The Zen of World Building part II

Part 2 of our world building adventure will center around attention to detail. In the previous post we covered a broad spectrum of characteristics, but now let’s focus on some nit picky things. This won’t be long, but will definitely give you something to think about.

 

Characters

Some author’s worlds are completely reliant on their characters. If you haven’t read “The Steam Dancer (1896)” by  Caitlin R. Kiernan, it’s a great example of this. It’s steampunk, but you wouldn’t know that without the characters. They drive the story into that subgenre. The dancer has a steam powered leg, and her husband is a mechanic. No, it isn’t as romantic as it sounds.

Anyway, characters can sometimes drive your world. Think of Dragon Ball Z. If the Z fighters don’t have super powers, it’s just another kung fu manga/anime. The characters drive it to another level.

Setting

Mountains or Urban? Desert or Utopia?

A lot of world building depends on the setting. And just like i said last time, you have to take into effect the scope of your work. Is there a single setting? Are there multiple settings? Are there multiple planets? Universes?

Whatever the scope or setting is, it can make or break your world. A foreign planet without weird creatures, climates, and plant life is not going to be foreign to anyone. It could easily be Earth in the far future well past humans…

GASP…another setting…

Technology

Much of science fiction involves advanced technology. Much of it does not.

This is vastly important for world building. In a post apocalyptic future, is there still tech, or is a 12 gauge the top of the line weapon? Do the bad guys have some super weapon that trumps your hero’s EMP device?

Are we in the Matrix?

All of these are important questions when building a world.

 

Practice

What I am about to tell you may reveal my nerdiness in ways you would never possibly imagine.

Oh well.

Go find a group of people to play a tabletop RPG with, and be the Game Manager.

This will allow you to create a world, build a story, and have fun during the process. You will have to integrate your party’s characters, baddies, weapons, and all sorts of cool stuff. There are plenty of games out there, and not all of them are fantasy. Fantasy is fun, but there are other options. Go play a game!

 

I hope these posts are helping with our world building. Let me know if there is anything you want more fleshed out!

 

The Top 5 Reasons Steampunk is Awesome

abe-lincoln-steampunk

I know what you’re thinking.

I don’t need 5 reasons to know Steampunk is awesome.

And I agree. If nothing else, the name drips excellence.

Or you’re thinking:

What the heck is Steampunk? Is that some kinda band?

I’ve been delving into the wonderful world of Steampunk lately, taking a stab at writing a story in the genre. I’m really enjoying it, and I hope that other people like my story when I’m done with it. I’m right around 8000 words right now with little to no signs of slowing down. Hopefully I’ll get to 10k or even 15k and have a novelette or novella on my hands. It’s a fun ride to be on.

But Steampunk is a genre with roots that go way back. I mean waaaaaaay back. But here is my top 5 list of Steampunk that influenced me.

5. The Big O

The Big O was one of my favorite anime shows when I was in Junior High and High School. It’s set in the near future where something has erased everyone’s memories and Roger has to negotiate deals.

Yeah it’s kinda weird.

But in a good way. To quote my friend Grant Barnes, “It’s Batman with a Giant Robot.”

It’s more noir than straight up Steampunk, but it still has steam powered robots and cool gadgets. The series  goes more to the Cyberpunk side of things towards the end of the series, but I like that too. It’s just a lot of fun and worth a watch.

4. The Mammoth Book of Steampunk

I bought this several months ago and it is still filling parts of my day with interesting reads. It has a 3.5 out of 5 rating at Goodreads and Amazon, and that’s fair. It’s an interesting read that’s deeply entrenched in the genre, so non-steampunk fanpeoples probably won’t enjoy it as much as the true nerds. (Such as myself.)

3. Howl’s Moving Castle

Another wonderful anime set in a fantastical steam powered world. A gripping story with stunning visuals, it is a must see for steam fans and normal people alike. It’s an emotional roller coaster with everything you expect from Hiyao Miyazaki. You should probably go watch it right now.

2. Metropolis

A wonderful romp through a retro futuristic steam powered world. There’s robots, bird guys, and lots of other strange things to keep your interest piqued.

1. Final Fantasy IX

My absolute favorite Final Fantasy (and Steampunk thing in general). There are airships, steam powered monsters, and an entire city made of clock gears! What else could a steampunk want? Go dig out your Playstation or find a rom online. Great game.

Well there you have it, my top 5 Steampunk things. I hope that you will go check them out and become a fan of the genre. (if you aren’t already!)

And now I will leave you with a 500 word excerpt from the story I’m working on!

It’s unedited so be gentle.

Free writing! Enjoy!

“If I may sir, I don’t think doubling shifts will do us any good.”

Pennyworth jumped from his seat and leaned over the table towards Higgins.

“What did you say?”

Higgins shifted in his seat and then began his ploy.

“Well you see sir, the reason earnings are down is because we are losing workers by the day. They are working their hearts out to bring in the Glow, but some of them are so deep that their bodies can’t handle the stress and they tucker out. Forty two men were lost this past month alone! Forty two!”

Pennytop sank back into his high backed chair and pulled out his watch again. He rubbed it on his nose, then scratched his hair with it, and finally put it in his mouth and began tasting its golden shell.

“How do you propose we fix this problem Higgins?”

“Well sir, I,”

“And fix it cheaply…

Higgins cocked his head to the side as he produced the drawings he had been working on for the past month. Pennytop leaned over to look at them, then he looked at Higgins with an expression of bewilderment.

