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Worldbuilding for Masochists

Fantasy & Science Fiction Podcasts

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.


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




Episode 52: Pot4ri

We close out our second year of the podcast with another listener Q&A episode! Thanks to all of our wonderful listeners who supplied us with themes to riff on, from military ranks to looms to particular tools of worldbuilding. Transcript for Episode 52 (Thank you, wonderful scribes!)


Episode 51: Gender, Equality, & Gender Equality ft. E.J. BEATON

Gender is a construct -- so how is it built in your fantasy world? There's hardly a better place to interrogate our assumptions about societies, from ideas about marriage and family to established power structures to fashion and fripperies. E. J. Beaton joins us for a wide-ranging discussion about how we can examine, investigate, challenge, and reimagine gender and gender relations in our worldbuilding. Our Guest: E. J. Beaton is the author of the fantasy novel The Councillor, to be...


Episode 50: Playing in Somebody Else's Sandbox, ft. DELILAH DAWSON, TINI HOWARD, DAVID MACK, and MIKE CHEN

For our fiftieth episode, we welcome an all-star panel of guests who write in major franchises! Delilah Dawson, Tini Howard, David Mack, and Mike Chen tell us what it's like to write for Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel comics, and other IP worlds, from having seventeen editors to bringing their own perspectives and values to established universes. Transcript for Episode 50 (with special kudos to our scribes for taking on the challenge of differentiating seven different voices!) Our...


Episode 49: An Immodest Proposal

Picture it: It's a sweltering summer day, ninety degrees in the shade, heat mirages glimmering on the horizon. Can your characters strip down to their skivvies? Roll up their sleeves? Hike up their skirts? Or might they be shamed for so much as unbuttoning their collar? What cultural factors of religion, economy, gender, and sexuality play into that decision? In this episode, we discuss conventions of modesty, nudity, bragging, virtue-signalling, and other details of culture that you can...


Episode 48: That Belongs in a Museum, ft. MARINA LOSTETTER

If your character finds an ancient mask half-buried in a field, is that just a cool remnant of an older culture, or are they about to unleash a demonic apocalypse? This week, Marina Lostetter joins us to talk about artefacts, archaeology, and the interpretation of material culture over time! Some of the ancient artefacts in your world might be plot-driving vessels of magic, wonder, or absolute chaos, but the everyday objects that get preserved and protected --or not! -- can communicate a...


Episode 47: The Timey-Wimey Episode

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? Well... Yeah! If you're building a world, the concept of the passage of time is likely to matter. How long is your year? How do you name the months and days? How small or large are your units of measuring time? And how can you convey all of that to a reader without making it feel like a freshman year language course? In this wibbly-wobbly episode, we discuss the ever-present yet often-arbitrary division and definition of...


Episode 46: Join in If You Know the Chorus, Ft. C. L. CLARK

From ballads to books to TikToks, how do the people in your world communicate their own stories and information? The consideration involves answering a lot of questions about literacy, technology, and your culture's values. C. L. Clark, author of The Unbroken, joins us to discuss the texts-within-texts and how to build them into your fantasy world! Our Guest: Cherae graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA and was a 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow. She’s been a personal trainer,...


Episode 45: Let’s Be Diplomatic

When you're trying to solve a problem with minimal stabbing, call in the diplomats! In this episode, we discuss the above-board negotiations of formal diplomats, the social maneuverings of informal national representatives, and the super-shady dealings of spies. How interconnected or isolationist are the nations of your world? How do tech and magic affect diplomatic relations or spycraft? We explore these questions and more! Transcript for Episode 45 (thank you, scribes!) Info on Hugo...


Episode 44: Old MacDonald Had a Dragon

If OldMacDonald has a dragon, how does he stable it? This episode explores domesticated animals in fantasy worldbuilding, from the useful cart-pullers to the companion animals who are purely there for scritchies. How does your world manage the animals who live alongside us? And what happens when those creatures can do things like breathe fire, open portals, or channel magical force? Transcript for Episode 44 (Thank you, scribes!)


