Story Idea: Valkyrie Ship Yggdrasill

We recently received this story idea from Alfonso Posadas Jr, and I think it shows a lot of potential.

Alfonso writes…

This strange story idea, which could easily work as a video game now that I think about it, basically hit me after reading the tropes featured in the sci-fi horror movie Pandorum. To put it simply, humanity has constructed and deployed large numbers of FTL interstellar colony ships that are basically gigantic world ships towed by massive matter-antimatter engines and since each craft does not have superluminal communications with earth, over time each spacecraft assumes that they are the last of humanity along with the last samples of the Earth biosphere.

These weren’t pure bred generation ships, but more like hybrids to ensure the maximum level of genetic diversity with the lowest amount of resource expenditure as possible for the onboard ecosystem. To be exact, a massive bulk of the “payload” are preserved genetic material such as sperm and eggs, and even embryos. To ensure the continued survival of this genetic bank, crews are cycled out from suspended animation periods to make sure that the spacecraft as a whole continued to function but as before, ensuring that the life support systems are not overstressed due to high populations. There is even a system where brilliant-minded members of the crew, who cannot contribute due to their failing bodies, are uploaded as digital life forms to continue to mentor and advise the still living members of the crew.

Over the generations, this particular Valkyrie world ship – named Yggdrasill – has leapfrogged from one star system to another in an attempt to find a habitable planet suitable for Earth life or at least easy enough to terraform. Along the way, however, they run across other alien civilizations who are allowed to “stow away” upon the world ship by attaching modules onto the spacecraft since they were unable to develop the necessary science and technology for interplanetary travel, let alone interstellar.

However, by the time the protagonist is “activated” from their suspended animation cycle to resume their duties, the societies of the entire spacecraft have degraded to a kind of nihilist, survival of the fittest tribal-based conflict for what resources remain upon the world ship. The protagonist now has to survive not only human factions but also alien ones that they are not familiar with, all the while trying to keep the ship’s systems from collapsing and effectively killing everyone long enough for a suitable planet to be found. Naturally a question arises “Is there a planet to call home?”

I really like this idea. Pandorum is an excellent movie, and if you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend you do so. We also proposed a similar idea back in January 2013 with our story idea “A Shipload of Morlocks” (which was admittedly very similar to the plot of Pandorum).

However, I think Alfonso is missing a trick by devolving the inhabitants of the world-ship Yggdrasill in the same way that Pandorum did. By adding alien cultures into the mix, I think the cast of characters would be interesting enough without reverting them to a primitive tribal level. If the ship not only represents the last hope for the human species but also carries thousands of alien colonists, just imagine how interesting the onboard politics could be.

In fact, rather than being a survival story, this could convey an interesting message about how societies adapt and grow by taking on new members and adopting new cultural traits. Of course, not everybody aboard the Yggdrasill would welcome the alien immigrants with open arms, leaving plenty of room for conflict.

How would you tell this story? Tell us in the comments section below.

  • I actually really liked Pandorum, although it had faults. It surprised me a lot, and I was expecting a cheap action movie, but loved the way they did it – plus it had Daryl from The Walking Dead!
    I agree with Mark actually that you don’t need aliens to make this film work, there’s enough going on. Although what if the aliens were eating the Human genetic material and they had to fight to preserve it?

  • William J Higgins

    Those huge ships remind me of the Ark from The Star Lost………

    • Cassidy Frazee

      I thought I was the only one who ever saw the greatest legacy of Cordwainer Bird. 🙂

  • Christmas Snow

    Given that humanity has enough technology to build colony ships, it is possible to “go around” the problem if a suitable planet is not found.
    More planets would become habitable, if we build enclosed colonies rather than using-up the ship’s resources for a centuries-long terraforming process.

    One possible way is landing the ship on a reasonably safe planet, where a biosphere dome can be built outside the ship using local materials. That means, keeping the ship’s system as the “nucleus” around which a colony can expand to an extent that terraforming will become far more feasible and within a reasonable amount of time.

    Alfonso mentions that the ship has “modules”. Do all the modules possess propulsion or independent landing capability? If not, the mission will require more shuttling missions to drop-off people on the planet each time a new section is added to the artificial biosphere.

    • Originally the idea behind all the inhabitants of the world being in a
      tribal-like society is to ensure that not one group has a technological
      advantage over the other in addition to make the protagonist(s) all the
      more noteworthy in that they are able to utilize the spacecraft’s
      onboard functions to balance an otherwise numerical disadvantage.

      That,
      and to make sure that no one get’s the bright idea of using a bomb to
      take out another competing tribe that’ll end the scenario with the
      “Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies” ending. Granted, just having the aliens
      alone would be enough to cause some conflict to arise in one form or
      another. Now how to keep people, both terran and xeno, from blasting
      holes into the fuselage and bulkheads when it turns into a hot war….

      I’m not sure if I made it clear in my original submission, but the Worldship isn’t something you can land on a planet, or at least intact. It’s purely an orbit-to-orbit spacecraft. And no, the modules are not capable of independent spaceflight. At least not for humanity and certainly not capable of interplanetary flight.

      As for the biosphere dome idea, one would come to the logical conclusion that if one civilization had the scientific and technological capacity to construct a world ship then why would it even bother with a terrestrial settlement in the first place? They wouldn’t even need to bother with having to spend so much propellant just to leave a gravity well of a planet. But then again, I’m sure someone would make an argument that a truly healthy, robust, and sustainable environment could only be found upon a planet and said life thrives best in a “short sleeve” environment so there’ll always be a need to find a habitable planet.

      But then again, the initial story concept isn’t fully about finding a suitable planet, but rather surviving long enough to find one and transplant those problems there.

  • Dan

    The space ark populated with devolved tribal societies trope has been done to death in book, TV, and big screen. The only justification for resurrecting this dead horse would be some entirely new creative thinking that would spin the story in an unexpected direction. The alien fellow traveler idea is interesting but without some depth to the writing they become just another funny looking tribe.

    • VisualInsanity

      Book and TV maybe. But the only example in film I know is Pandorum.

  • Christophe Jamoye

    This reminds me a lot about Arthur C Clarke’s “Rama” trilogy. In his books however, we are not the ones who have built the ships and we are one of the species who have “attached” themselves to it, so the point of view is different. But the events unfolding after that are basically the same.

  • Rede Four (RED4)

    Most of this is the plot idea of the anime “Knights of Sidonia”