Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Mary Robinette, and Howard
This Q&A session was recorded before a live audience aboard ship at WXR 2022,
Here are some paraphrasings of the questions our attendees asked:
- How do you make your world feel big without infodumping?
- How do you balance a sense of progress with an unreliable narrator?
- How can I make two magic systems work in the same setting when one is underpowered, and the protagonist uses the weaker one?
- Have you ever based characters on yourself, or on people you know?
- What does the process of book adaptation look like
- Do you have any good convention recommendations?
- What are some methods for determining how much scientific detail you go into?
- How do you interact with an audience in order to grow it?
Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 30:16 — 21.7MB)
Write out a few questions. What are the things you need the most help on?
Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Cady Coleman
Chemist, USAF Colonel, and NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman joins us to talk about actual travel to actual space, and how that’s a thing which is increasingly available to people who are not in the employ of government space agencies. Also, we discuss how the demographics of space travelers are changing, and how this is creating safer space travel for everyone.
Credits: This episode was recorded before a live audience by Rob Kowal, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:49 — 14.5MB)
Write about sending a “non-traditional astronaut” to space. Oh, and bringing them back. We’re astronaut-ing, not yeeting.
Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Piper, and Howard, with Cory Doctorow
Worldbuilding is something you do to some degree in everything you write. Cory Doctorow writes (among many other things) near-future SF, and he joins us for a discussion of extrapolative worldbuilding.
Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 21:58 — 15.9MB)
Make a list of transactions in your life which have no reciprocity.
Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard
Where do you draw the line between what seems plausible, and what would be cool? If you pick “plausible,” how do you stay cool? If you pick “cool,” how do you avoid knocking the readers out of the story? And finally, how might we structure things so that when the time comes, we don’t need to choose one or the other, because we can have both?
Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and engineered by Alex Jackson
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:59 — 14.5MB)
Take something super-cool, and make it sound realistic. Now take something very grounded and make it sound outlandishly incredible.
Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about magic systems in our worldbuilding. It’s time to talk about science and technology in that same way. This has been a staple (perhaps the defining staple) of science fiction since before “science fiction” was a word.
At risk of opening the “where do you get your ideas” can of worms, this episode covers a little bit of where we get our ideas, and where you might get—and subsequently develop—some more of yours.
Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:12 — 13.3MB)
Go read Wired (or some other science and technology periodical, whether online or in print)
Nancy Fulda, herself a lettered student of artificial intelligence, joins us to talk about writing artificial intelligence believably. We fire questions at her so that you don’t have to!
We talk about what’s current, what’s coming, and what it is that we’re all expecting. We also cover some of the things that writers get wrong (at least insofar as they knock the cognoscenti out of the story.)
Liner Notes: Here’s the article Howard mentioned, “Evolving a Conscious Machine,” from the June 1998 Discover. He got the details almost 100% wrong, but the gist of it was still there.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:41 — 36.0MB)
Go to the Internet and look up Bayesian learning, neural networks, and genetic algorithms. Yes, it’s more of a reading prompt.
Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge, narrated by Eric Conger
(note: Howard got this wrong — no apostrophe at all! And yes, a lantern got hung upon that particular missing bit of punctuation.)
Eric James Stone joins us for a discussion of hard science fiction. We begin with a discussion of definitions, and then we take care not to spend the whole episode just talking about that. We talk about what we like about hard science fiction (with examples) and of course we address the crux of the matter: can you write hard science fiction without having a degree in the hard sciences?
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 17:57 — 12.3MB)
Think of a way to combine two technologies that are currently not combined, and weave them into a story.
Bowl of Heaven, by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, narrated by Zach Villa
Eric James Stone, Nebula winner and “graduate” of NASA’s Launchpad workshop, joins us to talk about astronomy in our world-building.
We talk about tides, habitable zones, planetary orbits and axial tilts, stellar life-cycles, and other fun factors for authors to take into account. But obviously we can’t teach you everything you need to know about astronomy in 15 minutes, so we wrap with some handy resources for you to begin your continuing education:
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 16:59 — 11.7MB)
Your colonists are going to a world whose axial tilt is different from Earth’s. How are the seasons different?