Blackbloom: The First Ten Things

Remember the “Blackbloom” worldbuilding challenge?

With 120 comments, I’d say it was a total success.

It’s a good time to pick my ten choices from that challenge, choices that help cement the true nature of Blackbloom — this is Blackbloom’s genesis, when order is forged from chaos, reality birthed from raw void. I’ve got no interview for this week — still waiting on some to come in and I’ve further got to send more questions out — and so why not jump the gun by a day and get this thing going?

First, some comments.

Picking the choices was incredibly difficult for a few reasons.

For one — and you’ll forgive the caps, won’t you — SO MANY SUBLIME CHOICES. Really. Seriously. Lots of compelling little narrative tidbits and fictional factoids. So hard to narrow it down.

Thing is, once you started to narrow them down, it became like a game — or, rather, a troubling puzzle. Because many of the items contradicted one another. Pick one, and five others are blacked out as they cannot exist in simultaneity. Further, some built off of others — so, if the primary entry isn’t chosen, then those that are piggy-backed to it conceptually also fall out of possibility.

A great many of you wanted to define the nature of the term “Blackbloom.” Many saw it as an actual flower, others had some very creatives reasons as to why the planet was named. But, like I said, you pick one of these and the others — in this case, a whole cosmic bowel-load — cease to be options.

Fascinating! And fun. And frustrating, all in one.

What else?

Some entries were more than the pre-defined 100 words.

Some entries were fictional and fun but did not present concrete information — the creative flourishes are appreciated, but also make it hard sometimes to discover exactly what’s being determined.

Some entries were concerned with apocalyptic or otherwise wretched scenarios — all of which I’m a huge fan of but were entries that in many cases felt limiting, as if we’ve already jumped to the awful part. It removes a piece of the potential future equation, when we opt to take the world we’ve built and invoke a brand new apocalypse for it. Further, in defining the “status quo” it felt like leaning apocalyptic flew somewhat in the face of that — as if “flux” was somehow part of that status quo. Finally, going with a world-ending scenario seemed perhaps to undercut the notion of world-building.

So, that being said, let’s get to the ten choices, shall we?

Oh! I should note — one of the choices, by DeAnna, built off another choice but exceeded 100 words. I didn’t know quite what to do with this because I loved it so — thus, the choice became, what was more important? The rules of 100 words, or the power of the story element? Story is obviously king, and yet, rules are in place for a reason. So, I robbed her portion of a single paragraph and kept the rest to keep it to 100 words.

* * *

There is not one God, but several. They all have god-like power over their various dominions. They alone hold the keys to salvation both for the creatures and the planet itself. But no one believes in them anymore.

* * *

In the world of Blackbloom, there is no death, there is life and there is unlife.

Upon death, the rare flower is placed in the mouth of the deceased. Three days later, brain function has returned and the person is alive once more, though they no longer grow older.

Those that can afford to pay for the Blackbloom may go about their lives again as they once did. Those who can’t afford the flower are revived to a period of indentured servitude until they can earn their freedom once more.

* * *

Nobody–human or any other race–who has been bloomed may leave the planet. Their faces (and any area that visibly flushes or blushes, like upper chest and genitals) are marked with a fine black lace that comes from staining of the blood (or other bodily fluid, in non-humans).

The Unbloomed, or people in their first lifespan, are often used as surrogates if a Bloomed needs to conduct personal business offplanet. This often is used to pay for the Bloom.

Blackbloom is sought by the dying and smugglers. The flowers won’t grow elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for the pollen across the universe.

* * *

In Blackbloom Gods walk among men, but are never recognized. In their wake there is chaos.

* * *

There are vast desert areas where the sands are like oceans, and people can ride the sand in specially designed boats.

* * *

Blackbloom has three seasons:
– A rainy, humid hot season that spurs the growth of an algae-type organism which feeds most of the lower life-forms
– A dry, temperate season
– A dark season when the planet enters into a synchronous orbit with its moon, which blocks out the sun (much like an Earth eclipse) for three Blackbloomian months.

* * *

Blackboom’s central civilization is built around a stringent caste system. Everyone knows readily where they stand in station compared to those around them. However, it is not an entirely rigid caste system. Every year there are great Games in which one can win elevation of their caste, find entrance into one of the great vocations, or through penalty of disgrace lose station. Thousands enter, and less than a percent actually attain actual glory. Those few who gain reward through luck and skill are handed over to the royal surgeons for modification, each caste being represented by a dominate physical trait.

* * *

Blackbloom is the kind of place where nobody would look twice at a fedora-wearing trench-coated fellow knocking back martinis with a crumpled face slugbear draped with jewels. And if they decide to take a flitter down the vacuum boulevard, out past where the moneyed citizens build their compounds, nobody here would be inclined to go searching for them after a couple of cycles have passed. You don’t have to be running from something on Blackbloom, but it seems like most individuals are.

