Find out About the World of “The Starborn Legacy” by Leslie Conzatti for OWS CyCon 2019

Welcome to another fantastic stop in our World-building Showcase blog hop! On this stop, we’re highlighting a story that isn’t dependent on the Earth for the action, but you can find a full list of authors and topics on the OWS Cycon website. Let’s dive in!

Welcome Leslie Conzatti!

Before we dive in to the nitty gritty, what is “The Starborn Legacy” about?

“The Starborn Legacy” tells the story of a teenage girl struggling to find her place in a faraway space colony. She wants to connect and bond with her mother, but it’s been hard when the girl’s grandmother--a famous interplanetary explorer--spent most of the mom’s formative years absent and traveling among the stars, where eventually she ended up passing away while on a mission. The mom still hasn’t really come to terms with that, and it’s wearing on her own relationship with her daughter.

On the same day the girl’s father returns from an excursion to an unexplored area of the planet, she makes a stunning discovery about the legacy her grandmother left behind--and a mysterious virus threatens the lives of many colonists… including her mother. The girl faces a choice: Will she stay, and potentially save her mother’s life, or will she leave to an unknown destination to claim her destiny among the stars?

1.Did you invent any new slang or terminology during your world-building process?

Yes I did, and I had a lot of fun doing it! Inventing new terms by just adding “Dome” to the various living or activity spaces (“ExploraDome”, “ResiDome”, and so on) and even inventing an AI schoolteacher for the kids of the colony, naming her “Ivy-Rue” (or AI-V RU, an Automated Intelligent Virtual Response Unit). Then, of course, there is the term “Starborn”, a term used to refer to the people from the “Solarian” system (our solar system) who originally set out to colonize other planets, since to every other system, our Sun would be merely another star in the sky.

2. What do people in your world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?

It’s not directly mentioned or expounded much in the short story, but in my mind, there’s a whole lot in this colony, even though it isn’t too advanced. There’s a Commerce Dome, so they have an economic system in place for financial transactions. There is the Central Construct, the huge, main area that all the different Domes connect to: there’s shopping, and like a combination science/history museum and library in the ExploraDome. There are many families in the colony, so of course they wanted to plan for places and activities that families and children could enjoy. The only thing is that radiation from the “sun-star”, Taurus, and some hitherto-unknown chemicals and minerals in the air and the soil make anything outside the climate-controlled Domes uninhabitable… but terraforming is in process still!

3. What kinds of transportation and other interesting technology do your characters have access to? Are they ahead, behind, or a mix of different kinds of tech compared to where we are now?

Ahead, definitely, since this is a far-future setting. For example, the island in the kitchen is a large glass computer touchscreen, used for video calls, receiving and sending messages, and all sorts of things one would use a tablet for. Also the kitchen comes with an “InstaChef”, a smart cooking implement equipped with dozens of recipes, to provide meals within minutes at the touch of a button. They don’t need much long-distance transportation because everything in the colony is still within walking distance at this point.

4. Do you have different races or enhanced humans with their own unique abilities inhabiting your world?

Not unless you count the “Starborn.” They are the ones who still possess the DNA of the original pioneers from Earth. Genetic manipulation and generations of living in colonies on other planets have nearly eradicated this last connection to Earth--humanity has adjusted to living in strange, artificial environments--but there is rumor that there are still Starborn living among the colonists. Perhaps the famous “failed colony” where everyone died of a mysterious malady could have been composed entirely of Starborn.

The Process

5. When you build a world, what is your process like? Do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?

I definitely winged it this time around. I think I took inspiration from shows like Firefly, especially with the concept of terraforming--in fact, I’m pretty sure that was as much “research” as I did, to decide the specific date of the story based on the fictional “timeline” of the history of terraforming on some fan website. To me, the world-building wasn’t as important as establishing the characters and working on them.

6. How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?

A little bit of both, maybe? On the one hand, it’s kind of just a cool backdrop because it’s a colony of people living somewhere that isn’t Earth, but to all of them, it’s the only life they’ve known, living on ships or in domes. To actually live in the atmosphere of a planet, to be able to walk freely on a planet’s surface seems like a distant dream.

