A little over a year ago I wrote about how Narcisse and I conduct worldbuilding. While that post gives you insight about our philosophy and the joys we gain from the creative process, it falls short of illustrating just how seriously we take the matter. (ed. “Seriously” more like how obsessed we can become when creating our Universe!) In this post, I hope to give you a better idea of our intensity when it comes to building the worlds in which our stories take place.
In our current novel, The Tendrils of Fate, and our overall world, there are three moons in the sky. They exist for more than just pretty scenery; these moons play a significant role in our story. The Three Sisters: Aeppia, Aeliah and Aeiad rule over our night skies. When they align all manner of natural and supernatural chaos occurs. Once we decided on three moons, it might have been easy to simply say “There are three moons in the night sky” and leave it at that. For most people that would have been fine. Not us! If there was going to be three moons in our night sky, we needed to know the effects they had on the world.
It is common knowledge that here on Earth, our lonely moon has a very important and fundamental impact on life. The lunar influence on Earth’s tides is only the beginning; the Moon has geophysical, biological and sociological implications. Here is just one example of how intimately tied our Moon is with Earth. Without the Moon’s gravitational pull to put the brakes on the Earth’s rotation, our days would be only six hours long! Here is another, because the Earth is tilted on its axis, the Moon’s gravitational pull stabilizes the planet. Without the Moon we would experience radical season changes instead of the rhythmic order we have now. That is two examples of how the Moon impacts life on Earth. If that is the result of but a single moon, what effect would THREE moons have on a planet!?
That is the exact question that arose the other day, and just like that Narcisse and I were off researching lunar effects. We started by gaining a better understanding of the moon and tides, which of course meant we needed to know more about tides in general. This line of research resulted in fun facts like the most extreme tidal changes occur at the Bay of Fundy and terms like spring tide, neap tide and a super-cool tidal bore named the Silver Dragon! Did you know that some high tides are so powerful that as they surge upriver they create mighty whirlpools that are dangerous to ships? Indeed one such whirlpool nearly drowned George Orwell (yeah that George Orwell)!
That is just tides! We discovered that our moon affects volcanic activity (slightly) and that planets with multiple moons can experience violent volcanism as a result of the gravitational stresses.
Then there is the matter of moonlight. The Moon’s presence in the night sky has had huge impacts on Earth’s biology. Nocturnal cycles, prey/predator behaviors, plant life all are influenced by moonlight. Then of course there are the societal implications of moonlight. Religious influence is the most obvious. Every religion has a relationship of some sort with the Moon.
Here is a really cool fact I learned last year in the Yucatan. According to my guide in the ancient ruins of Coba, the Mayans traveled at night along roads paved with light colored stones called Sacbe’ob or ‘white roads’. These raised roads or causeways run in straight lines and connect major Mayan centers of trade and religion. As it was related to me, the sacbe’ob were paved in limestone so that at night they would be easily seen in moonlight. Since it was cooler at night, this enabled more effective transport of heavy goods and supplies. The moon was critical to their trade.
The idea (true or not) inspired me at the time and the idea has lingered with me ever since. You will see the tale’s influence in a later book. For now, the account serves to illustrate how the Moon not only affects so much of what we take for granted but in ways we might never suspect.
Then of course, there are the myths and legends about the Moon! My personal favorite, werewolves, is just one! A more commonplace myth still told today is the lunar cycle affects the menstrual cycle. Other Moon myths tie the lunar cycle to higher crime rates and instances of madness AKA lunacy!
If just one moon can affect all of these things, realistically describing a world with three moons seemed more and more impossible. If there is one thing you should know about Narcisse and I it’s that we’re stubborn! Having decided our world has three moons meant we needed to figure out how to make it all work!
More digging revealed that we weren’t the only ones wondering what life on Earth would be like with more than one moon. We found plenty of scientific hypotheses on the matter. One of the better ones hypothesized a second moon called Luna orbiting between our existing moon and the Earth. From the chaos such a hypothetical situation caused, we knew our moons needed to be further away not closer. Adding to the difficulty, we wanted our extra moons to be visible to the naked eye and not always present. That resulted in a model with eccentric orbits and extraneous gravitational influences of other planets and the sun. I can’t tell you how much time I spent playing with gravitational simulators. Narcisse has an idea but she has been kind thus far and has avoided needling me about it!
Then we discovered that Earth has a ‘second moon’–Cruithne (CREW-ehn-ya). OK, Cruithne is not a true moon, but close enough for us. It seems we were on track. The asteroid Cruithne is on what is called a horseshoe orbit and swings by once a year. Now it is too small to be seen by the naked eye or to have any noticeable impact on Earth, but it was a good omen for our thinking.
Then we found this article that states the Earth may have had THREE MOONS! In fact they may have circled for up to a billion years! Crazy huh? But there it is! So we have a solid basis for our world and its three moons. One moon is very similar to Earth’s Moon, the others orbit like Cruithne and are visible to the naked eye every 18 years when they draw near. We will leave it to someone smarter to calculate the actual mathematics and physics involved in the orbital patterns based on our rudimentary line drawings.
Now to be sure our discoveries weren’t so linear and neat as laid out here. We found all sorts of articles and ideas throughout the day. Yes, DAY. We spent over six hours researching the idea.
If you think we are nuts, rest assured, we definitely are. Did it really take us six hours to research a scientific basis for having three moons in a fantasy world filled with magic, mermaids and demons? Well, um, YES!
See, here is the crux of the matter. Had we simply said “three moons” and been done with it, we would have missed out on so much cool knowledge and ideas — ideas that inspired NEW ideas. You will read some of those ideas in our next novel and others in later stories. By digging deeply into our questions, not only did we base our ideas firmly in science and physics but we also learned more about our world.
And that my friends, is never wasted time or effort.