Tag Archives: history

16.46: World and Plot: The Only Constant is Change

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

In our world, the ostensibly “real” one (simulation theory notwithstanding), stuff is changing all the time. Why, then, do we see so many fantasy worlds whose once-upon-a-times seem timeless?

A more important question: how might we, as writers cognizant of the ubiquity of change, work that understanding into our writing? Can we make our fictional worlds more believable while retaining the elements of those worlds which first attracted us to them?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Liner Notes: The book series Howard couldn’t remember the name of? The HELLICONIA trilogy, by Brian W. Aldiss.
Mary Robinette mentioned WX 14.30: Eating Your Way to Better Worldbuilding, which may make you hungry.


Take a “timeless” story, such as a fairy tale or a fable, and reimagine it happening during a period of great change in that society. For instance: suppose that Sleeping Beauty woke up after a hundred years to find that the kingdom has been through a socialist revolution and the rest of the royals are in exile.

Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho

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


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


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