Project: The Greater Pyramid in William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land

I'm modelling the Night Land and elements in William Hope Hodgson's world in Blender; and I'm starting with the Great Pyramid because it's comparatively simple.

The Night Land is based on the science of an earlier day, but it's science fiction. So I'm going to try to make the Pyramid as technically workable as I can.

The Great Pyramid in which humanity survives after the extinction of the Sun is not the largest construction project in human history: that has to go to the World Road the Moving Cities travelled, when Earth's rotation was slowing, in the Age When the Cities Always Moved Westward. But it's possible that it's the largest single object ever constructed in Mr. Hodgson's universe. It is, at any rate, huge.

For anyone reading who doesn't know the story, the last millions — perhaps hundreds of millions — of humans are surviving after the death of a Kelvin-Helmholtz Sun in a vast pyramidal arcology in a great chasm in the Earth.

The Pyramid is 5.25 miles on a side and nearly 8 miles high. It is built of metal, and it has 1,320 floors.

Around it is an electric forcefield. Beneath it, a hundred miles deep, are the Underground Fields where the humans raise their crops by artificial light. Surrounding it are the weird, dangerous, and hostile creatures of the Night Land (these folk have creatures like Cthulhu for neighbors).

Just-begun model of the Pyramid and its hypothetical foundation.

I don't get to change the shape of the arcology without departing too far from the story. Happily, the speculative proposals for very, very large buildings I've found, while they aren't pyramids, do involve some kind of tapering to the top, so the Pyramid isn't completely unthinkable.

Pyramid modelling so far: I started out with a cube, shrank the top, and bevelled all the edges slightly so they don't look excessively sharp close in. Then I scaled it to match the dimensions of the Pyramid in the story. I might scale that upper face down a little more later, but the Pyramid has devices up there and I want to figure out what they look like first.

The big red-purple disk? ... A preliminary notion for how to support the Pyramid.

The structure is 8 miles high. It's going to be heavy.

I don't build enormous buildings in real life, and no one has built anything this size, so I'm going to have to guess a lot.

The Great Valley, in happier sunlit days, had a normal ecosystem. I can expect it to have soil, therefore. But the volcanic activity is comparatively recent, so we probably have bedrock near the surface. Since the description of the chasm's formation sounds like a rift to me, it's probably basalt.

Lower down in the Great Valley, we still have active vulcanism. Nearby are "fireholes" where the heat radiates freely to the surface.

We're not trying to stand this immense building up on sand or some other soft substrate. Still. It's unbelievably heavy, and, worse, Mr. Hodgson put enormous hollows below.

Let us therefore assume that the builders of the Pyramid floated it on an enormous, strong, comparatively light 'raft'. I'm assuming the raft is not a single solid object — that it's a framework-and-composite structure; it will be jointed to relieve earthquake stress. It's not going to be visible in most renders, so I don't have to figure out what it really looks like now. I imagine it covered with soil.

(I am prepared to revise this if I learn better.)

The mechanism for generating the forcefield (the Air Clog) must also be worked into the supporting 'raft,' if I ever render from a perspective where it might be visible.

There are 12,000 embrasures on the Pyramid, through which the people can look out on the Night Land. But there are none in the lowest half mile: the Pyramid was once under siege. I suspect there never were any embrasures near the ground anyway, since the leader who inspired the building of the Pyramid was anticipating attack.

Clearly depicting the embrasures on a model of the full Pyramid should be done with texture maps. Modelling is impractical.

The Pyramid is surrounded, a mile distant, by an Electric Circle which sends up a bright light. It's not more than 2 inches thick, and some of the monsters can peer over it. (Some of the monsters are pretty darned big, so this doesn't give me a vertical dimension.) But they don't like it, and don't cross it.

The Pyramid is placed with the corners at the cardinal points of the compass.

On the northwest face is the Great Gate. The Great Gate has an Eye Gate in it, out through which some unwise youths once climbed; since climbing is not a usual method of going out something intended to be a door, I presume the Eye Gate is a transom (I'm guessing round, from the name), through which the Watch can look out at anyone seeking to come in. There is a lesser gate, not named, intended for walking: I presume it's a postern gate.

Behind the Great Gate is a Great Causeway: if the Causeway lights are on within when the Great Gate is open, the light shows in the Night Land. I have no dimensions for either the Great Gate or the Causeway, but the entire Watch once assembled in the Causeway, and 10,000 men marched out through the Great Gate. These should obviously be modelled. I don't have many details, so castle and fortress architecture will inform my design.


Image and text © 2016 by Kate Coady.