Season 14 Archives

14.01: Worldbuilding Begins! Up Front, or On the Fly?

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Season 14 is all about worldbuilding¹, and we’re kicking it off with a discussion of when you do that bit of work. Do you handle worldbuilding before you write the story, as you write the story, or after you’ve finished the story? We’ll talk about how we … Continue reading 14.01: Worldbuilding Begins! Up Front, or On the Fly?

Dan collected these three worldbuilding elements from Brandon, Mary, and Howard. Your job? Work them into a scene.

  1. Red food is taboo
  2. hairstyles are important
  3. Different species/races of sophont who cannot interbreed or share food.

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi, narrated by Wil Wheaton

14.02: Geography and Biomes

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab Mahtab Narsimhan joins us this year for a dozen episodes on worldbuilding, and this week we’re talking about geography and biomes. These pieces of our settings can be central to the stories we tell, but they can also be backdrops, and the story purposes they serve may determine … Continue reading 14.02: Geography and Biomes

Describe a landscape using four senses that are not sight

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 … Continue reading 14.03: World of Hats

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

14.03: Writing the Other—Bisexual Characters

Your Hosts: Dan, Tempest, Dongwon, and TJ This is the first of our Writing The Other episodes, in which we set out to help writers portray people who are unlike them. In this episode we’re joined by T.J. Berry. She walks us through the language and terminology of bisexuality.  

Find and watch the 100th episode of Brooklyn 99, which portrays the coming-out of a bisexual character

Space Unicorn Blues, by T.J. Berry

14.5: Viewpoint as Worldbuilding

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard When you’re defining your world for the reader, some voice in the text must speak those definitions. This episode is about how we use character voices—their dialog and their narrative view points—to worldbuild. What do they see? How do they perceive it? What are their favorite jokes? … Continue reading 14.5: Viewpoint as Worldbuilding

From within, from without: Take a character who is alien to the culture/setting you’re writing, and describe things from their point of view. Now describe those same things from the point of view of a character native to the culture/setting.

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

14.7: How Weird is Too Weird?

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard How weird, how far outside the realm of what the reader feels to be familiar, is too weird? Where is the line beyond which the fantasy is too fantastic, the unreal too unrealistic, or the aliens too alien? In this episode we discuss finding that line, and with the … Continue reading 14.7: How Weird is Too Weird?

Take your current work-in-progress, and determine what your “one buy” is. Narrow it down.

14.9: Showing Off

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Let’s infodump without infodumping. Let’s deliver lots of exposition without sounding expository. Let’s talk with the maid and the butler without having maid-and-butler dialog. Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson  

Write some ephemera for your world

Shadiversity (Vidcast), by Shad M. Brooks

14.10: Magic Systems

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab Let’s design magic systems! We talk about how we do it, and how the principles of magic system design apply to the science fiction systems we create, and vice-versa. NOTE: In this episode we’re talking about “hard” magic systems, where there are well-defined rule sets (even if the … Continue reading 14.10: Magic Systems

Take a “soft” magic system, and turn it into a “hard” system. Give Gandalf rules

The Third Eye, by Mahtab Narsimhan

14.11: Magic Without Rules

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard When we say “without rules” we’re talking about stories whose magic is not held under logical scrutiny for the reader. There are lots of reasons why you might do this, and in this episode we’ll talk about not just about the why, but also the how. Credits: This … Continue reading 14.11: Magic Without Rules

Take a story with rule-based magic. Now have the rules all go wrong, the characters realize they don’t really understand the rules at all.

Bookburners, by Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, Margaret Dunlap, Andrea Phillips, Brian Slattery, and Amal el Mohtar