Worldbuilding for Masochists

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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!)

January 5, 2022  

Episode 67: WorldCon Minisode

Happy New Year! In this minisode, your WFM hosts take a little time to reflect on this podcast's growth, our Hugo Award nomination and the ceremonies, our experiences at WorldCon, and where we're going from here. Many, many thanks to all you listeners, to our amazing scribes, and to every guest who has joined us to discuss the wildness of worldbuilding!

Transcript for Episode 67

Join us on Discord!

December 22, 2021  

Episode 66: Deep History, ft MARIE BRENNAN and ALYC HELMS

So you've got lore galore, complex sociopolitical tangles, and a history that reaches back through the ages. How do you show that on the page without infodumping? Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, who together make up M. A. Carrick, help us explore building a world with deep historical roots while communicating that history in a way that feels natural and exciting for a reader.

How do your characters think of their world's history? What different perspectives are there on historical events, and how have those perspectives shaped the present?

Transcript for Episode 66 (with thanks to our scribes!)

Our Guests: 

Alyc Helms prefers tea over all other beverages. They sometimes refer to their work as “critical theory fanfic,” which is a fancy way to say that they are obsessed with liminality, gender identity, and foxes (and tea!). They are the author of the Adventures of Mr. Mystic novels from Angry Robot and, as M.A. Carrick, the co-author (with Marie Brennan) of The Mask of Mirrors, first in the Rook & Rose trilogy from Orbit Books.

Marie Brennan is a former anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for inspiration. She recently misapplied her professors’ hard work to The Night Parade of 100 Demons and the short novel Driftwood. She is the author of the Hugo Award-nominated Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent along with several other series, over sixty short stories, and the New Worlds series of worldbuilding guides; as half of M.A. Carrick, she has written The Mask of Mirrors, first in the epic Rook and Rose trilogy.

December 8, 2021  

Episode 65: Money Makes The Worldbuilding Go ‘Round

On this podcast, we talk a lot about how economics play into other elements of worldbuilding, from death to politics to food -- but we've never before looked at finance and currency by themselves! In this episode, we take the plunge and explore how to build an economy into your fantasy realm.

Do the people in your world have currency, or are they bartering? Or do they even conceive of value in that way at all? Do they have a complex system that requires accountants and stock brockers? How is money tied to labor and employment? And how can you use all of those considerations as plot hooks to drive your characters into interesting choices?

November 24, 2021  

Episode 64: The Times, They Are A-Changin‘, ft. FONDA LEE

Y'know, the thing about the world is... It isn't static! It changes, all the time, and if you want your invented world to feel real and full of life, a great way to do that is to make sure it also changes. But how do you build societal change into your fictional world? Guest Fonda Lee joins us to discuss cultural diaspora, temporal shifts, geopolitical cross-pollination, and other exciting ways to show the natural shifts and turns of society.

We also discuss how sci-fi seems to incorporate the idea of diaspora and change more readily than fantasy has often done, and we examine how magic might affect ideas of cultural shifts across space and time.

Transcript for Episode 64 (Thank you, scribes!)

Our Guest:

Fonda Lee is the author of the epic urban fantasy Green Bone Saga (beginning with Jade City and continuing in Jade War and the forthcoming Jade Legacy) and the science fiction novels ZeroboxerExo and Cross Fire.

Fonda is a winner of the World Fantasy Award, as well as a three-time winner of the Aurora Award (Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award), and a multiple finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and the Oregon Book Award. Her novels have garnered multiple starred reviews, been included on numerous state reading lists, named Junior Library Guild selections, and appeared on Best of Year lists from NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others. Jade City has been translated in multiple languages and optioned for television development.

In addition, she has written acclaimed short fiction and comic books for Marvel. She is a frequent speaker and instructor at writing workshops including Viable Paradise and Clarion West.

Fonda is a former corporate strategist and black belt martial artist who loves action movies and  Eggs Benedict. Born and raised in Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

November 10, 2021  

Episode 63: It’s A Grimdark World After All ft. ANNA SMITH SPARK

Dirty clothes, grayed-out color palettes, and terrible things happening unrelentingly to everyone: that's the stereotype of grimdark. But in this episode, Anna Smith Spark joins us to explore what that term really means, from interrogating ideas of heroism and villainy to unraveling toxic masculinity and examining the consequences of supposedly noble choices.

