Worldbuilding for Masochists

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May 25, 2022  

Episode 77: Pull a Thread, Build A World w/ KRITIKA H. RAO

When it comes to worldbuilding, what's the difference between going deep and going wide? Kritika H. Rao joins us to discuss finding the balance between the things that are tentpoles of your world and things that can be window dressing.

How do you choose what to focus on? How many worldbuilding innovations might be too many innovations? In this episode, we discuss different processes of worldbuilding and how an author's choices might cause revelations or problems down the line.

Transcript for Episode 77 (Our scribes are amazing! Would you like to join the scribal team? Email us at

Our Guest: Kritika H. Rao is a science-fiction and fantasy writer, who has lived in India, Australia, Canada and The Sultanate of Oman. Kritika’s stories are influenced by her lived experiences, and often explore themes of consciousness, self vs. the world, and identity. The Surviving Sky, a Hindu philosophy-inspired epic science-fantasy, is her debut novel and will be out in Fall 2022 by DAW Books and Titan Books UK. When she is not writing, she is probably making lists. She drops in and out of social media; you might catch her on Twitter or Instagram @KritikaHRao. Visit her online at

May 11, 2022  

Episode 76: Farm to Table Fantasy ft. SARAH GAILEY

Everybody's got to eat. But where does the food in your world come from? Who tends livestock, who transports it, who turns it into a meal -- and how?

In this episode, guest Sarah Gailey helps us think through the practicalities of feeding your characters so that their hanger doesn't derail your plot! We also examine the intersection of food production and consumption with colonization and imperialist violence.

Please note that this episode contains some frank discussion of the butchery of livestock for human consumption. If this is a sensitive topic for you, we suggest listening with caution.


Transcript for Episode 76 (with thanks to our scribes! Interested in joining our scribe team? Send us an email at worldbuildcast at gmail dot com!)

Our Guest: Sarah Gailey is a Hugo Award Winning and Bestselling author of speculative fiction, short stories, and essays. They have been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards for multiple years running. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, was published by Tor Books in 2019. Their most recent novel, The Echo Wife, and first original comic book series with BOOM! Studios, Eat the Rich, are available now. Their shorter works and essays have been published in Mashable, The Boston Globe, Vice,, and the Atlantic. Their work has been translated into seven different languages and published around the world. You can find links to their work at and on social media at @gaileyfrey.

April 27, 2022  

Episode 75: Worldbuilding Beyond Borders

What makes a nation? Who decides where borders are, or even what borders are? What unites a people, within a country or across those borders? What differences are there between cultural identities, ethnicities, and nationalities -- and where do those concepts overlap and intersect?

In this episode, we discuss ideas of citizenship, belonging, invasion, defense, and self-definition -- and how you can complicate or literalize all of those ideas in your fantasy worldbuilding!

Please note: This episode does include brief discussion of the Russian invasion of Ukraine toward the end. If this is a difficult topic for you, you may wish to zip through that section! It runs from about 1:00:20 to 1:01:45. Slava Ukraini.

Transcript for Episode 75 (with thanks to our scribes! And hey, would you like to join our scribal team? Email for details!)

April 13, 2022  

Episode 74: FMK Worldbuilding Edition

Worldbuilding is, often, about choices. What bits stick out at the top of the iceberg, and what stays beneath the surface? What shiny ideas can you make tentpoles of your world, what might be cool ornaments but are not essential to the book's functioning, and what can you simply not find the room or justification for? In this episode, we return to our co-built world and play a good honest game of fuck-marry-kill with some worldbuilding concepts!

Transcript for Episode 74 (Our scribes? They're awesome. Would you like to be one? Email us at!)

March 30, 2022  

Episode 73: In-Line Worldbuilding ft. MELISSA CARUSO

Where does worldbuilding fit into your overall process of writing, rewriting, revising, writing some more, and writing again? In this episode, we welcome back Melissa Caruso to help us think about the granular details of synthesizing your worldbuilding with your drafting and editing.