Episode 43: Getting There is Half the Fun, ft. KATE ELLIOTT

Journeys are a staple element of fantasy plots -- but just how do people get around in your world? Kate Elliott, author of Unconquerable Sun, joins us to discuss the feet, hooves, wings, wheels, portals, and other forms of transportation that allow your characters to go a-questing! We also consider the implications that may arise for communication, trade, and social etiquette based on how you structure those transportation systems. Our Guest: As a child in rural Oregon, Kate Elliott made up...


Episode 42: Life, Worldbuilding, & Everything, ft. STINA LEICHT

So once you've done your worldbuilding, how exactly do you present it to the reader? Stina Leicht joins us to consider how much information to work in, when to do it, and other elements of the wordcraft of worldbuilding. Transcript for Episode 42 (Thank you, Scribes!)


Episode 41: Myths, Legends and Other Lies of History ft. Marie Brennan & Alyc Helms (M.A. Carrick)

We humans are "meaning-making" creatures -- So what stories do your characters tell about themselves, their world, and their culture? The writing team of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, who together make up M. A. Carrick, join us to talk about weaving the myths, legends, and folklore that can help your imagined world feel fully textured and lived-in! Transcript for Episode 41 (thank you, lovely scribes!)


Episode 40: The Sacred and the Profane, ft. K. B. WAGERS!

We get asked about fantasy cussing all the time -- but before you can explore profanity, you have to decide what a culture holds sacred. What objects, rituals, or social contracts are inviolable? What bodily functions are unseemly for public discourse? What lines are there between etiquette and sacralization? Author K. B. Wagers joins us to explore building concepts of the sacred and the profane into your imagined world! Transcript for Episode 40 (with thanks to our scribes! who had to do a...


Episode 39: Episode 39: Three-pourri

It's another viewer Q&A episode! Your hosts answer your queries on topics such as magic and disability, art styles that suit our stories, and the bits of worldbuilding we've poured our hearts and masochistic minds into but haven't managed to fit into our books yet. Plus, cooking with angel meat. Transcript for Episode 39 (with thanks to our amazing scribes!)


Episode 38: Writing the Dark Side ft. ANNA STEPHENS

Whether you're taking down an Evil Emperor or a whole Evil Empire, how do you build antagonists into your world? Anna Stephens, author of The Stone Knife, joins us to discuss the parameters of villainous behavior. Transcript for Episode 38, with thanks to our scribes!


Episode 37: Names Are Hard -- A Deep Dive into WFM's Shared World

In this episode, your hosts apply some of the considerations from the past several episodes to the world we're co-building! From "Griasta Man is at it again" to a community run by Virgos, we take you inside some specific "Choose; don't presume" moments. Transcript for Episode 37 (Thank you, scribes!)


Episode 36: Toil and Trouble

Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Well, that really depends on how your world conceives of witchcraft, doesn't it? In this episode, we discuss witches: what form their powers take, what sets them apart from other kinds of magic users, how do you know someone's a witch, and what to make of all those familiars hanging 'round the place. (Cass apologizes for some fading audio in this episode. She's getting a better mic, she promises). Transcript for Episode 36, with thanks to our amazing...


Episode 35: The Circle of Life

From youth to veneration, from cradle to grave, how does your fantasy world imagine the phases of life? In this episode, we think about the factors that influence a society's concept of aging: biological, economic, and cultural. What happens when your long-lived elves and your mayfly fairies live next door to each other? Are your adolescents adults-in-training or wild-and-free teenyboppers? And who would really want to take care of Baby Yoda for over a century of toddlerhood? (Transcript for...


Episode 34: The Reluctant Worldbuilder (ft. MIKE CHEN)

Your WfM hosts are authors naturally-inclined to overcomplicate their writing lives -- but what if your instincts run the opposite direction? "Science fiction with feelings" author Mike Chen joins us to discuss reverse-engineering worldbuilding from plot, maintaining consistency, using POV to communicate your world, and the most complex pizza ordering of all time. Transcript for Episode 34 (with thanks to the scribes!)


Episode 33: Disability and Inclusion ft. ELSA SJUNNESON

Fantasy literature hasn't always done well by people with disabilities. So how can we do better? Guest Elsa Sjunneson helps us think about possible ways to design a fantasy world with disabilities in mind: avoiding problematic tropes like magic cures, creating thaumaturgically-responsive buildings, and training service wyverns! We also explore the issues of community, economics, and technology that can inform how a society relates to disability. NB: Some of the original audio for this...