Category Archives: Theory and Technique

14.6: Fantasy and Science Fiction Races

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

Let’s talk about race, sort-of. Let’s talk about creating races—species of people, really—which is a critically important activity in much of our worldbuilding. In this episode we discuss a few of the pitfalls, some of our own techniques, and a few of our favorite alien¹ races.

¹Can of Worms: It’s likely you’ll subconsciously code your creations after people who are “other” to you. This is both fraught and inescapable, but we don’t want to discourage you from trying. On May 26th we’ll go into detail telling you “yes, you can,” in a Writing The Other episode entitled “Yes You Can.”

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Take one major historical event, and set it in space with non-human races.

Dragon’s Blood, by Jane Yolen, narrated by Marc Thompson

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? What do they say when they swear?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson

 

 

 

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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

14.03: 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.

 

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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

14.03: 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.

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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

14.02: 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 which tools we use to describe them.

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

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Describe a landscape using four senses that are not sight

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 do it, and the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


¹ The question of whether this term should be a closed compound (worldbuilding), an open compound (world building), or hyphenated (world-building) is an open one. Our decision to use the closed compound “worldbuilding” in our episode descriptions this year is a matter of personal preference. 

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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