Friday, 18 January 2013

Day Eighteen: In the Background

Just a short one for you guys tonight, because today was a busy day and I didn’t get as much done as I’d like:

Nobody ever gives background players a whole lot of thought, it seems. Well, I mean, production designers and casting people, obviously…but what about most readers? What about most writers?

A lot of the time, the crowd scene is just a means to an end. An opportunity to have a hero or villain slip away into a mass of tourists, or to have a gunshot cause a stampede. And that seems like kind of a sucky thing to do, because—while those kinds of scenes have their place—it’s incredible when you stop and consider how many people you come into contact with on a given day. How many complete strangers. And it’s remarkable just how much the mode of behavior and dress of these anonymous crowds can inform your situation, your mood, and your perceptions of your surroundings.

It is for this reason that I like to have a pretty firm understanding of who makes up the background populations of my books. Nothing significant, mind you, but enough information to put together a good understanding of what kind of person is around to bump into and how their fellows might react. Or an idea of what kinds of shops and restaurants might be nearby. Basically; just enough framework that I can fill in the gaps several times across several scenes and still have things feel proper and consistent.

So, McMurdo-Lunar. What’s that like? Well, it’s a major international endeavor, so the best way to describe it is probably as “diverse.” A ton of different people from all different races, backgrounds, ages (25 is my set bottom end on how old you have to be to live and work in orbit), genders, and orientations. A highly diverse group of human beings, each of them occupied with highly specific tasks (except anyone on shore leave for the weekend) and professions, all living there at McMurdo or coming and going from the orbitals and the outer lunar stations.

It should make for kind of a carnival or bazaar atmosphere in the social spaces. People dressed in a riot of colors and patterns (even though most people stick with various styles of jumpsuit and coverall), even though some facilities or departmental teams lock their staff into a specific uniform. It also gives me a huge variety of options as food, drink, and entertainment go. A very well cultivated “global” environment that looks good on film, but also makes for a genuinely nice place to live.

 

-Sean

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