Transcript for Episode 63 (Thank you, beloved scribes!)

Our Guest: Anna Smith Spark lives in London, UK. She loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a PhD in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website Previous jobs include petty bureaucrat, English teacher and fetish model.

Anna's favourite authors and key influences are R. Scott Bakker, Steve Erikson, M. John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Stewart and Mary Renault. She spent several years as an obsessive D&D player. She can often be spotted at sff conventions wearing very unusual shoes.

October 27, 2021  

Episode 62: Otherworldly Worldbuilding ft. SEANAN MCGUIRE

As Halloween draws close and the veil between the realms grows thin, we wonder... how, exactly, do you build a world that, by design, touches other worlds? Seanan McGuire joins us to discuss portal realms, alternate realities, multiverses, and designing the liminal, the permeable, the spaces in-between.

Transcript for Episode 62 (thank you, beloved scribes!)

Our Guest: Seanan is the author of the October Daye urban fantasies, the InCryptid urban fantasies, and several other works both stand-alone and in trilogies or duologies. In case that wasn't enough, she also writes under the pseudonym "Mira Grant." For details on her work as Mira, check out

Seanan lives in an idiosyncratically designed labyrinth in the Pacific Northwest, which she shares with her cats, Alice and Thomas, a vast collection of creepy dolls and horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard. She has strongly-held and oft-expressed beliefs about the origins of the Black Death, the X-Men, and the need for chainsaws in daily life.

Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot.

October 13, 2021  

Episode 61: Worldbuilding: The Search for Intelligent Life ft. MARTHA WELLS

From aliens to AI, from dragons to dwarves, from to nebulous clouds to sapient mushrooms, how do we conceive of non-human intelligence in our speculative worlds? Martha Wells joins us to discuss the various considerations in building a culture from a perspective entirely unlike our own, perhaps operating on different levels of consciousness, or through a hive mind, or dealing with entirely different biologies and ecologies.

How do you on-board a reader to something beyond the human brain? Is that culture in conflict with human culture, or in peaceful coexistence, or do humans even exist in their world? How do we apply some of our basics of worldbuilding to this kind of crafting?

Our Guest: Martha Wells has been an SF/F writer since her first fantasy novel was published in 1993, and her work includes The Books of the Raksura series, The Death of the Necromancer, the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy, The Murderbot Diaries series, media tie-in fiction for Star WarsStargate: Atlantis, and Magic: the Gathering, as well as short fiction, YA novels, and non-fiction. She has won Nebula Awards, Hugo Awards, and Locus Awards, and her work has appeared on the Philip K. Dick Award ballot, the BSFA Award ballot, the USA Today Bestseller List, and the New York Times Bestseller List. Her books have been published in twenty-two languages.

Transcript for Episode 61 (Thank you, dear scribes!)

September 29, 2021  

Episode 60: Worldbuilding: The Never-Ending Story

Worldbuilding is often considered part of the pre-writing process -- but sometimes, more worldbuilding happens mid-manuscript or even mid-series.

What do you do with those interjections? Can you graft them in, or do some of them need to be deferred? What happens when answering one worldbuilding need knocks something else askew? How much can you retcon in, and what do you do if you've written yourself into a corner? In this episode, we examine the ongoing process of worldbuilding, once the plot is already in motion.

We also look to our co-created world and consider what gaps and glaring omissions we currently have in our worldbuilding there!

Transcript for Episode 60 (with thanks, as ever, to our lovely scribes!)

September 15, 2021  

Episode 59: Ooooh, Shiny! Crafting a World from Shiny Ideas

Worldbuilding can lead an author to generate a lot of fun ideas. But how do you figure out which of those ideas can actually be integrated into your story? Is there an upper limit on how many shiny notions the weight of the narrative will bear? In this episode, we discuss the balance in worldbuilding, as well as discussing how that balance is different in novels vs role-playing games.

We also return to our collectively invented world and spend some time applying the concepts explored in recent episodes to our personal nations and our geopolitics!

Transcript for Episode 59 (with thanks to our glorious scribes!)

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