All posts by Howard Tayler

14.42: Alternate History

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

Alternate histories (and historical fantasies) are a staple of genre fiction. In this episode we talk about the worldbuilding process, the tools we use, and the pitfalls we try to avoid when constructing these kinds of stories.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Write an alternate history by changing a cusp point in your own life.

Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon

14.41: History

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

Let’s make history! In this episode we talk about doing exactly that—creating real-feeling histories for secondary world settings. We discuss the resources we turn to, the pitfalls we try to avoid, and the places where we think the history has been done really well.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Tell thousands of years of history from the point of view of a tree which has been there for all of it.

Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel

14.40: Deep vs. Wide

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

How do you decide between digging one really deep, narrow well, and digging one really wide, shallow ocean? In this episode we talk about our desires to build worlds which appear both vanishingly wide and unplumbably deep, when we have time to do neither.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take one aspect of your world and drill into it as deeply as you can.

14.39: Positioning Your Book in the Marketplace

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Dongwon

“Positioning feels like the most important question in all of publishing.” — Dongwon Song

In this episode we talk about how to ask and answer the question of positioning, which is “who is this book for?”

Credits: This episode was recorded before a live audience aboard Liberty of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Identify and describe your target reader. Use comp titles as necessary.

14.38: Volunteer Opportunities for Writers, with Jared Quan

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Jared Quan

Jared Quan serves as a volunteer on several non-profit boards, and joined us to talk about the opportunities that exist for writers. Administration, leadership, writing and editing, and teaching are just a few of the many kinds of roles available for volunteers.

Credits: This episode was recorded live at LTUE by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Research writing organizations, and their events. look for volunteer opportunities.

Changing Wax, by Jared Quan

14.37: Outlandish Impossibilities

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

Some science fiction and fantasy stories arise from a premise which, under even just rudimentary examination, appear utterly ridiculous. And some of these stories are hugely successful. In this episode we talk about how we manage our worldbuilding when the goal is less about building a world which works, and more about getting the audience to buy in on something outlandish so we can get on with our story.

Liner Notes: “Went With The Wind” begins about two minutes into this full episode of the Carole Burnett Show

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Write an outlandish impossibility. First: find a three-year-old, and ask them to tell you a story. Now write that story. 

You Owe Me a Murder, by Eileen Cook

14.36: Languages and Naming

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

How do we come up with names? How do we do it in ways that enhance our worldbuilding? What are the elements that give our invented naming schemes (even the zany ones with lots of syllables and apostrophes) verisimilitude?

In this episode we talk about some of the tricks we’ve used, the pitfalls we’ve avoided, and conlangs in general.

Liner Notes: In Episode 12.51 we discuss Conlangs (“constructed languages”)with Dirk Elzinga.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Give us a naming convention that has nothing to do with family.

Binti, by Nnedi Okorofor

14.35: What You Leave Out

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

The advice commonly given to writers is to worldbuild an iceberg, but only to show the reader the tip. This is still too much work. Icebergs are big.

In this episode we talk about worldbuilding the tip of the iceberg, and then worldbuilding as little as possible of the rest of the iceberg so that the tip behaves correctly.

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Take a chapter of yours which has worldbuilding elements in it, and remove all of them. Set the worldbuilding slider to zero.

Stealing Worlds, by Karl Schroeder, narrated by Nancy Wu