Worldbuilding for Masochists

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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!)

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.

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