Wednesday, May 11, 2011

EerieCon 13 Panel (World Building)

Following up on some more notes I took during EerieCon 13 in Niagara Falls, New York a couple of weekends ago, I thought I'd share a little bit about World Building from the discussion which took place on the Sunday afternoon.

How do you go about it? Where do you start? Do you have a formula? What works and what doesn't? Panelists: Anne Bishop, Lois Gresh, Alex Pantaleev, Larry Niven. Moderator: Mark Leslie.

World Building Panel at EerieCon 13 - Photo by Bill Hilliker

I was delighted to be the moderator on this panel because it was a great cross-section of various different types of world building. And getting to ask really smart and talented people questions is, simply, wonderfully entertaining for me.

This panel had a lovely cross-section of talent from across the genres/spectrum on it. From Larry Niven and the hard science POV, to Anne Bishop, who writes mostly in the realm of dark fantasy. Lois Gresh writes both hard science fiction and dark fantasy as well as a wonderful mix of everywhere in between. And as an interesting addition, the panel had Dr. Alex Pantaleev, who builds worlds and teaches world building to game designers.

The discussion was fruitful and lively, and I loved the comparison between creating worlds for fictional characters to move through in a story or novel and creating a world for gamers to move through independent of the creators. (IE, the concept of non-interactive VS interactive worlds)

I had been curious about different types of indexes or maps and how each writer organized their research, but was fascinated to learn some interesting details such as a good white board was sometimes all that was needed to keep things straight (as were hand-drawn maps). Also, Lois and Larry seemed to take delight in the research itself, enjoying getting into the hard science whenever possible, and it was interesting to learn how Niven's The Ringworld Engineers (1980) was inspired by various engineering problems his fans had written to him about from his original Ringworld novel in 1970.

And I find it interesting that I was privileged to get to interview these four great minds about world-building at EerieCon, because it had been the previous year when I'd conducted a podcast interview with Robert J. Sawyer to talk about the very same topic (although, as often happens, I slide a little off course every once in a while, all in the name of fun and interesting conversation, of course).

You can listen to that interview here:  The Writing Show Podcast interview with Robert J. Sawyer.

Not bad, (if I'm allowed to brag for a moment), for a guy who hasn't really built any worlds in his fiction, but rather, casts dark shadows across the world we know through his writing.

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