I'm thinking of a science-fiction or science-fantasy setting wherein modern humanity colonizes a new homeworld in a classical star system, bombs themselves back to a Neolithic technology level, and progresses back to a second space age with no knowledge of their history. I've mostly been spending my time and efforts worldbuilding for the last few weeks, and I have a basic framework for the setting itself. Problem: I have never attempted to write anything on such a large scale. This setting lends itself to multiple unrelated or vaguely-related stories, a la Dune (although comparing myself to Frank Herbert feels pretty presumptuous).

I was wondering whether my idea of presenting first the post-humanity colonies of my gas giant at war with each other, then a late Medieval fantasy-ish period on my "second homeworld" with post-humans, and then finally modern humanity discovering and colonizing the "second homeworld" would make any sense to a reader? Not that that would necessarily be the goal. I'm actually sort of digging the idea of being sneaky about these stories even being in the same setting, and letting the readers figure that out on their own time. I don't know, maybe I'm being waaaaay too ambitious. Let me know what your thoughts are, anyway.

Thanks so much for your feedback! This project has been brewing for a long time and I'm only just moving on it.

  • Hi, and welcome to Writing! Your question is too broad and opinion based, so it's very close to be off-topic for this website. I suggest you to take a look at the help center section to see how to improve it.
    – FraEnrico
    Feb 19, 2018 at 7:54
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    Ok! Thank you for directing me. Sorry to derail! Feb 19, 2018 at 11:35
  • Don't mention it! It's a good habit in a good community such as this to help the new members, so never feel shy to seek for help! Happy Writing
    – FraEnrico
    Feb 20, 2018 at 7:43
  • Have a read of Red Shift for a really good treatment of temporally separated but interrelated events. The other book that came to mind when reading your question was Nightfall but I'm not sure just how relevant that will be to you.
    – Ash
    Aug 5, 2018 at 18:03

4 Answers 4


I'm working on a similar premise. No bombs in my world, they return to the ~stone age through other means, but five inflection points in human history play out with details specific to the new system.

I think making the groupings stand on their own is important. I think it is also important to give thought to the largest arc (the ~30,000 year arc you are envisioning.)

Making each group of stories stand on its own frees you up - You can not feel too bogged down by any of the details of the other time settings. You are also freed up to pick the set of stories that will work best for introducing your world.

You do not need to present them in chronological order. If they are independent it doesn't matter if you do space age first or last.

You do need the stories to be good, and then the order is beside the point.

Those are my thoughts.

  • Thank you for your feedback! Yes, I was going to try and make the stories as independent as possible so that (a) the whole damn thing is easier to write and (b) it's harder to tell that the stories are connected by the setting. Feb 18, 2018 at 23:46

Unless you want to do something like A Canticle for Leibowitz where three different ages are tied together in one novel under an overarching idea of nuclear fallout and the church, I think it would make the most sense to pick one story and write it first.

Many fantasy/SF series have in universe continuities that don't match the publication order (e.g. C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, McCaffrey's Pern stories, Bujold's Vorkosigan saga). Even if you do some major retconning between novels (Star Wars Prequels) your time skips are certainly large enough that knowledge being lost or distorted makes sense.

As a reader I find hints at how a current state came to be cool (the satellites orbiting Pern), but if it's Fantasy/SF I'm usually most interested in the story at hand and the world building directly relevant to it.

  • Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the big inspirations for this idea! And thank you, I may just start with whichever timeline I have enough worldbuilding for at the moment. Feb 19, 2018 at 0:13

If they are separate narratives from separate POVs then there's no real reason to tell them in any particular order, you can jump around or even treat the different times as entirely separate series of tales with tie-ins at the beginning and end that only you understand to mesh them together until you clarify their relationship later.

If however you're telling the whole tale from a single all-seeing third person POV, possibly a post-human historian from the far future of the narrative universe, then you need to tell things in a coherent fashion, while you can still mix-and-match the publication order it needs to be clear where in the history a particular story sits.


It's reminding me of the protagonist's arc in a detective story - start with the corpse, find out how it got there, find out who it was, find the stories of the people associated with how it got there and so on working back to the motive for the crime.

I'm not suggesting you write it that way, but if you bear in mind that your readers will be familiar with that construction, it should be relatively straightforward to meet (and to confound, if you want to surprise them) their expectations.

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