Characters exist within their worldbuilding, and worldbuilding can drive plots, but how do you bring all those things together during the act of creation in a way that will feel seamless and natural to a writer? Do you thread it into your outline? Or do you cast your ideas to the winds and see where things settle?

Transcript for Episode 73 (with thanks as ever to our devoted scribes!)

Our Guest:

Melissa Caruso writes books of magic, murder, and mayhem. Her debut novel, THE TETHERED MAGE (Orbit, 2017), was shortlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar award and begins the Swords and Fire trilogy, which also includes THE DEFIANT HEIR (Orbit, 2018) and THE UNBOUND EMPIRE (Orbit, 2019). Her second fantasy trilogy, Rooks and Ruin, consists of THE OBSIDIAN TOWER (Orbit, 2020), THE QUICKSILVER COURT (Orbit, 2021), and THE IVORY TOMB (forthcoming in 2022 from Orbit Books.

Melissa is also a tea drinker, larper, mom, and all-around geek. Despite being born on the summer solstice and going to school in an old mansion with a secret door, she has yet to develop any known superpowers. She lives in Massachusetts with her video game designer husband, two superlative daughters, and assorted pets.

March 16, 2022  

Episode 72: This is Cerulean, Right?: Fashion, Politics, and Power, ft. NATANIA BARRON

Fashion: not just a frivolity, but a component of worldbuilding that can communicate so much about your world's resources, industry, and power structures, as well as characters' individual choices and personalities. Guest Natania Barron joins us to explore the potential presented by frills and furbelows of all kinds.

From bifurcated Celts to Tudor sumptuary laws to lavender pocket squares, what inspiration can you find for complicating the "standard fantasy wardrobe" into something specific to your world? How can you interrogate the intersection of clothing and gender, clothing and economy, clothing and oppression, clothing and political statements?


Transcript for Episode 72 (Thank you, scribes!)

Our Guest: 

The award-winning author of Queen of None, a feminist Arthurian retelling, Natania Barron is preoccupied with mythology, monsters, mayhem, and magic. From medieval-inspired tales to Regency fantasy romance, her often historically-inspired novels are lush with description and vibrant characters.

Natania’s shorter work has appeared in Weird Tales, EscapePod, and various anthologies and RPG settings. On Twitter, she’s known for her #ThreadTalks, which dive deep into the unseen world of fashion history–one of their favorite topics–as well as a meme or two. She identifies bisexual and demisexual, and goes by she/her/they pronouns.

In terms of academics, the author holds a BA in English/Writing from Loyola University Maryland and an MA in English with a concentration in medieval literature from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Though she left academia physically, she’s never stopped researching. Natania can regularly be found deep in the tomes of digitized illuminated manuscripts around the world.

As a mental health activist, especially regarding adolescent care, Natania has drawn nationwide attention for her writing, including mainstream news and television appearances. Additionally, she writes extensively about her own later-in-life ADHD diagnosis.

When not traveling through imagined worlds, she lives in North Carolina with her family, where she traipses through the forest on a regular basis, bakes incessantly, drinks an inordinate amount of tea, and dreams of someday owning a haunted house of her own.

March 2, 2022  

Episode 71: X Marks The Spot ft. PENG SHEPHERD

This one's for the cartography geeks! We know that's a lot of our followers. Peng Shepherd joins us to think about what a map of your fantasy world can tell your readers, what the social and cultural implications of a map's presentation might be, and how much time you should spend squiggling in all those little fjords. Plus: Schrodinger’s Continents, a bowling alley on the Enterprise, and an augmentation for our Magical Nude Gate system of travel!

Transcript for Episode 71 (thank you, scribes!)

Our Guest: 

Peng was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet, and has lived in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, and Mexico City.

Her first novel, The Book of M, won the 2019 Neukom Institute for Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction, and was chosen as a best book of the year by AmazonElleRefinery29, and The Verge, as well as a best book of the summer by the Today Show and NPR On Point. A graduate of the NYU MFA program, Peng is the recipient of a 2020 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Elizabeth George Foundation’s emerging writers 2016 grant.