* * *

Blackbloom is a place where the technologies and magics of various ages and lores compete for supremacy.

* * *

Eighty years ago, an experiment returned some unusual results. Sounds, of a sort, that we could not detect normally. They were rhythmic and varied, like a whale’s song. It was clearly a language.

Six years ago, a bright young student cracked the code of the language. For the first time, we could hear what was being said, and send a message in return. The content of the speech was shocking, and overturned our ideas of what “life” was.

The cities were pretty surprised to realize we could talk, too.

* * *

(Choices by: oldestgenxer, Joshua D,  Miranda Cardona,  DeAnna,  Palex,  Amy,  John Vise,  Rich Mahagiz,  Anthony Laffan,  Lugh. Thanks to them for helping write this first proto-chapter!)

* * *

So, there you go.

Ten things we now know about Blackbloom.

We’ll be back tomorrow to think up some more, if you’re willing to join in.

Thoughts so far?

29 responses to “Blackbloom: The First Ten Things”

  1. I’m just spitballing here, but I felt like we should tie some of these together.
    During the third season, the blackbloom season, is when the flower blooms and can be used for its blackbloomian purposes. Only members of the caste of harvesters are equipped to handle the blooms during harvest.
    There are gods each of the seasons, as per usual, and also a trio of gods, like muses, of the blackbloom. They continually change the rules about how the blackbloom works.
    With the knowledge that the cities were sentient came also that there was a god of the cities as well.
    the gods themselves (hey, what a great idea for a story title!) mostly want to maintain control of the blackbloom, because their power swells from it, from the interior of the planet. but some of the gods want to control it all–and try to manipulate the people to do it for them.
    Especially the god of smugglers.
    During the blackbloom season, magic is strongest. The big philosophical discussions revolve around topics such as “is magic real?” “Do the gods exist?” “Is the fact that the cities are alive evidence of magic, or the gods’ will, or something else?”
    The ships that sail the sands do not work on the oceans of water, and vice versa. Because of a love affair between the god sands and the goddess of water that ended badly.

    I just wanted to tie things together–I hope this is cool. Anyone could have made these connections, right? Or should I have waited until tomorrow? It’s almost midnight, man.
    (BTW, thanks for picking my idear, and I’m glad it was something others could build on.)

    • @Oldestgenxer —

      Actually, I don’t want them officially tied together — not yet. 🙂

      It’s not that I don’t want to encourage the creation of this world — but I just don’t want it to be unfettered. Want to try to give it a more measured leap forward.

      Though, of course, talking speculation and ideas = always a good idea.

      Come back tomorrow and there will be time enough to talk of gods.

      — c.

  2. So far its fixing up to be an interesting world so far. I’m particularly fond of the God ideas presented so far as they give some interesting ideas and scenarios to be acted out throughout this world building process.

    Can’t wait to see what the next section of this project will be and will do my best to contribute.

  3. I did not envy you, having to select 10 from all those submissions! I will say that I’m thrilled with some of the ones you picked – they were my favorites, too. This is such a fantastic exercise; it’s a treat to follow along. And I agree with what you said: SO MANY SUBLIME CHOICES! I guess not a bad dilemma to have, really.

  4. I was thinking about Blackbloom last night and getting excited for Friday. It’s great to wake up to an early surprise on the subject, and I love where this is going. Even if my entry wasn’t selected, it looks like I was standing on the shoulders of the right giants; multiple, transient, elusive gods are a recipe for excellence. Tomorrow should be very interesting.

    • @Ryan:

      Yours was in the running (as was Josh’s), but once I took that whole little storyline to its conclusion it was already taking up 40% of what I wanted to pick — and I worried that it put too much focus on that one aspect of creation.

      Trying to find my feet in this, steering this wonderful and insane boat toward destinations unknown. 😀

      — c.

  5. Great choices so far Chuck, they at least CAN be tied together cohesively. It’s shaping up to be a very unique and interesting world to build stories in.

  6. I can see a thread weaving its way through all these little tidbits of information. I’m very interested to see what the next step brings.

    And, thank you for choosing my entry! I’m such a detail-oriented person, so I was worried my ideas were too specific to work with. Glad to see that I didn’t look up how to spell “synchronous” in vain. Heh.

  7. Woohoo! I’m honored to be among the chosen.

    A couple of quick notes/questions: I can’t imagine the Blackbloom is actually all that rare, if there is always a bloom available for every person who dies. Very tightly controlled, perhaps, but not rare.

    What the heck is a slugbear? I am intrigued.

    Is the sentience of the cities a side effect of the unliving, or are all cities actually sentient?

