I like details. Little things tell me everything about people, their society, their hopes and fears, the sky above them, the rock beneath them.
When I began writing Luna, I knew I would be building a world from scratch, but also one that adhered to the constraints of the physical realities of the moon. The Moon may have been Heinlein’s Harsh Mistress but we’ve learned a lot about Lady Luna since and she’s got leaner and meaner. A lot meaner. I wanted those facts to shape the world and lives of my characters, from low gravity to moon dust, which is seriously nasty stuff. I suppose it’s a “hard science fiction” book—though that’s an expression I hate. Hard science technically shapes the lives, loves, jealousies and ambitions of every one of my moon’s one point seven million citizens.
That’s where the Martinis come in. Booze, sex and getting off your head. These are fundamentals to the human species; nail them and you have a way into a world. What do you drink on the Moon? To me, that was an important question, and answering it opened up windows on every aspect of my created world.
Wine? It would be criminal to dedicate large percentages of rare carbon and water to grow a crop that doesn’t really have any other purpose than to produce booze.
Beer? Even worse. Barley, wheat and rice are inefficient crops—they succeed because of the space the surface of our planet affords them. Agricultural space is limited on the moon—building surface farms risks exposure to radiation and constant crop (and pest) mutations. So; no beer, but also little grain. Rice, wheat, flour are luxury foods.
But: spirit alcohol. Yes! You can make it from anything. Vodka and gin! Liquor opened up an entire world for me. My moon is a cocktail culture. The underground cities run on three different time zones so it’s always Happy Hour somewhere. The Cortas have their own signature cocktail; the Blue Moon. (I tried it, oh my beloveds. When I write a book, I sink deep into the mindset of the characters—it’s like method acting. I have become a real gin connoisseur/bore. My favourite? The light and fragrant Monkey 47 from the Black Forest in Germany. I do it for you, dear readers.)
And so, Dior. Because when you picture a Martini glass, you picture it in the gloved hand of Audrey Hepburn. And then I had it all. I didn’t want a Moon of people in coveralls and shorts and tank tops—these are people who have mastered 3D printing. If you can print clothes, why not in the style of one of the most elegant eras in fashion history? The 1950s. Dior and Balenciaga, Balmain and Jacques Fath.
That’s how I world-build. Cocktails and circle dresses.
The perfect Martini? Gin, of course. A good London gin, nothing too fancy. Chill the glass, be generous. Stir ten times (never shake) and add homeopathic levels of Martini Bianco. One olive, speared. Chin chin!
This article originally appeared on the Tor/Forge blog on September 8, 2015 and was published on Tor.com September 11, 2015.
Read an excerpt from Luna: New Moon here on Tor.com!
Ian McDonald is a British science fiction novelist, living in Belfast. His latest novel, Luna: New Moon is the first in a exciting new near-future series—available from Tor Books (US) and Gollancz (UK).