Her second novel, The Cartographers, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in March 2022.

February 16, 2022  

Episode 70: Magical Ethics and Ethical Magics ft. KATE HEARTFIELD

When you've introduced elemental, supernatural, ethereal, or diabolical powers into your world, what does that do to your society? Guest Kate Heartfield joins us to discuss the rules, regulations, and roguery of magical worldbuilding!

In this episode, we explore the two levels that magical ethics can operate on: within your world, and within our world. What are you saying when you decide who has access to magic, how they control it, or how they use it to control others? Magic literalizes many issues of consent, manipulation, and power-brokering that we deal with in our daily lives -- so how can you build it into your world thoughtfully and hang interesting plot hooks on those choices?

Transcript for Episode 70 (with thanks to our scribes!)

Our Guest: Kate Heartfield is the author of The Embroidered Book, a historical fantasy novel out in February 2022, and the Alice Payne time travel novellas (2018/2019). Her debut novel Armed in Her Fashion (2018) won Canada’s Aurora Award. She also writes interactive fiction, including The Road to Canterbury, and The Magician's Workshop, published by Choice of Games. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, Aurora, Sunburst and Crawford awards, and her journalism for a National Newspaper Award. Her short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lackington's, Podcastle and elsewhere. A former newspaper journalist, Kate lives near Ottawa, Canada.

February 2, 2022  

Episode 69: The Sexy Things People Don’t Want You To Think About, ft. ELSA SJUNNESON

When your characters push boundaries, defy authority, and get down and dirty -- well, how do they do it, where do they do it, and just how much trouble are they going to get in? In this episode, guest Elsa Sjunneson joins us for an extremely naughty exploration of obscenity and transgression.

Engaging with obscenity means building complex social dynamics within your world and communicating those ideas to your reader. How can you bring all of that across? How do you show your reader what's normal and what's considered disreputable, dirty, or downright degenerate?

Transcript of Episode 69 (with both thanks and, in this case, apologies to our wonderful scribes!)

Our Guest: Hugo, Aurora and British Fantasy Award Award winner Elsa Sjunneson writes and edits speculative fiction and non-fiction. She has been a finalist for the Best Fan Writer and Best Semiprozine Hugo Awards, a winner of the D. Franklin Defying Doomsday Award, and a finalist for the Best Game Writing Nebula Award. Her debut memoir Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism was released by Tiller Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) October 5, 2021.

January 19, 2022  

Episode 68: Potpour-V

It's time for another Listener Q&A episode! Wherein we discuss fjords, metallurgy, giant Martian otters, bouncy castles, starch-based food categorization, and much more.

And, because you asked, here's how you can nominate Worldbuilding for Masochists for a 2022 Best Fancast Hugo Award:

  • Eligiblity: You can nominate us (and all your other favorite works from the past year!) if you either had a qualifying membership to DisCon 3 (WorldCon 2021) or if you have a qualifying membership to ChiCon 8 (WorldCon 2022).
  • What's a qualifying membership? For DisCon 3, it was a Supporting, Attending, Virtual, or Young Adult membership. For ChiCon 8, it's a Supporting or Adult, Young Adult, Teen or Child Membership.
  • So: If you voted on the 2021 ballots, you're already qualified. If you didn't but would like to become qualified this year, you have until January 31, 2022, 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time (PST) (UTC-8) to purchase a qualifying ChiCon 8 membership. It's worth noting that a qualifying membership will also get you an amazing packet of Finalist works, including novels and short fiction. Supporting memberships truly do more than pay for themselves with the amount of awesome stuff you get in the packet!
  • Okay, I'm eligible. What now? You will receive an e-mail to your registered e-mail address with a customized login link. Click on the link and you will be able to begin your nominations ballot.
  • You can keep adding to or changing your nominations until Tuesday, March 15, 2022, 11:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7).
  • More questions? Check out the ChiCon 8 website!

Transcript for Episode 68, with thanks to our scribes! (And if you are interesting in joining the scribing team, please send us an email!)

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