Worldbuilding for Masochists

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November 23, 2022  

Episode 90: The Editor’s Take ft. BRIT HVIDE

We're big believers in doing all the work when it comes to the worldbuilding, but when it comes to putting it in the book, how do you know how much you need to have in the text?  What do the readers need to know, and what goes in the ephemera or appendices?  Who can help you figure that out?  An editor, of course!

So we sat down with Orbit Books executive editor Brit Hvide-- who's worked with authors like N.K. Jemisin, C.L. Clark, Django Wexler, Andrea Stewart and many more-- to get her thoughts on what really works in fantasy worldbuilding.

Our Guest:

Brit E. B. Hvide is a writer and Hugo Award nominated editor. She studied creative writing and physics at Northwestern University. Originally from Singapore, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband, their son, and their dog. Follow her on Twitter @bhvide or visit her website brithvide.wordpress.com.

November 9, 2022  

Episode 89: Stealing the Best Parts of History, ft. LAURA ANNE GILMAN

Many fantasy authors draw from history to shape their worlds and inform their worldbuilding choices. Where do you draw the line between hewing to the record and just using it for inspiration? How much do accuracy and authenticity matter? And, when those research rabbit holes are so very alluring, how do you make yourself stop?

Guest Laura Anne Gilman joins us to talk about the various ways to approach historical research and integrate it into your worldbuilding, as well as what to do with the many, many tidbits of knowledge that end up in your head, taking up space. From antiquated toilets to questionably decorated tapestries, this episode explores some gloriously weird historical tidbits!

Transcript for Episode 89 (tk!)

Our Guest:

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy and the award-winning Devil’s West series from Saga Press/ Simon & Schuster.  Her forthcoming projects include the Gilded Age historical fantasy, UNCANNY TIMES (October 2022),  and a series of paranormal romance novellas focusing on non-traditional partners, starting with SOMETHING PERFECT.

She has also dipped her pen into the mystery field, writing as L.A. Kornetsky (Collared, Fixed, Doghouse, and Clawed).

October 26, 2022  

Episode 88: Hashtag Aesthetic, ft. MARY ROBINETTE KOWAL

We throw the word "aesthetic" around a lot on this podcast -- but we've never really slowed down to talk about what it means. How do we define the aesthetic of a work? Is that different from the aesthetic of a world? How do subgenres and plot structures intertwine with those ideas?

Guest Mary Robinette Kowal joins us to explore the crafting of aesthetics in worldbuilding and storymaking! We discuss pacing, word choice, set dressing, the theatre of the mind, the "breath" of the written word, and so much more. We also examine how aesthetic can be a shorthand to help your reader with an on-ramp into your story -- but how you may also need to teach your reader where your particular world deviates from what aesthetic may lead them to assume.

Transcript for Episode 88 (in-progress -- email us if you're interested in joining the scribal team!)

Our Guest:

Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author, Mary Robinette Kowal is a novelist and professional puppeteer. In 2008 she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer and her debut novel Shades of Milk and Honey (Tor 2010) was nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award for Best Novel. In 2019, the first book in the Lady Astronaut series The Calculating Stars (Tor 2018), won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards, becoming one of only eighteen novels to do so. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and several Year’s Best anthologies, as well as in her collection Scenting the Dark and Other Stories from Subterranean Press. Her short story collection Word Puppets was published in 2015, and includes both of her Hugo Award-winning stories in addition to fifteen others, running the full range of speculative fiction. In 2016, her World War I fantasy novel Ghost Talkers was published by Tor books, followed in 2018 by her alternate history Lady Astronaut series.

From 2019-2021, Kowal was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

In 2011, after several appearances as a guest star on the podcast Writing Excuses, Kowal became a permanent member of the cast. In 2013, the seventh season of the podcast won the Hugo Award for Best Related Work. Her involvement in the podcast also contributed to the creation of the Shadows Beneath anthology, in which Kowal and her three co-hosts contributed short stories alongside materials charting the unique creative process of each author.