    I love the idea of the Games. I especially like the implication that it is more common for a successful competitor to rise one or two castes, rather than shoot straight to the top of the pile. Given the freedom of eternal life, I can easily see competitors choosing to enter every five or ten years, spending possibly an entire year training in preparation.

  8. Awesome choices, and all Big Ideas. I’m looking forward to see how they might tie together, but I think you’re right to hold off on that for a little bit. Let them bed in a bit first. I’m actually thinking the best way to explore the relationships between these elements is by telling stories. The best stories stick and become part of the lore.

    The ideas are bubbling away already!

  9. @Lugh —

    Worth looking at, that idea of rarity.

    Could work if the population isn’t all that epic — could also be rare depending on its location. As in, the flower does not grow where it is easily accessible, so to the common man it’s rare (and thus, apparently, expensive).

    We’ll dig more into it as the weeks and months go — but yes! Yes. A good question.

    — c.

  10. @Lugh I imagine a slugbear is what you get when you take the worst 50% of a banana slug and combine it with the worst 50% of a grizzly. They probably only deal with the top-drawer brands of gin, never tequila, as the salt rimmed glasses are not to their liking.

  11. Just amazing. A great world to design a game for!

    So the CITIES talk as well then. Are we assuming the cities are organic in some way, or are they like our cities, only we just realised they can communicate?

  12. Woot! I’m happy I was picked! I enjoyed reading the other ideas that were added onto mine. It was great to see the idea expounded upon.

    @Lugh, to your point, I was thinking more of a false rarity with a strictly imposed release schedule. Kind of like the Disney DVDs. But I was running up on the word limit so kept it simple. That would drive the “price” up and therefore the length of indentured servitude.

  13. I imagine a slugbear would look like Humphrey Bogart?

    I have nothing to contribute, so I put that awesome picture on my desktop with an appropriate background color… darkish orange… and wrote a nice review for Shotgun Gravy.

  14. This was a hoot and a half, no lie. It really exercised a different part of my brain, where I had to pull back from the character level and just think what would be interesting on a big ol’ macro level.

  15. I’ve got to say, this idea of living cities is growing on me. I can’t help but think of Halo: ODST (storytelling masterpiece, I know :P), where the AI that controlled the city would subtley guide you toward areas of interest. Taking that into a city that actually lives, you could do all kinds of great things; a character fleeing from something could be sheparded into an alley that narrows to an impasse as the pursuer rounds the bend. The hero and city can work together to lure someone into a trap, and all sorts of other interesting things.

    The walls really DO have ears; secrets that aren’t carefully protected will be revealed. Territorial disputes can be founded not in differences between groups of people, but by dispute between the actual cities. People have begun to rally around the cities as though they were dieties…much to the chagrin of the forsaken true gods.

    Gah, the possibilities! Sorry for the idea dump, but this process is just so…intoxicating.

  16. Fascinating. It reminds me a lot of Dune…blackblooms instead of spice, smugglers, the marks of blackbloom use, sand like oceans. I like the talking cities and secret chaos-bringing gods.

  17. Picking only 10 is pretty rough. There were several I found very interesting, all of which were chosen amongst others. I see how different entries conflict with one another was a problem and probably eliminated a whole bunch just from that.

    Now that there are more concrete facts for the world, I’m really excited to see how it starts to take shape. Characters, plots and motivations start evolving and a real storyline if not several will emerge from the chaos.

    Chuck, have to hand it to ya, great way to build an imaginary playground. Well done! And congrats for those who got chosen!

  18. I’m liking this world, and getting a few ideas. Nothing that can really tie all of them together but for sure there are a few that I can string together in a narrative. I look forward to tomorrow’s challenge, and hope to help contribute.

  19. Woot! I got carried away, I know…

    That living cities idea – are the lives of the cities affected by the seasons? How are the cities tied to the gods? Cripes, I don’t want to wait ’till tomorrow.

  20. The living cities idea is something I’ve been playing with for a while. It is inspired by Douglas Hofstadter’s discussion of emergent intelligence in ant colonies. (I think that was in Godel, Escher, and Bach, but it might have been Metamagical Themas.) Essentially, Hofstadter’s assertion is that our own intelligence is simply an emergent property of all our neurons going about their individual lives and doing their individual jobs. There is little reason why that can’t be scaled up.

  21. Kahlu, The Silent.
    Very little is known about Kahlu, Son of the old gods Kizor and Ulahmu. His powers and dominion are uncertain.The only known fact about him is that he is one of the few gods in Blackbloom that has a cult, wich consist of seven people Kahlu chooses at random. The Seven remain unaware of the fact that they are priests of The Silent and they must remain at all costs, because if only one of the seven ever acknowledges this fact Kahlu will disappear.

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