Building Lexin

This is the first in a series of posts elaborating on my novel series, Totality. Today, I will go into some of the details involved in creating the first fictional world introduced in that series: Lexin.

It’s worth mentioning that the Totality series was conceived a long time ago. The first drafts were worked up starting in 1999. Many of the specific details of Lexin, as a planet and a culture, originated then. But it was in this latest rewrite that considerably more depth was added.

A central pillar of Lexin’s character is that it is dominated by a handful of mining companies–Minco, Day-Vern, and Nytrolus. The planet’s economy revolves around the tug-of-war between these corporations. Though they aren’t only mining companies, resource extraction is their primary focus and is ultimately the basic input into the rest of Lexin’s economy. Virtually all offworld expansion is driven by a need for more of those same resources.

It is made clear early on that while Lexin’s people are overseen by a central government, in the form of the Lexinian Authority, this government is virtually incapable of policing the mining concerns. A state of regulatory capture is heavily implied. The workings of the Lexinian Authority are left ambiguous, though one could assume a moderately oligarchic regime with at least the veneer of democratic institutions and processes. Militiamen–such as our protagonist, William Pearson–ostensibly exist to serve policing functions on Lexin, but in practice are stymied when it comes to curbing mining company abuses. This includes abuses by high-ranking executives within those companies, as well.

Likewise, the mining corporations have devastated the planet’s environment over the centuries. There is a “Great Forest” which is only a shadow of its former self. The skies over Erzan, Lexin’s largest metropolis, are chronically gray and overcast, owing to a blanket of pollution that everyone simply takes for granted. The wealthy tend to live in high-rises that reach above the smog level, or outside the city limits where they can enjoy large estates on grassy, lush land, far away from the suffocating air of Erzan.

People who have spent their lives in Erzan tend not to complain about it, though, because they’re accustomed to it. Lexin is, for the most part, portrayed as a hyper-capitalist state in which there are very few controls on corporate behavior, and where police (in the form of the Militiamen) exist primarily to maintain order and protect the interests of those corporations.

There is resistance, however, as events in The Militiaman make clear. There are groups of so-called eco-terrorists, one such group being known as the Sons of the Leaf. They risk their lives to curtail and disrupt mining operations, both on Lexin and its offworld colonies. Militiamen are fair targets, as well, given the propensity of mining corporations to use Militiamen as the private security force. Anyone caught facilitating violence against the corporations is faced with punishments ranging from lengthy imprisonment to execution.

One of the more curious elements comes in the form of the Sages. Almost every sizable settlement on Lexin has at least one Sage. The individuals are responsible for maintaining the cultural history and collective memory of Lexin. They occupy large but old buildings, in which they collect historical artifacts and and accounts of people’s lives. They are also responsible for preserving evidence of humanity’s arrival on Lexin, and the roots of those humans on Earth. One of the most important artifacts of that journey is the Vault, which is the buried remains of one of the ships that first brought humans to Lexin in the first place. Buried beneath the streets of Erzan, it is forgotten by all but the Sages.

It should be obvious from early in The Militiaman that Lexin doesn’t look that different from the Earth of today. I tend to assume that having to start over on a distant planet with limited means would cause substantial rollbacks in technological capability–leaving it to take many centuries to catch back up to where we are today. After all, Lexin may have computers and automobiles, but it also has holograms, sleeper ships, orbital transit hubs, and offworld colonies, so there’s an interesting mix of both contemporary and futuristic technology. The theme of corporations run amok is not that distant from the present state of our world, either. I would be lying if I said no political agenda underpinned the choices involved there. And William being in law enforcement, having to face that his job is not really what he thought it was, is an important aspect of his development, as are the other revelations he experiences along his journey in this and future books.

The Sages, I think, add a more mystical, almost religious element to the proceedings. Religion goes virtually unmentioned in passages concerning Lexin, and in fact words like “hell” are not part of the Lexinian vernacular. (As it happens, “damn” is still present, which is conceptually religious in its origins, but we might assume that it has been reduced to a mere imbuement of emphasis rather than a religious curse.) This is not to say that religion never appears in the series, but I didn’t want to simply portray modern religion against a space opera backdrop without having something interesting to say about it. Religious themes take precedence much later in the series, after there is time to build up to them.

Although I never quite spell it out, Lexin appears to have only one language. If there are multiple languages, then they are mutually intelligible among almost everyone on the planet. Presumably, even with the limited technology available upon landfall, communications between settlements were maintained over the centuries, which kept languages from drifting too far apart from one another.

This brings up the question of which people from Earth, exactly, came to Lexin in the first place. In my original pass, I had no idea–I thought it might have been an eclectic mix of people from all over Earth. But due to the circumstances of large groups of people leaving Earth, this didn’t make much sense. Instead, groups from specific regions seemed a lot more plausible. In Lexin’s case, I ultimately decided that the first settlers must have been primarily from the Americas–some of North America, but mostly Central and South America. This is most evident in a lot of the names used. When figuring out the histories of other settled planets, I have given similar thought to where their people may have originated and what kind of history they may have had.

All told, the culture of Lexin is not that far removed from contemporary Western cultures. The hardships of settling a new planet and rebuilding human civilization from scratch amid a world not very rich in organic resources led to a somewhat more brutal culture without much respect for human life. Quasi-democratic institutions are present, and there is the veneer of law and order, but it is mostly a world in which the strong dominate the weak, and there is no one on the side of the poor. The planet, as a whole, pays for this in a slow march to ecological disaster. It’s unclear how long people can even continue to live on Lexin, given the environmental destruction wrought upon it.

But this makes efforts at establishing offworld colonies, like Trepsis, all the more urgent.