Saving the World One Essay at a Time: How I Wrote My First Sci-Fi Story About Climate
Hi friends 👋
It's been a month since my last update. The world has changed yet again. I hope you're hanging in there. I'd love to hear how you're doing. What's on your mind?
As usual, just reply via mail or ping me on Twitter 🙌
So, last month, I wrote about my decision to stop my personal venture studio and go all-in on climate tech. I wrote about the why of this decision.
This post today will be about the how.
And I guess there's no better way to start this post with a small celebration: I published my first climate tech sci-fi short story 🎉
It's called Prologue: House of Day Zero and you can read it here 👇
I'd love if y'all read the piece and let me know what you think.
I'm super happy with the result and others seem to like it as well.
Today, I'll cover:
- Format: Why I decided to write sci-fi short stories instead of industry reports
- Process: How I built an imaginary world for my short story + all the emotional/intellectual struggles in between 🙈
- AI-Assistance: How I created the visuals with a generative AI 🤖
Let's do it!
Stories over Stats: Why I Think There's a Missing Type of Content in Climate Tech
I'm on a journey to enter the climate space. It's rewarding, but also very tough to break into.
I feel like most content on the internet falls into one of these buckets:
- 👩🔬 Technical: Ultra-brainy content for engineering & PhD types ... hard to digest and hardly inspiring. Think of academic papers with a bunch of calculations.
- 🇪🇺 Policy: High-level recommendation papers for policymakers ... this stuff is at such a high level that it's hard to understand the day-to-day implications. What does all of this even mean for me?
- 📊 Analysis: Market and opportunity analyses for investors and entrepreneurs ... this stuff is already more enticing but still hard to grasp unless you are participating in the venture theater.
- 😱 Guilt: Guilt-inducing communication for the rest of us ... carbon footprint; extinction rebellion; doomsday scenarios. Don't get me wrong, these groups are doing crucial and important work and we need it. But I'd also love to see the other side of the same medallion.
So what's the solution?
My aspiration is to write content that gets the people going and also checks a few boxes:
- Impact: Write about the highest-leverage topics.
- Narrative: Tell stories that people want to follow.
- Analogies: What is a Gigaton? ... I'm glad you asked... it's roughly the weight of 200 million elephants (this is an actual example from my first story 🐘).
It all comes down to packaging the right messages in the right way: Stories 📖
🌍 Building the World
If you're interested in the world-building + writing process of this piece, check out my post on the /r/worldbuilding subreddit.
It's pretty detailed and includes a ton of technical aspects of my thinking process.
If you like footnotes then you'll loooooove this breakdown.
Here a couple of observations after finishing the first piece:
- Duration: It takes much much longer to write fiction than it is to write an analysis or newsletter. This post that I'm writing right now takes me ~2-3 hours. The sci-fi short story took me a month. But at the end of the day, there's a piece that resonates emotionally 🥲
- Output: It is impossible for me to sit down for 8 hours and think about a story. I'd say that each day I have around 4-5 creative hours at best. And this is on a good day.
- Intellectual Strain: Maybe others can but I can't will the story into existence if I'm more focused. It feels like I need to follow the creative process of divergent exploration and convergent production. It just takes time.
- Pen & Paper: Everything changed once I picked up a notebook and a pen. No notifications on paper ;)
- Movement: Walks are a writer's best friend. No shit, the number of ideas I got when I was away from the desk was just next level.
🎨 Illustrating My World
My story is illustrated with a generative AI... and oh man, does that add some punch to it!
Not only does it improve the reading experience but it fundamentally helped me finish this short story.
My Problem: The protagonist of the story is visiting a museum - the House of Day Zero. In it she walks through the three different floors of the exhibition. Each floor is a chapter in my story. By the time I reached the last chapter "Reflections of Hope" I ran out of steam.
Luckily, right around that time, my friend Michael sent me an invite to a generative-AI platform called Midjourney. The platform is straightforward:
- You connect with your discord account and open a chat interface with the platform
- In the chat, you can type a
/imaginecommand and it allows you to enter a
- In the prompt, you can type anything you can think of, hit enter, and then the AI starts generating 4 variations of your requested image
- If you like it, you can upscale it (i.e. make it big and in higher resolution)
- If you want to see some more, you can request additional variations
This is what it looks like in my discord 👇
Initially, my results were pretty bad. If you ask nicely I might share them with you ;)
The good thing is that with the free version you can look into public channels where literally all generated images from all users are visible. Oh... and you also see their prompts.
It's like art school on steroids. You literally accelerate your learning by watching other people doing their magic 🤯
I started following the #favorites and #abstract channels. I loved what I saw and started adopting some of their prompt copy.
I started playing around and reached the limit of the free trial. I had to decide whether to (a) upgrade to a paid account and continue generating images or (b) just rough it out and continue writing despite lacking inspiration.
I went with option (a). To be completely honest, it felt like a total distraction... but oh my, did it pay off.
Since I needed a visual representation of my "Reflections of Hope" room I gave it a shot.
After some iterations, this is what I saw:
The story goes that my protagonist - Sophia - is in this room full of mirrors. Every mirror has an AI-generated hologram of a person. I was blown away. The visual fit like a glove.
It gave me so many new ideas for writing. It all came alive.
To keep everything in a consistent visual language, I wanted to use prompts that aligned with the visual identity for Delphi Zero - the blog where I published the sci-fi short story.
To arrive at this 👆 I used my friend Nate's Inside-Out Branding methodology. I wrote about it here.
After having a general direction for what I wanted my world to look like, I started generating via the Midjourney platform.
Here are some sample results 👇
Read my detailed post on the /r/midjourney subreddit if you want to learn more about the generative process and all my prompts.
It's a crazy technology that I'll continue using.
Thanks for sticking with me. This post was a bit more technical but sometimes it's worthwhile to have a look behind the scenes 👀
If you haven't already, check out my story Prologue: The House of Day Zero
I'm here for all of it.
Today, I talked to my mom and we agreed that the pace of the world has accelerated. There are many challenges. Glass half empty.
War in Ukraine. Ban of Legal Abortion in the US. Climate Crisis. ... the list goes on.
None of us can do everything at once. But everyone can do something.
If I can help you with anything that you're passionate about, let me know.
It's important to remember that all the little things add up. Glass half full.
Stay healthy, stay happy 🙌