Links on Worldbuilding and patchworks


-Requires Hate on “The Disease of Geek Pride: world-building and cultural appropriation”. Warning: like most of RH’s articles, it’s full of performance rage, but she does raise a lot of good points on how worldbuilding for worldbuilding’s sake can turn into a raging disrespectful mess.
-Tricia Sullivan on “Some Thoughts on SFF and Reality Checks”. A post that tackles some of the same issues as RH’s, in a more moderate tone. As Tricia says: what if authors, through shiny worldbuilding, erase someone else’s reality? What if the Vietnam War becomes replaced by a stream of good American soldiers fighting the evil communists? (or the reverse. Not really saying one is better than the other)
-On the same subject, Marie Brennan has a series of posts on Information Density and whether it is possible to educate the reader away from what they know while keeping a narrative going at full clip: here and here

I guess that, for me, it all boils down to: worldbuilding doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You have obligations not only to produce something cool and shiny to keep your reader entertained–but since your narration will affect other people who read it and shape their idea of the world/the history, you also have an obligation not to distort what you take from, as much as is humanely possible (and “not distorting” can get tricky).

Current mood: thoughtful.


  1. I like the description of RH’s blogging style as “performance rage”.

    The worldbuilding that makes me cringe is when you have, say, a dozen Europen-like cultures, and then you have one culture that represents “Africa” and another that does “Asia”. Of course, it makes me cringe because that’s how I started out (with D&D worldbuilding in my much, much younger days – before you were born!). Over time, I’ve learned, and I’ve started to look at the complexity of cultural interactions, and the ebbs and flows of cultural groups vs national identities (and, indeed, instances where “national identity” isn’t a concept – e.g. the peoples of North America pre-1500), and where my fantasy fiction wanders into such territory I do at least try and address some of those issues, even if they are peripheral to the main plot.

  2. Thanks for the concept of performance rage. I begin to suspect that I’ve wasted a good bit of time taking other people’s anger too seriously.

  3. @Brian: it’s an apt description :) And ah, yes, the country that does “Asia” and mixes all cultures together with no notion of what belongs where. Never fails to make me reach for the flamethrower…
    Have to admit I never did D&D (and came late to roleplaying games), so rather surprised to find that kind of things in genre. I think I was spoiled when I started my genre reading with Ursula Le Guin :(

    @Nancy: er, just to be clear, by “performance rage”, I mean that RH doesn’t actually intend to send minions to decapitate all white men, or to carry out the death threats she’s made to various writers. But I’m pretty sure she’s genuinely furious at the cultural appropriation and misogyny that is unfortunately rife in genre; and that posts like the one I pointed out stem from genuine anger rather than a simple desire to rile people up. Not sure if I’m being clear? (or maybe I misunderstood what you were saying, in which case do ignore!)

Sorry. Comments are closed on this entry.