Kowal is also an award-winning puppeteer. In high school, she took up puppetry as a hobby, but as Kowal says, she “never thought of it as something you could get paid for.” Instead, she went to East Carolina University to pursue an art degree, minoring in theater and speech. While performing as Audrey II in a performance of Little Shop of Horrors, she learned that a professional puppeteer had come to the show. It was a turning point. Kowal went on to intern at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, GA. With over twenty years of experience, she has performed for LazyTown (CBS), the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Pictures, Sesame Street, and founded Other Hand Productions. Her designs have garnered two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve.

Her career in puppetry consumed much of Kowal’s creative energy for over ten years. Although she wrote in high school and college, it wasn’t until her brother moved his family to China that she began writing again. Like Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie, she started creating children’s fantasy as a way to stay connected to her young niece and nephew. Reminded of how much she enjoyed writing, she began submitting short stories and made her first sale in 2005, and her first professional sale to Strange Horizons in 2006.

When she isn’t writing or puppeteering, Kowal brings her speech and theater background to her work as a voice actor. She is a member of SAG/AFTRA. She has recorded audio books and short stories for authors such as Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi. She likes to describe voice acting as “puppetry, without the pain.”

Mary Robinette lives in Nashville with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters. Sometimes she even writes on them.

October 12, 2022  

Episode 87: Building Up Hope, ft BRANDON CRILLY

Can you see the climate fiction for the trees? In this episode, Brandon Crilly joins us to discuss solarpunk, cli-fi, hopepunk, and the places where these concepts overlap and intertwine.

How do you build a world with a deliberately optimistic outlook? How much of that is about technology, and how much is about social paradigms? What other considerations go into storytelling from this particular worldview?

Transcript for Episode 87 (in-progress)

Our Guest: An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon Crilly has been previously published by Daily Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, Fusion Fragment, PULP Literature, Flame Tree Publishing and other markets. In 2021, he co-founded Bag of Giving, a monthly Twitch series where authors play TTRPGs for charity. He’s also an Aurora Award-nominated podcaster, conference organizer for Can*Con, a reviewer, and regularly has too many D&D campaign ideas than he could ever fit into his schedule. His debut novel Catalyst will be published by Atthis Arts in Fall 2022.

September 28, 2022  

Episode 86: Live at WorldCon!

This episode was recorded in a panel session at WorldCon/ChiCon 8 on September 4th, 2022. Many thanks to everyone who attended in-person! We had a blast, and it's so great to get to field your questions in real-time.

We discuss favorite bits of worldbuilding from our own projects -- and the things about worldbuilding that we love less! Then, we answer questions about world-generating seeds, deciding on tech levels for our worlds, intentionality in designing magical systems, and more!

Transcript for 86 (in-progress! If you'd like to join our scribal team, please send us an email to learn about the process!)

September 14, 2022  

Episode 85: Falling in Love Again… with Worldbuilding Ft SARA MUELLER

Where's the love? It makes the world(building) go 'round and 'round and 'round... At least, it does when things are going well! In this episode, guest Sara Mueller joins us to discuss how to get yourself re-engaged with your fantasy worlds when you've drifted away from them, for one reason or another.

When you've gotten jaded, what can bring you back in? Do you cling to a particular detail of life that fascinates you? Return to the map and start filling in the blank spaces? Pivot to another project, read a book outside your genre, or binge a TV show? And when might it be important to allow yourself to have a fallow period rather than trying to force productivity?

Transcript for Episode 85 (in-progress -- to join our scribing team, email us!)

Our Guest: A seamstress and horsewoman, Sara A. Mueller writes speculative fiction in the green and rainy Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her family, numerous recipe books, and a forest of fountain pens.

In a nomadic youth, she trod the earth of every state but Alaska and lived in six of them.

She’s an amateur historical costumer, gamer, and cook.

The Bone Orchard is her debut novel, from Tor Books.