On the other hand, it’s kind of integral because of a special connection the characters have with the titular “Starborn Legacy.” Like, if they weren’t on a planet so unlike Earth that it would almost kill some of the humans, then the story would be missing a massive element!

7. When helping the reader get to know the world you built, what techniques do you use? Do you tend to be upfront about things, or keep the reader in the dark and feed them only bits at a time?

Generally, when I’m writing a short story, there isn’t a lot of room for world-building, and very often, not all the details get answered. For “The Starborn Legacy”, there is a lot of information that is hinted at, “behind-the-scenes” things that might not be directly stated in the narrative, but are definitely affecting the characters, extra information that colors the way they interact with each other. A lot of the history between Reese (the girl) and her mom is implied through things they say, or the way they kind of stay very superficial with their conversations.

I like to be up-front as much as possible, to give the reader a clear picture of what’s going on--but there are times when the absence of information carries more significance than an abundance of it, so there is a sequence of moments in “The Starborn Legacy” where certain characters respond to a stimulus that isn’t fully described until it’s almost too late.

8. How did you come up with the storyline for “The Starborn Legacy”? Is it a brand-new story, or a combination of several different ideas?

As a matter of fact, the inspiration for “The Starborn Legacy” came from two different short stories I wrote years before, as a part of a serial novel I threw together just for the fun of it. One was a story about a mother and daughter working through the mother’s bitterness toward her “famous world explorer” mother’s absence in her life, and through it they discover a series of clues that lead to the revelation that the grandmother had actually discovered the Fountain of Youth and wanted to leave that discovery for her daughter (or, as it happened, her granddaughter.) The second was kind of a darker, horror story, about a colonel sent to investigate a space colony where everyone mysteriously dropped dead… and while he’s there he encounters a deranged android and discovers (too late) that his pilot was hiding a deadly secret…

Neither story by itself was quite the tone I wanted for my submission, so I took elements of both stories (the mother and daughter, the legacy, the “Starborn” concept, the mysterious, fatal disease, the failed space colony, among other things!) and worked them together into a separate story that bore many hallmarks of one story and the other, but at the same time, was very much its own tale.

Let that be a lesson to any writers out there: You might feel like an idea you wrote in the past (or the one you’re writing right now) doesn’t sound right, or it feels like you’re just writing meaningless crap--but don’t discount any ideas! You just might find a way to take the good parts of the idea and make them fit better into a brand-new story later on down the road! You never know!

9. Did you experience any difficulties while building your world? Any facts that refused to cooperate or inconsistencies you needed to address while editing?

Oh definitely! I went through like three or four different drafts, getting input from an editor. I had originally started the story from the point of view of the mother, just so the reader could understand why she’s responding a certain way to her daughter--but, as the editor pointed out, it created an inconsistency in point of view, and a short story should stick to one perspective only. There were a few more details that clashed as a result of trying to combine two vastly different stories--there are two letters written in the story, and I had to really comb through every single sentence to make sure I included all the necessary information, and remained suitably vague on those details that the characters (and the reader) shouldn’t yet know about. There was also the timing of everything--two days here, a couple hours there, and how much is happening in the space of a single day?--that was tricky to figure out and keep track of--I was so grateful to have help!

Where can people find you on the web?

Thanks for reading all about “The Starborn Legacy”! If you’re interested in reading the story (and others like it, written by a host of authors who sell wayyy more books than I do!) then you can find it in the charity anthology DROWNED IN MOONLIGHT, a collection of stories, poems and art dedicated to the memory of Carrie Fisher. Just follow the hyperlinked text for the Amazon listing!

BONUS: Would you like to read the two original stories I mentioned, that served as the inspiration for “The Starborn Legacy”? Well, you can! I’ve posted them both on Wattpad! Click the hyperlinked text >HERE< to read the first one, “The Legacy”, and click >HERE< to read “The Vega Effect.” Hope you enjoy!

For more stops on our World-building Showcase, visit the tour page on the OWS CyCon website.

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