“What in the devil is this? It looks to be… a … mechanical…man…”

Higgins smiled through his bushy grey beard.

“Precisely sir. We build a few of these to take on some of the mining load, and we keep our workers while production and profit soar!”

Higgins had raised his arms as if to imitate an eagle, but Pennytop took no notice. The mechanical man had piqued his interest. He began calculating the cost in his head, noting every detail Higgins had written on the yellowed paper. The startup would be steep, per usual, but the returns would be far greater. The dollar signs had begun creeping through his corneas and into his pupils.

“Do it Higgins. I will spare no expense on this project. Get whoever you need.”

Higgins spent the next two days on a steam train to the city of Crucible. The university there would surely provide all of his needs. He arrived late, checked into his room at the boarding house, then hit the first tavern he saw.

It was full of miscreants; some playing cards, others trying to play with the ladies. He seated himself at the bar and raised his hand for a glass. The barkeep walked slowly; he appeared to be favoring one leg over the other. As he approached Higgin’s seat, steam could be seen rising from a hole in his trousers.

“What’s your poison stranger?”

“I’ll have a sarsaparilla ale if you have one.”

“I do.”

The bartender reached underneath his counter and pulled out a chilled mug. Higgins was intrigued by this, and continued the conversation.

“Well that’s nifty. Cold from right under the counter eh?”

The barkeep smirked and snorted.

“University town. Those youngsters come up with all kinds of stuff and want to sell it. Fairly cheap too. This system only cost me two gold and five silver.”

Higgins eyes’ lit up with the low cost.

“And where can I find some of these budding engineers?”

The bartender pointed to a table in the back corner where three young men were seated with a young woman.

“Them right there. They sold it to me cheap, then turned around and bought ale from me for a year straight now. I guess that means they actually paid me for their own product. But my leg here was a might more expensive.”

He slapped the side of his trousers then pulled up his apron to reveal a mechanical leg. Higgins slapped a silver on the counter and headed for the corner table. The barkeep picked up the coin and waved to the youngsters. They nodded in thanks and called for another round as Higgins approached the table.

“Hello young gentlemen, and lady. My name is Wade Higgins, and I represent Mr. Pennytop and the miners from the town of Silver. If you’re interested, I have a task for you. One that promises to be most fulfilling for your careers and your pocketbooks.”

Hey you PUNKS! Subgenres in Sci Fi

Calling all you punks out there!
So, if you haven’t delved into the world of punk sub-genres, you’re definitely missing out. I recently finished a Cyberpunk short story that will be published in an anthology coming next month, and it was really fun.
Like all of my writing it’s probably lame, but it was still fun.
So let’s talk about some punk sub-genres.

1. Cyberpunk

According to Wikipedia, the foremost scholarly site on any subject (yeah right), “Cyberpunk is a postmodern and science fiction genre noted for its focus on “high tech and low life.”

Basically the internet rules everything and no one is really happy.

Wow. I just realized what that means. We all live in a Cyberpunk novel. Anyway.

It usually centers around characters who have to deal with the most ridiculously sad situations, and stand up to large corporations or government entities that want to control every aspect of society. There’s lots of cool technology, and the imagination can run wild.

Reference works: ‘Neuromancer’ by William Gibson, ‘Blade Runner’ the movie, which was adapted from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and the anime series ‘Ghost in the Shell

2. Steampunk

Back to our source for everything, Steampunk ‘involves a setting where steam power is widely used—whether in an alternative history such as Victorian era Britain or “Wild West“-era United States, or in a post-apocalyptic time —that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy.’

It’s pretty cool stuff. I recently got some positive feedback on Facebook and Twitter, so I will be writing some stories in this genre. I think I like it so much because of the many machines. In Cyberpunk everything is cybernetic and runs on information, in steampunk, everything seems like it took a little more engineering because it runs on steam and fire. Lots of gears and clockwork, lots of trains, and oh yeah lots of airships.

That’s right, a staple of this genre are ships that run on steam, and they float in the sky instead of the ocean. Love it.

Reference works: ‘The Wild Wild West’ film featuring Will Smith and Kevin Kline (save your bad comedy comments, I’m just giving stylistic examples), ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ graphic novels and film, ‘Final Fantasy VI and IX’ are also good examles (video game)

Side note: This sub-genre also spawned several sub-sub-genres (?) including dieselpunk and clockpunk.

I know it’s weird, but trust me you’ll like it. And those of you who already do like it will agree with me I’m sure.

3. Mystery Science Fiction

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

I wrote a short story recently, and tried to make it a murder/mystery set in a Cyberpunk world. The problem was that I ran out of room! I was shooting for 5000 words, and i went over by about six or so, but instead of a ‘mystery’ it was more of a ‘noir/detective’ thing. Don’t get me wrong, it was still great to write. But Mysteries require lots of words, so shoot for a novel.

Reference Works: ‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov and the movie adaptation with…Will Smith…, he must really like punk sub-genres cause Robotis pretty Cyberpunk too, and my friend Nick Thacker has written a novel entitled ‘The Golden Crystal’. It’s a mystery/thriller and incorporates elements of Sci Fi as well. I got to beta read it and I loved it.

So who’s up for writing some sub-genre stuff? I’ve been at it, and I want to do more. Let me know what you’re working on, and I will definitely keep you posted on my stuff.