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[GUEST POST] Gerald Brandt (Author of THE COURIER) on Creating San Angeles

Gerald Brandt is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author. His short story “Storm” appeared in the 2013 Prix Aurora Award winning anthology Blood & Water. His new novel is The Courier. By day, he’s an IT professional and coding guru. In his limited spare time, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, rock climbing, camping, and spending time with his family. You can find Gerald online at his website GeraldBrandt.com, on Facebook as GeraldBrandt, and on Twitter @geraldbrandt.

Worldbuilding: Creating San Angeles

by Gerald Brandt

When the world population gets so large, there’s no place for people to live. When the planet gets so warm, once fertile farmland is reduced to dust. And when corporations need a workforce that are both consumer and producer, what kind of place do you end up with?

In The Courier, my recently released novel from DAW, I take the west coast of the United States and turn it into my answer.

The year is 2140, and San Angeles is a megalopolis that stretches from the Mexican border to San Francisco. As the world population increased, space to put people grew limited, land to grow food became scarce, and water shortages threatened everything.

Corporations had grown from entities requiring lobbyists to get their way, to actually being the government. In the United States, the President had become a figurehead, a placement chosen by one of the corporations. A puppet. People were commodities, working for the corporations, buying from them, helping them become bigger.

Born out of the control of the corporations, mega cities became the norm. Structures built up in levels where the scum and the poor lived on Level 1 and the elite and rich lived on Level 7. Above them, the corporations ruled with absolute control from the satellite cities in geosynchronous orbit.

Suddenly, we have hundreds of millions of people living in a city that is roughly 450 miles long and (in Los Angeles) about 65 miles wide. There’s a lot of stories in that city, and interestingly, the city itself can become almost a character, with its own personalities.

We all know what happens when someone thinks they can control a vast amount of people, especially when some of those people are relegated to doing the (quite literally) crap jobs required to keep a city of gargantuan proportions running. Not because it’s a job they willingly applied for, but because it’s a job they were born into. Suddenly, the levels of the city echo the social status of its inhabitants, and some of those on the lower levels want more.

The Courier follows Kris, someone who has worked her way out of the Level 1 environs and, though she is still struggling, is okay with where she is. Throw in a corporation that wants her dead, other corporations that want to know why, and we have a thriller that leads us throughout the seven levels of Los Angeles.

The levels of San Angeles helped create the science we see through out the book. Ventilation would be a huge problem. Recycling air from the lower levels would be essential. Vehicles with emissions would be banned, not only because of the scarcity of resources, but because of the pollution they would create. What happens if there is a fire? Are there any green spaces? Do the lower levels have access to the outside? All of these are questions that I needed to ask and know the answers to.

Even now, having finished The Operative, book two in the San Angeles series, I still find myself asking questions on the city itself. In the second book, the reader isn’t just in Los Angeles anymore. For example, the average elevation in Santa Barbara is fifteen meters (about fifty feet) above sea level, in Los Angeles its seventy-one meters (232 feet). How did the cities construction deal with that? My solution to the problem was to create a flat ceiling on Level 1. The ceiling height varies with the ground elevation, giving Level 2 and above a constant ceiling height.

In Los Angeles, the Level 1 ceiling is roughly fifteen meters high. Level 2 is twenty-one meters (seventy feet). Griffith Observatory is at 346 meters or 1,135 feet, reaching 285 meters above the height of the city. Knowing how that affects the city in strange ways (for example, what happens when it rains and water runs down the side of Mount Hollywood) is something I needed to know, even if it was never mentioned in the books.

As my knowledge of the city grows, interesting and important pieces of it fall into place in the stories San Angeles holds, creating a richer, more believable environment for my readers. I hope they enjoy exploring it as much as I do.

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