Setting: Backdrop or Character?

I’m watching The Mandelorian and can honestly say I enjoy it. It is a breath of fresh air after much of the drama surrounding the past couple movies in the franchise. I feel like Star Wars is just having fun being Star Wars.

Enjoyment aside, I’ve been interested in the show because it’s bringing space-westerns back into the sci-fi scope.

There are some definite similarities to Atom & Go, but that just makes it easier for me to market my own work. People know what I’m talking about when I say my works are similar to The Mandelorian and Firefly.

But all that aside, as I’ve watched the show I’ve noticed the setting more and more.

In the five episodes I have seen four of them revolve around desert worlds or have them prominently established as the setting. My assumption is that in the writer’s mind the desert is synonymous with the gunslinger. Rocky, barren soil represents the frontier. Death lives next door. But I’m not sure that is always the best approach to a story.

To stay in the Star Wars universe, what did Hoth represent? It was a snapshot of the rebellion at it’s lowest: cold, devoid of life and hope, clinging to life like the wampa atop his tiny ecosystem. In Firefly the harsh border and rim planets contrasted with the urban culture of the core planets to show the disparity between the two factions from the war. Blade Runner used the chaotic, acid-rain soaked city-scape to paint a tableaux of a tech-dominated future.

But does the frontier have to be barren?


Dagobah is a primal jungle. Yavin 4 offers safety among the towering trees. The mountains in Jeremiah Johnson or The Revenant are full of life, but devoid of man’s intrusion.

So the question remains, what does the setting say about a story?

I believe the setting should be the extra character. If done properly it adds a layer to the characters in how they interact with and respond to the setting painted by the author. A settlement surrounded by vibrant nature can show the prosperity of the people. Watery planets can show the untamed and hardy nature of a protagonist. And yes, a desert can mirror the loneliness of the lone wolf, the hardness of the gunslinger.

Variety in setting keeps the reader’s imagination fresh.


Where do my settings come from?

Well, here in New York’s Southern Tier we are blessed with a long swath of towering hills. Originally I am from Boston, so the ocean and city are ingrained in my mind. I have traveled the world over, with the exception of Africa and have witnessed some of nature and mankind’s most beautiful vistas.

All of these play into my writing. Every setting in my stories has been seen by my eyes, or at least has been warped by my perception.

If I thought long and hard I could pull each setting from Atom & Go: Genesis and trace it back to some location I had visited at some point in my life, with the exception of space. I wish I could say that I have been aboard something that remotely represents the One Way Ticket, but that emerged straight from my imagination. It is probably an amalgamation of ships from shows, movies, and books that I’ve read throughout my life.


Just to let you know, I am lining up a few guest authors to write some guest posts. The first may suffer from a hint of nepotism, but my dad is the one who taught me to write. He may grace us with an editorial or a selection of poems, that remains to be seen. If you want to check out some of his poems, check out this link.

On that note, signing off from Corning. Keep on reading and keep flying the Black.

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