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Worldbuilding for Masochists
69 minutes | 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, Tor.com, 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 sarahgailey.com and on social media at @gaileyfrey.
83 minutes | Apr 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 email@example.com for details!)
65 minutes | Apr 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 firstname.lastname@example.org!)
61 minutes | Mar 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.
69 minutes | Mar 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.
59 minutes | Mar 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 Amazon, Elle, Refinery29, 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.
64 minutes | Feb 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.
62 minutes | Feb 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.
62 minutes | Jan 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!)
10 minutes | Jan 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!
59 minutes | Dec 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.
53 minutes | Dec 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?
55 minutes | Nov 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 Zeroboxer, Exo 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.
61 minutes | Nov 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 www.greatworks.org.uk. 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.
57 minutes | Oct 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 MiraGrant.com. 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.
60 minutes | Oct 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 Wars, Stargate: 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!)
56 minutes | Sep 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!)
71 minutes | Sep 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!)
60 minutes | Sep 1, 2021
Episode 58: L’Etat, C’est… Quoi? ft. C.L. POLK
Most speculative fiction takes place in a society that has a government of some kind. But what, exactly is a state? And how does it come to be? C.L. Polk joins us to discuss the making and breaking of nations within your fantasy worlds. From farmboy kings to scheming dukes with surprisingly benevolent control of their printing presses, from the trials and tribulations of parliaments to the somewhat horrifying implications of magical lobbyists, we hope that you'll find ideas in here to help you craft a government to your preferred level of wonkiness. Transcript for Episode 58 (with thanks to our lovely scribes!) Our Guest: C. L. Polk (they/them) is the author of the World Fantasy Award winning novel Witchmark, the first novel of the Kingston Cycle. Their newest novel, The Midnight Bargain, was a finalist in the CBC Canada Reads Competition, and was nominated for the Nebula, FIYAH Ignyte, and World Fantasy Awards. After leaving high school early, they have worked as a film extra, sold vegetables on the street, and identified exotic insect species for a vast collection of lepidoptera before settling down to write fantasy novels. Mx. Polk lives near the Bow River in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3). They keep all their stuff in a tiny apartment with too many books and a yarn stash that could last a decade. They ride a green bicycle with a basket on the front. They drink good coffee because life is too short. They spend too much time on twitter. You can subscribe to their free newsletter on TinyLetter, or subscribe to their Patreon for content writing nerds like. Mx. Polk is represented by Caitlin McDonald of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.
56 minutes | Aug 18, 2021
Episode 57: Ask a Necromancer ft. AMANDA DOWNUM
How do people in your world handle death? Spiritually, financially, emotionally -- and, as may be relevant to your plot, how do they deal with actual dead bodies? Amanda Downum joins us to discuss the details of the deceased -- and she's both a writer and a licensed mortician, so she can answer some of the questions you've been afraid to Google, lest you end up on a government watchlist! Transcript for Episode 57 (thanks to our scribes!) Our Guest: Amanda was born in Virginia, and has since then spent time in Indonesia, Micronesia, Missouri, and Arizona, with brief layovers in California and Colorado. In 1990 she was sucked into the gravity well of Texas, and hasn't managed to escape. Yet. She lives in Austin with her partner and their snake, and can be found haunting absinthe bars, goth clubs, and other liminal spaces. Her hobbies used to include cooking hearts and rock climbing, but now most of her time is devoted to studying Mortuary Science. Her day job sometimes lets her dress as a giant worm. She can be summoned at a crossroads on the new moon, or through Facebook, Twitter, or Patreon.
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