Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work on backstory and context, not only for ONLY’s END, but for the worlds and species of Civspace. In my mind I know a lot of this. For example, the Phair species has an extreme male-female ratio, on the order of 10:1. This makes them risk-takers, makes them cynical, and makes them sexually voracious – you have to be, otherwise the other 9 Phair will beat you to the grand prize, as it were.
So, I know that, but to be truthful I haven’t worked out all the implications. That’s why writing it down is so important, so that when I spend time thinking through “what ifs?” I don’t lose any of that, but capture it so I can iterate on it. Some of this is pretty mechanical; for example I need a fixed timeline on when Raylics encountered Terrans, and in broad terms what happened in the 360 years since then. Then when a character refers to this or that war, that will be a consistent point in time for all the characters that might also mention it. Other parts are broad strokes: what’s the temperament of an alien species, or what happened in the early life of the main characters.
All in all, there’s hundreds of facts to think up and set down. No single one is all that important, but taken as a corpus, they’re super-important – thus the “fiddly-bits” reference as used by Slartibartfast.
Another thing that goes into this reference doc is vignettes or bits of backstory that I originally create as part of an actual chapter or story, but that I decide are too much of an “info dump”. Here’s one, hopefully amusing, about the Oro-Ka. All hail Fleen!
The next day the Oro-Ka were still on my mind. They have been a star-faring race for more than ten thousand years, more than three times longer than the Keret, and more than twenty-five times longer than we come-lately Terrans. Terendurr believes the Junn have an even longer history than the Oro-Ka, but they are now a wholly space-borne people and have little contact with Civspace.
As the Black Stone observed, it is pointless to guess the motivations of an Oro-Ka. They are renowned for chaotic behavior. A few years back, in our own city of Kuundo, a prestigious research conference was visited by a certain Oro-Ka. Their name escapes me, but this individual presented several times at the conference and in fact convinced a number of Terran and Raylic researchers to abandon long-held theories and pursue a different, highly unlikely idea, with no evidence, based solely on his arguments. The scientists discontinued their grants and plunged headlong into this new venture, at considerable loss of prestige. Then it was discovered some months later that this same Oro-Ka spent his nighttime hours in Kuundo as a street preacher, passionately proclaiming the imminent coming of the bird-god Fleen, who would ordain a new golden age for Raylic and Terran alike; the only price being the eradication of all feline-form house pets.
The cult of Fleen persisted, with hundreds of members, for over a year. Certain commentators pondered whether this Oro-Ka might all along had been here for a different purpose than religion or scientific collaboration, but rather to experiment on the population of Kuundo.
The thing is, with Oro-Ka, you can’t tell. He might have been hoaxing everyone, measuring our gullibility. But he may well have been totally sincere in all he said and did.