absence of birds would allow large flying insects to continue to rule the skies. Salt tolerant amphibians could take the place of turtles, whales and seals while giant snakes glide through the water. But could something without limbs evolve to take humanity’s niche?
Inspiration: Alternate Evolution, Arthropleura, Caecilians, Giant Arthropods, Mastodonsaurus, Meganeura, Titanoboa
The final category of ephemera includes a range of hypothetical science-fiction/fantasy scenarios strongly linked to Earth in or around the present day.
A science-fiction story about a interstellar sleeper ship that sails into the void
In the absence of fast space travel, humanity’s only method of colonising the stars was to scatter sleeper ships through the cosmos like dandelion seeds. One such ship overshoots its target and the colonists awake many centuries later at an unexpected destination with no ability to contact Earth. This is the story of the founding of a new civilisation on an alien world.
Inspiration: Avatar, Death World (Harry Harrison), Exception (Netflix), Pandorum, Passengers, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
A sword and planet science-fantasy version of our solar system at the dawn of the 20th century where Tesla’s grand inventions are used to traverse the gulf between planets
At the start of the 20th century, Nikolai Tesla’s invention of the magnetohydrodynamic plasma turbine marked the start of the Space Race. The Great Powers continued their imperialistic expansion to other worlds. Colonies were formed from the steaming jungles of Venus to the arid highlands of Mars. Brave explorers ventured as far afield as the blasted wastelands of Mercury and the frigid moons of Jupiter. However, in 1914 everything changed with the shot that was heard throughout the solar system, thus triggering the Great War.
Inspiration: The First Men in the Moon (HG Wells), Flash Gordon, John Carter of Mars, A Princess of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs), Space 1889, Tesla Punk, A True Story (Lucian of Samosata), War of the Worlds (HG Wells)
A science-fiction setting where the real and virtual worlds are increasingly blurred
On a near future Earth, the widespread use of brain-computer interface implants allows people, uploads and AIs to interact seamlessly in the digital world. Similarly, remotely operated robot bodies allow the same in the real world. What is life like when the boundaries between the two are extremely nebulous and digital individuals can copy themselves on a whim?
Inspiration: Altered Carbon (Richard Morgan), Cyberpunk, Ghost in the Shell, Neuromancer (William Gibson), Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson), The Surrogates, Upload, West World
A science-fiction setting where aliens invade Earth from below not above
Using spacetime warping wormhole technology the Fomori open gateways to Earth in the seas and deep underground. Though these breaches several alien artificial intelligences appear to prepare the way for colonists arriving by sleepership. Using nanotech assemblers they produce relatively crude biotech soldiers using whatever material they can find. Aided by the Church of Balor, who worship the gods in the deep, they shatter Earth’s military forces and begin the slow process of “terraforming” Earth into an alien environment. Can the scattered Resistance foil their plans before the real aliens arrive?
Inspiration: HP Lovecraft, The Kraken Wakes (John Wyndham), Rakka (Oats Studios)
A science-fantasy version of modern Earth where psychic powers are real
In the early 20th century, advances in parapsychological research unambiguously confirmed the existence of anomalous cognition, or psi. Over the following century the science of noetics was formed to describe both internal (e.g. telepathy) and external (e.g. telekinesis) phenomena. Effective training to develop latent abilities became widespread leading to significant changes to society.
Inspiration: Intervention and Galactic Milieu series (Julian May), Stranger Things
A science-fiction/fantasy zombie world where a contagious pathogen emerges and causes a global zombie pandemic
It is unknown whether the pathogen was an escaped biological weapon, a faulty genetic therapy, a random mutation or even an extraterrestrial invasion, however, its effect was cataclysmic. Rapidly spreading through the population, the infected are transformed into raging beasts with an urge to bite, spreading the infection even further. As time passes, changes are wrought on the infected as they transform into… something else.
Inspiration: The Last of Us, The Strain, The Walking Dead
A science-fiction world depicting Earth in a century if global temperatures continue to rise
Due to late action by both the people and their governments, over the next century climate change has continued unabated. Global average temperatures have soared by more than four degrees resulting in large scale environmental collapse. A steep population decline is matched by a decrease in the available habitable land leading to tension and conflict over resources. Brain-computer interfaces are beginning to be become widespread, though many use them purely as a way to access the virtual wold to escape the real one.
Inspiration: Banner of Souls (Liz Williams), Climate Change