August 31, 2022  

Episode 84: Make or Break Worldbuilding Deep Dive: The MNG

The Magical Nude Gate is a what we call a tentpole idea: a concept that touches on so many other elements of a world that it can't be just a throwaway shiny idea. It has to be well-integrated. Culture, economy, language, religion, politics -- the MNG has implications so wide-reaching and fundamental that they cannot be ignored.

So what is the MNG? A network of magical portals connecting our world -- but the catch is, it only allows living creatures through, so you come out on the other side naked as the day you were born! In this episode, we finally pin down some of the Big Questions about the MNG. What counts as a "living creature"? How did the MNG come to be? Is it stagnant or mutable? Are there gate-rich and gate-poor areas? Are all connections multidirectional? We discuss all this and more as we set the parameters for this major concept of our co-built world!

Additionally, your hosts will be at WorldCon in Chicago, September 1-5th! Find Marshall, Rowenna, and Cass both together and separately. Ask us questions, come to our TableTalks, come to our live recording, buy us a drink, or come look over our shoulders as we sketch out our MNG map!

Transcript for Episode 84 (in-progress)

August 17, 2022  

Episode 83: Using Our Vacation Time

Here in the dwindling days of summer, we want to know: what do the people in your world do on vacation? Are they relaxing by a beach, wandering museums, hiking in the wilderness? Unpacking that idea ties into a surprising number of other worldbuilding concepts, including economy, labor, and transportation.

In this episode, we explore some of the conditions that even allow for vacation to be conceptually available, the practicalities of arranging time off, and whether or not you can board your dragons and griffins in a kennel. Then, we apply these concepts to our co-built world and decide what vacation looks like for the Fjallaniri, the Al’notliri, or Griasta Man.

Transcript for Episode 83 (Or so the intention goes. Would you like to help our scribal team? Send us an email!)

August 10, 2022  

Episode 82.5: Live at ArmadilloCon!

In this bonus episode, your hosts gather together in real life at ArmadilloCon 2022! We talk about why we love worldbuilding, what our strategies are, and take a bunch of really fabulous questions from the audience.

Because this episode was recorded on-site in a convention hall and because it is a bonus episode, this is essentially raw audio! So you're getting us unfiltered and unedited... and you're getting the chaos of recording in a large open room, with the various intrusions and fuzziness inherent in those conditions. We apologize for any audial oddities!

August 3, 2022  

Episode 82: From One-Note Worlds to Complete Space Operas, ft. Valerie Valdes

What happens when you have to build not just one world, but a whole passel of them? In this episode, guest Valerie Valdes joins us to talk about how an author can craft compelling adventures in spaaaaaaaaaaace.

The vastness and potential diversity of space makes for an appealing sandbox for writers to play in. In a genre that often depends on the element of handwavium to make its interplanetary travel, interstellar stations, and laser swords possible, how can you still build cultures and societies that feel lived-in? Do you want to lean into the idea of single-biome "trope planets" or challenge it? How internally consistent do you need to be in order to keep a reader's suspension of disbelief intact?

Transcript for Episode 82 (Our scribal team can always use assistance! If you'd like to join, email us at worldbuildcast at gmail dot com)

Our Guest:

Valerie Valdes’s work has been featured in Uncanny MagazineTime Travel Short Stories and Nightmare Magazine. Her debut novel Chilling Effect was published by Harper Voyager in September 2019 and Orbit UK in February 2020, with starred reviews in Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal. It was shortlisted for the 2021 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and was also named one of Library Journal’s best SF/fantasy novels of 2019. The sequel, Prime Deceptions, was published in September 2020, and the third book in the trilogy, Fault Tolerance, is forthcoming in August 2022.

Valerie is co-editor of Escape Pod, and currently works as a freelance writer and copy editor. She is a graduate of the University of Miami and the Viable Paradise workshop and has taught classes and given lectures for Clarion West and Georgia State University. She has also served as a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month since 2005. She lives in Georgia with her husband, children and cats.

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