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Hot(ter)house Cretaceous

Discussion in 'Research' started by Jdailey1991, Aug 29, 2016.

  1. Jdailey1991

    Jdailey1991 Troubadour

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    In the Jurassic period, 200-145 million years ago, the average median surface temperature was 61.7 degrees Fahrenheit. When it gave way to the Cretaceous, the temperature rose to 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Pretty warm, no doubt, but to find the hottest chapter in Earth's geologic history, we must fast-forward eleven million years after the Mesozoic-Cenozoic Extinction event, to a period called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, where the average median surface temperature spiked up to 73 degrees Fahrenheit, so warm that global seasonality would have been reduced.

    But as recently as 49 million years ago, the hot days gradually but surely began to cool down, shrinking the global rainforests until they were eventually confined within the latitudinal boundaries of Cancer and Capricorn.

    It wouldn't become completely apparent until 33.5 million years ago, when the cooling resulted in the extinction of 20% of all plant and animal life, an event scientists called Grande Coupure, the Great Break.

    In this alternate scenario, the Jurassic period ended with the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum, where the average median surface temperature spiked from 61.7 degrees Fahrenheit to 73 degrees Fahrenheit. This number would be the average median surface temperature for the next 100 million years (excluding the Mesozoic-Cenozoic Extinction Event).

    But for now, let's focus on the point of transition when the spike in temperature started, 145 million years ago. Would this sudden rise in temperature result in a Mesozoic equivalent to the Grande Coupure, or a genuine mass extinction? And would this put the evolution of the modern orders of birds and mammals at an earlier starting date?
     
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I mean no offense, but in what sense is this fantasy? Or a story?
     
  3. Jdailey1991

    Jdailey1991 Troubadour

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    It's a point of departure, which, in comparison to our timeline, is fantasy.

    World comes first, then story. That's how it worked in real life.
     
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Just because something is ahistorical does not make it fantasy. It just makes it fiction. In your case alternative history, or perhaps science fiction.

    I would suggest that it is quite rare that world building for its own sake (which appears to be what is happening here) leads to a good story.
     
  5. Jdailey1991

    Jdailey1991 Troubadour

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    Not for its own sake. Primarily as a blueprint.
     
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Then should not the needs of the story answer the question for you in the same way as the purpose of the building guides the blueprint?
     
  7. Jdailey1991

    Jdailey1991 Troubadour

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    The story won't work without realism.
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >The story won't work without realism.

    Not at all! Plenty of stories work that bend realism way out of shape. I just finished The Last Unicorn, which works beautifully. In fact, I suggest that *no* fiction works if it is realism. That's journalism. Or history. But fiction always bends what is real--the classic example being dialog, which is never realistic.

    But let's leave realism--a problematic word--aside for the moment. What I said was, in what sense is this fantasy? Fine, you choose to start with paleology, and I'll simply grant you that. But where's the fantasy?
     
  9. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Firstly, I heartily disagree. Your statement suggests the entire fantasy genre doesn't work.

    Secondly, it would make it much easier for people to help answer your question if you told us something about this story that will not work without realism.
     
  10. Jdailey1991

    Jdailey1991 Troubadour

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    Once I have a world met to my satisfaction, then the blueprint will be ready for the storytelling setting.
     
  11. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

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    Evolutionary vs. technological science fiction (soft science fiction) has historically resided pretty close to fantasy in a category previously dubbed "lost worlds" by my huge history of science fiction book.
     
  12. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

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    If using science as a guiding principal in world building a strong dose of realism is needed to help with the suspension of disbelief.
     
  13. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

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    You seem to have done a lot of research in this area, so maybe I'm not reading your question right, but it seems you've missed something. It was the cooling that caused the mass extinction, wasn't it? If the temperatures were warm and got hotter, wouldn't most life adapted to the heat be able to adapt to the greater heat? Sure, there would be extinctions, but I would be surprised if it triggered a mass extinction.

    The birds and mammals had already begun evolving. But it was the cooler temperature that gave the warm blooded orders their leg up to survive the mass extinction and the wide open ecological niches left from the extinctions that gave the opportunity for fast differentiation of species to fill the niches, thus leading to the modern orders.

    If you're trying to get dinosaurs and modern mammals and birds together you might need some other mechanism to justify it. Pockets of hidden volcanic valleys where the dinosaurs were protected from the cold were popular in the mid 1900's lost world stories.
     
