Worldbuilding for Masochists

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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.

July 20, 2022  

Episode 81: That’s Just Good Policy feat. VICTOR MANIBO

DUN-DUN. Law & Order. What does it mean in your world? Who makes the laws, and by what power do they do so? How easy or difficult is it to change the rules? Guest Victor Manibo, author and real-life lawyer, joins us to discuss how different structures of formal and informal policy could affect the choices your characters make.

So much of law comes down to "who is allowed to do what." But where's the line between a law and a policy? Where does power reside -- and how did it get there? All of these systems of control, influence, taxation, and representation can provide your world with endless spectacle and drama.

Transcript for Episode 81 (Our wonderful scribe team could use your help! Email us if you'd like information on joining them)

Our Guest: Victor Manibo is a Filipino speculative fiction writer living in New York. As a queer immigrant and a person of color, he writes about people who live these identities and how they navigate imaginary worlds. He is a 2022 Lambda Literary Emerging Voices Fellow, and his debut science fiction noir novel, THE SLEEPLESS, is out August 2022 from Erewhon Books. Find him online at or on Twitter @victormanibo.

July 6, 2022  

Episode 80: Festivus for the Rest Of Us

We've talked about big holidays and religious observations before, but what about the small, weird, highly-location-specific festivals and traditions that might dot the landscape of your world? From cheese-rollings to local saints' days to parades to "hey, all our squash came ripe at once, guess we better do something with it!", how do the people in your world make their lives a little more interesting with periodic celebrations?

We also invent some tiny, specific festival occurrences for our co-created world!

Transcript for Episode 80 (Would you like to join our scribal team and get early access to episodes? Shoot us an email at for details!)

Hugo Voting is now open, and we'd love your consideration for Best Fancast! The Hugo packet, which you get for an Attending or Supporting membership, gets you an absolutely boggling amount of reading, viewing, and listening material. Your hosts will also be at ChiCon 8 for the Hugos, and before that we'll be at ArmadilloCon in Austin, TX -- so if you'll be at either, please come say hi!

June 22, 2022  

Episode 79: Building Past the Horizon

We kick off our fourth year of the podcast with a conversation about how to fill in the rest of your world, beyond the immediate scope of your plot. What's outside the borders your characters are familiar with? What's beyond the woods we know? Is it "here there be dragons" or a highly-detailed map with every corner marked?

Your methods of showing that may vary depending on if your characters are isolated village folk, citizens of a bustling port town, or merchants moving through many cosmopolitan surroundings. Choices you make here can both create a fuller, more lived-in world and help a reader get inside a character's perspective.

Also! In this episode, we set ourselves a pretty big goal for the fourth season. Be sure to listen to the end to find out what it is!

Also also! Hugo Voting is now open, and we'd love your consideration for Best Fancast! The Hugo packet, which you get for an Attending or Supporting membership, gets you an absolutely boggling amount of reading, viewing, and listening material. Your hosts will also be at ChiCon 8 for the Hugos, and before that we'll be at ArmadilloCon in Austin, TX.

Transcript for Episode 79 (and hey! Our scribes would love some more assistance. If you're interested in joining the team, please email us!)

June 8, 2022  

Episode 78: Reimagining Relationships w/ FOZ MEADOWS

Your characters and the relationships they have -- romantic, sexual, friendly, familial, professional -- will drive much of what readers connect to in your stories. So what sort of relationship dynamics do you want to build into your world's cultures? Foz Meadows joins us to discuss all the things that make up the space between two or more hearts.

From power structures and politics to financial inheritance and gender roles, there's a lot to consider. What kinds of relationships are possible in your world? Is marriage even a thing? If so, how many people can be in a marriage? Is your world totally queernorm, not at all, or somewhere on the spectrum in-between? And how about sex positivity? Who embraces free love, and who prefers chastity? These considerations can help you build a world that feels emotionally real, even if it challenges a reader's preconceptions of what a "relationship" means.


Transcript for Episode 78 (with thanks to our scribes! Want to join the team? Email us at worldbuildcast at gmail dot com)


Our Guest: Foz Meadows is a genderqueer fantasy author, essayist, reviewer, blogger and poet. She has most recently published An Accident of Stars and A Tyranny of Queens with Angry Robot, and Coral Bones with Rebellion; a full list of her publications can be found here. Foz is a reviewer for Strange Horizons, and has been a contributing writer for The Book SmugglersBlack Gate and The Huffington Post, as well as a repeat contributor to the podcast Geek Girl Riot. Her essays have appeared in various venues online, including The Mary SueA Dribble Of Ink and Uncanny Magzine. She is a four-time Hugo Award nominee for Best Fan Writer, which she won in 2019; she also won the 2017 Ditmar Award for Best Fan Writer, for which she has been nominated three times. In 2017, An Accident of Stars was a finalist for the Bisexual Book Awards, and in 2018, ‘Coral Bones’ won the Norma K. Hemming Award in the short fiction category.

An itinerant Australian, Foz currently lives in California with not enough books, her very own philosopher and their voluble spawn. Surprisingly, this is a good thing.

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!)

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