One of the my favorite qualities of Jack Campbell (AKA John G. Hemry) is his ability to make each star system in his universe different. As the Lost Fleet traveled through Syndicate space, I never got the impression that his systems were just cardboard cutouts. Each was distinct and felt very real. I wanted to create that uniqueness with my books.
Early while writing This Corner of the Universe, I knew the layout of the Skathi star system would be very important. With three planets and two asteroid fields and tunnel points, it was important the reader clearly understood exactly how they were laid out. I originally started using Paint.NET to create a crude star system map but the results were unsatisfactory. I then stumbled onto a fantastic tool called Universe Sandbox. Not only did this program give me the power to create any type of star system I wished, I could screenshot the systems in high resolution for some beautiful pictures. Additionally, the program was created with very strong physics running in the background so these star systems have solid math behind them. If you have any interest in such things, I highly recommend the program as it’s a lot of fun and informative too.
In No Way to Start a War, I used the program to help bring several new star systems to life. By the way, binary star systems with planets are hard to create, but below is a sneak peek at the Kale system in No Way to Start a War. (I’ll increase the font size and clean this up in the future, but you get the idea.) Hopefully, each of these systems is as diverse as those created by my favorite authors.