MIND MELD: The Rules of Worldbuilding

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

In fiction, especially Fantasy, SF, and the like, part of the joy of reading is the sometimes vast, and complicated, worlds that authors create. However, there are certain “rules” that seem to apply to this process, and io9 recently published an article called 7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding, which made me wonder what authors and readers thought about the subject, what kind of “rules” they use in their writing, and also what they like to see in their reading. So I asked them:

Q: When you write, are there any particular “rules” you follow in your worldbuilding? What do you consider a “sin” in worldbuilding? For readers and authors, what do you like to see in regards to worldbuilding in your reading, and what do you consider a deal breaker? What worlds have captured your imagination more than others?

Here’s what they said…

Ingrid Jonach
Ingrid Jonach is the author of the young adult sci-fi romance novel When the World was Flat (and we were in love), published by Strange Chemistry.
Since graduating from university with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing (Hons) in 2005, Ingrid has worked as a journalist and in public relations, as well as for the Australian Government. Find out more at www.ingridjonach.com.


For me, worldbuilding has to add to the narrative. For example, there is no point in telling me the ins-and-outs of a new plant species unless it is eaten or used for medicinal purposes in the story. Likewise, there is no need to spend ten pages explaining a piece of technology if it is never mentioned again.

My young adult novel When the World was Flat (and we were in love) is set in our world, but – at the risk of sharing spoilers – it also includes an alternate world with a re-imagined history. This alternate world is the catalyst for the relationship between the two main characters and all of the worldbuilding is connected to the events in the story.

My work-in-progress (WIP) goes one step further than When the World was Flat (and we were in love), as it is set in a world with a re-imagined history. This means breaking the rules of our current world (e.g. everyone eats ice-cream three times a day instead of just for dessert), but with good reason (e.g. the world is run by kids). I promise that is not the premise of my WIP!

I loved the worldbuilding in the Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy by Carrie Ryan, because it showed the separation of societies in a post apocalyptic world by distance and therefore culture. They even have different names for the zombies in each region, e.g. the Unconsecrated, Mudo and Plague Rats.
Read the rest of this entry

MIND MELD: How SFF Influences Your Life

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Books have been one of the greatest influences on my life. I say this not to downplay the lessons and values taught to be my family and friends, but instead to emphasize the importance of reading in my formative years. A lot of what I believe and how I act is driven by the characters I have encountered and the fictional worlds I have explored. Frequently I remind myself that “Fear is the mind-killer,” a message picked up from Frank Herbert’s Dune years ago – a lesson that has carried me through hard times. There are many more personal examples I could state but I’d rather hear from some of the very writers that inspire me.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How has SFF influenced your life? Does it make you a better person? What lessons from SFF do you carry with you?

Here’s what they said…

Tobias Buckell
Tobias S. Buckell was born in the Caribbean and lived on a yacht until he moved to the US. He writes science fiction. His latest novel, Arctic Rising, is out from Tor Books. He lives online at www.TobiasBuckell.com.

The greatest impact it had on me was instilling in me a love of science, questing for information, and a deep love of creative and wild imagination. My life-long walk on the path toward passing those gifts on to others now means I make a living continuing to live all that. So I would say it had quite an impact on my life.

As to if it makes me a better person, I would have no idea. I would hope that my family loved and learned from me whether or not I had SF in my life. In fact, I find a sort of cultish devotion to any mantras learned from just SF to be problematic. I flinch from ideological insistence, and just because I adored a book at an impressionable age… well, I’d hate for that define the rest of my life as a thinking creature.

The lessons involve various snippets of things I’ve picked up over a lifetime that I’ve found useful. I’d hate to highlight a particular phrase out of the stew that makes me a human, as I’ve always loved Bruce Lee’s admonition to “Take what is useful, leave what is not, add something uniquely your own.” I didn’t learn that in SF, but it’s how I’ve approached all text.

But I can’t be the only SF fan who has found himself repeating the Bene Gesserit litany against fear after smacking his hand with a hammer… right?

Read the rest of this entry

‘Ware the Grim Reader – Stories That Enter the Realm of Death!

Ah, Death. The cuddly, soul-reaping anthropomorphic personification of mortality that is ever humanity’s companion. Not sure what we did to get our collective selves handcuffed to his bony wrist, but we’re stuck with him…at least until we figure out a cure for aging, and then we’ll just have a whole new host of issues to deal with. Death certainly holds a prominent place in genre novels. With fantasy, you’ll encounter everything from styles of “death magic” to jaunts down to the Underworld to Death making appearances as a character him/herself. Science fiction often holds up Death as a specter to be conquered–with technology often applied to cheat or stall or cure that final fate. Horror novels? Well, no need to get too obvious.

Let’s stare the Reaper in the face and see how a handful of books portray life’s inevitable end.

Read the rest of this entry

MIND MELD: Holding out for a Hero

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

On SF Signal Mind Melds, we’ve discussed Anti-Heroes, Villains, and
Sidekicks. It’s been a while since we tackled straight up heroes.So, this week we asked about heroes:

What makes a hero (or heroine) a hero instead of merely a protagonist? Is the idea of a straight up hero old fashioned or out of date in this day and age?

This is what they had to say…

Emma Newman
Emma lives in Somerset, England and drinks far too much tea. She writes dark short stories, post-apocalyptic and urban fantasy novels and records audiobooks in all genres. Her debut short-story collection From Dark Places was published in 2011 and 20 Years Later, her debut post-apocalyptic novel for young adults, was released early 2012. The first book of Emma’s new Split Worlds urban fantasy series called Between Two Thorns will be published by Angry Robot Books in 2013. She is represented by Jennifer Udden at DMLA. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs. She blogs at www.enewman.co.uk, rarely gets enough sleep and refuses to eat mushrooms.

For me, a hero is someone who actively works to achieve a goal for the good of others when there is a risk of losing something, ranging from a peaceful existence to their own life. Perseverance is critical; a hero persists in their heroic endeavour far beyond the point where most people would give up. Most wouldn’t even try in the first place.

As for whether a hero is old-fashioned; no. The portrayal of heroes (i.e massively flawed as opposed to nothing more than bravery in a bap) changes to fit the needs and sophistication of the audience. However, the basic need to see someone being more than we are – but everything we could be – is eternal.

Read the rest of this entry