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Worldbuilding for Masochists

Fantasy & Science Fiction Podc

A podcast by three fantasy authors who love to overcomplicate their writing lives and want to help you do the same.

A podcast by three fantasy authors who love to overcomplicate their writing lives and want to help you do the same.


United States


A podcast by three fantasy authors who love to overcomplicate their writing lives and want to help you do the same.




Episode 82: From One-Note Worlds to Complete Space Operas, ft. Valerie Valdes

What happens when you have to build not just one world, but a whole passel of them? In this episode, guest Valerie Valdes joins us to talk about how an author can craft compelling adventures in spaaaaaaaaaaace. The vastness and potential diversity of space makes for an appealing sandbox for writers to play in. In a genre that often depends on the element of handwavium to make its interplanetary travel, interstellar stations, and laser swords possible, how can you still build cultures and...


Episode 81: That’s Just Good Policy feat. VICTOR MANIBO

DUN-DUN. Law & Order. What does it mean in your world? Who makes the laws, and by what power do they do so? How easy or difficult is it to change the rules? Guest Victor Manibo, author and real-life lawyer, joins us to discuss how different structures of formal and informal policy could affect the choices your characters make. So much of law comes down to "who is allowed to do what." But where's the line between a law and a policy? Where does power reside -- and how did it get there? All of...


Episode 80: Festivus for the Rest Of Us

We've talked about big holidays and religious observations before, but what about the small, weird, highly-location-specific festivals and traditions that might dot the landscape of your world? From cheese-rollings to local saints' days to parades to "hey, all our squash came ripe at once, guess we better do something with it!", how do the people in your world make their lives a little more interesting with periodic celebrations? We also invent some tiny, specific festival occurrences for...


Episode 79: Building Past the Horizon

We kick off our fourth year of the podcast with a conversation about how to fill in the rest of your world, beyond the immediate scope of your plot. What's outside the borders your characters are familiar with? What's beyond the woods we know? Is it "here there be dragons" or a highly-detailed map with every corner marked? Your methods of showing that may vary depending on if your characters are isolated village folk, citizens of a bustling port town, or merchants moving through many...


Episode 78: Reimagining Relationships w/ FOZ MEADOWS

Your characters and the relationships they have -- romantic, sexual, friendly, familial, professional -- will drive much of what readers connect to in your stories. So what sort of relationship dynamics do you want to build into your world's cultures? Foz Meadows joins us to discuss all the things that make up the space between two or more hearts. From power structures and politics to financial inheritance and gender roles, there's a lot to consider. What kinds of relationships are possible...


Episode 77: Pull a Thread, Build A World w/ KRITIKA H. RAO

When it comes to worldbuilding, what's the difference between going deep and going wide? Kritika H. Rao joins us to discuss finding the balance between the things that are tentpoles of your world and things that can be window dressing. How do you choose what to focus on? How many worldbuilding innovations might be too many innovations? In this episode, we discuss different processes of worldbuilding and how an author's choices might cause revelations or problems down the line. Transcript...


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...


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 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?...


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...


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...


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,...


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...


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...


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: purchase a qualifying ChiCon 8 membershipChiCon 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!)


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!


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...


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...


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...


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...