Ian  S.  Bott

Writer and artist

Behind the scenes of The Long Dark

The events of The Long Dark take place about a thousand years in the future. Technological civilization has developed plentiful power through fusion technology, and space travel through artificial wormholes. Human civilization still centers on an overcrowded Earth, but millions of people now live on terraformed colony worlds in various stages of development.

The world of Sponge

Official name Elysium. Also known unofficially as Jarra's world, after the company executive who first exploited it. Also known locally as Sponge.

Axial tilt 88 degrees

Orbital period 13.2 standard years

Rotational period 30.4 standard hours

Equatorial circumference 37,529 km

>> More on Elysium's orbit

Elysium orbits an unnamed red giant 250 light years from Earth. The star is locally known as Big Red.

The planet's distant orbit around a giant star makes its years very long, but overall it receives a similar amount of solar radiation as Earth. However, the extreme axial tilt gives it extreme seasons. Most of the surface sees spells of round-the-clock light or dark, with the length of these spells increasing with latitude. The polar latitudes are profoundly inhospitable, with a deep freeze during the winter dark, and boiling temperatures during the summer exposure.

Much of the planet experiences intense wind storms as heat redistributes and moisture evaporates from the spring hemisphere and precipitates out over the autumn hemisphere.

Elysium has an extremely strong magnetic field, which helps shield it from a powerful solar wind and violent flares from Big Red. This also traps a strong belt of radiation which is a serious hazard to orbiting craft, and causes intense radio interference.

Anna's world has a lot of technical terminology, plus everyday words derived from European languages, largely Dutch.

Transportation on Elysium poses unique challenges.

The turbulent atmosphere makes air travel dangerous at the best of times. Routine air travel is limited to ground-to-orbit shuttles, ferrying supplies in and export goods out. Elysium has few of its own aircraft and no air traffic control.

The lack of surface water also means there are no sea-going vessels.

This leaves surface transportation. Here again, there are difficulties unique to Elysium. The extremes of heat and cold would pose challenges – though not insurmountable – to any permanent infrastructure. However, the biggest hurdle is the fact that the colonists live on the outer skin of a giant plant, that lives, grows, and where much of the surface is in a state of flux throughout the seasons.

The colonists rely on all-terrain surface vehicles to transport people and goods, and to work the harvest sites on which the world depends.