14.03: World of Hats

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

Margaret Dunlap joins us during season 14 to talk about worldbuilding. In this, her first episode with us, we talk about worlds in which a monolithic culture (like, say, ‘everyone wears hats’) is represented. We cover how to use the trope to your advantage, and how to avoid the trope if it’s going to cause problems.


Write some monoculture-defying fanfic, in which you add outliers to your favorite world of hats. Like, say, a Klingon belly-dancer, or the microclimate on Hoth where you can grow peaches.

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

7 thoughts on “14.03: World of Hats”

  1. This week, Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard wandered into the World of Hats, or at least the World of Headbands, and talked about why you might use this trope, and how to avoid abusing it. Go ahead, read the transcript, but be sure to wear a hat or headband or at least some flowers in your hair. The transcript is in the archives and over here:


    If you’re going to the world of hats… watch out for handsome bald men tipping their hats.

  2. Thank you for another wonderful podcast. It inspired a magic system that I plan to develop and use in my next story.

  3. The other thing is no culture/society is static. There’s never been a point in history where the way of life has been set in stone and everyone has been happy with it.
    So it’s also interesting to play with not only where the culture sits, but how the culture used to be, how it’s changing, and what certain people think about that.
    Think of the world today, and all the complex opinions you might hear. In a novel you have time to at least show that complexity exists, even if you don’t delve into every single faction/opinion possible.

    1. I agree – writing that reflects this about cultures tends to feel more authentic. Interestingly, Romans had a bit of a superstition about change. They believed that if they did pretty much the same things everyday, they wouldn’t anger the gods. This meant taking the same pthway through the city to the market, or tying the same style of knot in your toga. They strove for daily consistency, and I think this contributed to Rome’s duration as an empire. Change did happen over time, but its interesting how the belief about deviation in daily routine impacted that culture.

  4. Greetings from a world full of snow (Sweden)!
    It’s wonderful to have some advice regarding world building. I’m currently writing my third book set in the same world and after each episode I can make notes what to improve in my revisions of the books. Thank you!

    Anyway, you’ve touched the subject of maps in a few episodes, but I would like to mention that there is a very nice walk-through of the mapping of An Ember in the Ashes (which was the book of the week) available on-line by the map maker, who also has a lot of drawing advice for anyone who likes to draw fantasy maps.

Comments are closed.