  14. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I think you have missed my point.

    My point is not that science cannot be a wonderful source of world building, it is that world building, done first or for its own sake, rarely leads to a good story.

    My point is that the world building should support the story. To answer world building questions you need to know a fair bit about the story you are writing.
     
  15. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    The detail level of his question seems to suggest he is not writing soft SF.
     
  16. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

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    I don't know, man. I can easily see how you can create a story by starting with the world building. It's a classic what-if scenario. As an example, there's a story by Mary Robinette Kowal (titled A Fire in the Heavens or something along those lines); she started off with the idea of a tidally-locked moon (i.e. the moon is always in the same position). She asked her what-ifs and ended up with a story about a priestess who has her worldview shaken and who inadvertently incites a war with an unknown nation.

    Having a what-if scenario allows you to come up with ideas relating to story. What kind of culture would this phenomenon create? What problems might be present in this society, and what kind of characters might have these problems? Questions like these can lead you to a solid story concept.

    It's not the only way to formulate stories, obviously, but I don't think it's any less valid.
     
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  17. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

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    There are idea/concept stories or exploration stories that require a working knowledge of a successful world scenario. Effectively the story and the world tend to develop together, but starting with the world building concept is often helpful .
     
  18. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    You make a fair point, but that is not exactly how Kowal came up with that idea. She didn't it around and do gravitational calculations for the tidally locked moon, or how it would impact the ecosystem, she started with an idea about revelation, seeing something for the first time that changes your worldview. I understand that story to be about religious intolerance and a number of other important themes. Also, it was a very difficult way for her to build that story, she had the basic idea of "worldview revelation" in that context for years, before she came up with a story that could work from it.

    Also, her core idea was very simple and could be expressed in one sentence. Try to do the same thing with the OP's question.

    I think a far better example might be Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids trilogy, but Rob combined that thought experiment with the express goal of using the parallel world to make commentary on ours.

    If you are going to build a "what if" scenario or "thought experiment story" (both of which can be great) I think they have to be way more focussed than the OP's giant world rebuild.

    Since, however, at the moment, there is apparently no story, theme or message, that is being supported by the world build, for the moment it is just world building for its own sake.

    I could be wrong of course. I look forward to seeing the OP report back as to what story arises from this exercise.
     
  19. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

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    Agreed, I did simplify it quite a bit. I stand corrected on the start of the idea, but I appreciate that you see what point I was trying to make.

    I do agree, mostly, that trying to get to the level of detail and expansiveness that he's getting at should be avoided at the start of coming up with a story.

    You can generally get 90% of the world done with a modest amount of work and research. To get that last 10% is going to take a hell of a lot of work and research for not much gain. Sometimes you need to catch yourself before you fall into the giant black hole at the 90% edge of worldbuilding.

    To the OP: My bigger question would be, not what the story is, but rather, what is the core idea (as Russ mentioned above) that you're driving for here?

    I still think that you can start a story without a story or theme. These can arise from analysing your gee whiz (as Kowal calls it). So that can be a magic system, an idea like "trees are sentient", or a geographical thing like a tidally-locked moon. I'm pretty sure (though I might be wrong) that I'd be able to come up with a story with such a starting point.
     
  20. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    At this level I think you are entirely correct. The trees are sentient is a great example. So let's say we want to write the "trees are sentient" story. The next step is not to go back and try to figure out if the trees can become sentient because of a 4 degree temperature change 50 million years ago (unless you really want to take the hardest longest more indirect path possible to a story), the next step is to develop things like, how is the world different because the trees are sentient, what kind of conflict arises because the trees are sentient, what could we learn from sentient trees, what kind of characters interact with sentiment trees etc Once you get some idea of an actually story by following your thought experiment (which can of course be called "gee whiz") then you might go back and see if you need any science to fill in something in the world that might impact on your story.

    But to try to build a story about something (anything!) by such a nebulous, unfocussed process of world building the way the OP seems to be doing it I think is almost impossible to do effectively, or with any direction.

    I have seen far too many writers disappear into the black hole of world building and never emerge with a coherent story not to counsel caution in this regard.

    On a totally unrelated note Harry Harrison's Deathward novel was a classic about sentient plants etc. I also recall a great Hammer's Slammer's story about a similar topic. Both of which had very clear social messages and strong world building hand in hand.
     

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