On the Sins of a World Builder or ‘Why do those Bunnies have Chain-Guns?”

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Over on iO9 there is an interesting little post by Charlie Jane Anders entitled  “7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding”

In short the ‘Sins’ cover a variety of mistakes a Creator can make when framing out the World of their narrative.  They cover things from 1) Not thinking about basic infrastructure (plumbing, food, waste management, etc.) to 7) Introducing some superpower, like magic or insane tech, without fully accounting for how it would change society.  

8-ciudades-futuristas-fotos-imagens-futuro-city-ciudadesIt’s an interesting read especially for someone who has engaged in this practice from when I was a little 7th grader handwriting a Sci-Fi
Epic on looseleaf.  I completely agree that world building is essential in Fiction and especially Fantasy and Science Fiction, and these 7 sins certainly address the authenticity of the world.  The world that the characters inhabit and that the plot effects has to feel sensible, even if it it is populated by Dragons, Zombies, and Mutant Bunnies wielding chain-guns.  If it fails the reader’s sniff test, then it risks breaking their suspension of disbelief. It becomes an Easter Egg hunt for what else did the author not think off when they created this world, and the story suffers for its delivery to the reader.

However, to this humble writer’s sensibilities, the worst sin when world building is when the creator has done an excellent job avoiding most, if not all of these sins, but they bring all of that detail into the foreground.  I think the best built, best imagined worlds fall easily into the background and inform the reader of the world around them when want to look about. That is not easy to do because you somehow have to explain how the bunnies became mutated, where did they get their chain-guns from and why they took up the chain-guns in the first place.  Maybe every mutated bunny does not want to use their chain gun.  Maybe they want a rocket launcher. Maybe some of them aren’t feeling the chain gunning as much as the rest of the Bunnies.

Stopping the narrative to have two of Bunnies argue the merits of the Chain-gun over the rocket launcher and who made them and why, often just won’t work.  Why?  Because the Mutated Bunnies know all this.  It’s what is known to them and therefore they don’t stop to explain this to one another while the reader listens in.  Have you ever stood on a subway platform and have the person next to you explain what the subway is, why it exists and why you’re all standing there? Ever have someone come out of the bathroom and explain exactly what they just did in there and what happened when they flushed? (well some of you may have if you know ‘that dude’) The reason is because we all know this information so there’s no reason to discuss it. In fact, in some cases social morays actually prohibit you from pointing out or explaining something that is “inappropriate”. We may refer to it, and an alien listener, i.e. reader, might infer from those references what it going on while these two people stand around impatiently ignoring the large mass of people about them and staring down a large tube into the darkness while standing on a yellow line that several signs about them expressly prohibit them from standing on.

The same holds true for the Bunnies. Perhaps Rocket Launcher’s are frowned upon because in 2147 the Exgenys Corporation stole patents and intellectual property from the Inxel Corporation regarding animal super soldiers and various weapons platforms for support of said super soldiers.  The impending court battle led to a separation of the patents whereby the Chaingun patent and Super Soldier serum for Bunnies was awarded to Exgenys.  Not satisfied with the ruling of the courts, Exgenys went on to breed said super soldier bunnies, armed them with chain-guns built for their little but capable paws and unleashed them on Inxel Corporation.  Inxel fought back with poorly remade Super Soldier Squirrel Monkeys armed with Rocket Launchers.  In the end Exgenys and its Bunnies won out, but the body counts of the bunnies was very high at the hands of the rocket flinging Monkeys.
Thus happened the first open corporate military action in what later turned out to be a long series of skirmishes that devastated vast parts of the world and that was referred to as the “Great Corporate War”. That was later relabeled as the GCW I when, after fifty years of peace, a second rash of battles erupted over terra-forming rights for Mars where Mutated Crabs were hard at work and wanted to unionize became GCW II.

See? It’s all very interesting, but unless part of the narrative happens in a history class for the mutated bunnies all these little nuggets don’t come up naturally.  Even then it might be showing the hand of the Author in that the narrative going into the history class only exists to deliver all of these facts to the reader in a nice little package.

Taken From Dizorb.com

For me the best world building is done outside of the narrative. The little details and facts just drop into place as the story unfolds and the characters, or narrator, fill in the spaces as it makes sense. Often through references that don’t give the reader the whole background and genealogical history of the place or person.

I started Contact with two characters, Mason and C’er, leaving the employment of a Caravan Master and setting out on foot to make ‘Contact’ with someone.  They are in the Salts and the Caravan was coming from the Irons and was headed to Metro.  There are “Strongs” under the employ of the Caravan Master who appear to be armed and dangerous men.  These details all come out through the dialogue and interaction of the characters.  I’m guilty of some narrative explanation but I’ll take that because it is an opening scene and I have to make some of the details easy on the reader at the start.  Even still, there is a lot that can be inferred from these details, but each reader will pick up on different aspects.  Some of these details even open up more questions that are threads back to other stories.  Ones that fill in the background of the world, even while they are not part of this particular story.
So what Stories have the best imagined worlds?  Which ones felt the most authentic?  Which ones felt overdone or fake?  Did I do a terrible job in my work with the worlds of After and Before. (I’m a big boy, I can take it)
Speak up in the comments.
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