Tag Archives: Worldbuilding

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.

14.37: 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

14.33: Writing Imperfect Worlds

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

How do you write a setting in which the status quo is one with which you deeply disagree? How do you create a conflict of this sort without being overtly pedantic or preachy? In this episode we talk about creating engaging worlds while worldbuilding around—and yes, over—landmines.

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

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Take a wish-fulfillment character, and place them on the lowest rung of the power structure.

The Fated Sky, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Worldbuilding Gender Roles

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

Let’s talk about worldbuilding with gender roles. Most of us have grown up with a very strongly defined binary, that distinction need not be how we craft the worlds in which we set our stories. In this episode we discuss the resources we have to help us, and the approaches we’ve taken to worldbuild with gender in our own work. We drill down pretty deeply on some worldbuilding with Brandon, and yes, we run quite long.

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

Liner Notes

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Apply the axes of power deliberately to character gender, and determine how gender and gender identity affects the various axes

Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz