Phoenix Comicon 14: Notes on building a better fictional world
Phoenix Comicon 14 went off like an atom bomb. It’s been three days since the last panel, and I’m still exhausted, waking up every morning with a face full of dried drool. Bad luck and my own personal brand of dingbattery dogged me throughout the weekend (culminating in a flat tire on Sunday night) so I only managed to sit through two panels in entirety: The Secret Lives of Debut Authors and Writing Rogues. I caught parts of three other panels: Worldbuilding Economics, The Really Epic Epic Fantasy Panel and The Military in Speculative Fiction. Sometimes I had the baby with me as well (she is an unusually silent child), so my notes are fragmented, paraphrased and there are virtually NO attributions, which does suck (why were there no nameplates, Comicon?). But here are some tidbits.
From Worldbuilding Economics (L.E. Modesitt Jr., Jason Hough, Scott Lynch, Pierce Brown):
Currency starts with barter. Which doesn’t work well, so you move to metal which has intrinsic value. Any society at the medieval level or greater uses metal or metallic equivalent. Then in a high tech society, you don’t need a link between money and intrinsic value and what the currency represents; aka fiat currency.
Value fluctuates wildly based on inflationary measures such as war and plague.
Another good way to figure out the baseline of inflation: what does a glass of ale cost at the inn? Because everyone goes there.
As far as how magic may effect economics: Remember to invoke the law of consequence. Magic is only a problem if it comes from nothing, violating the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
Magic does need to have personal and social controls. You would need to chose who you taught such power to extremely carefully or be killed by some overly sensitive or ambitious pupil. Talent itself is not enough.
When do you start building the economy when world building? Right away. Because where your cities are located is determined by economy. They will need to be located on major trade routes, which means rivers and oceans. In all of history there have only been two successful desert cities: Petra, which was a hub of intersecting trade routes AND had sophisticated irrigation, and Las Vegas, which has the Hoover Dam.
From The Military in Speculative Fiction (Myke Cole, John Scalzi, Daniel Abraham, Ty Frank, Weston Ochse):
If you want to write military and you are not in the military and are afraid of making protocol mistakes, read the Drill and Ceremony Manual for whatever branch of the forces you are interested in. Or go down to your local VFW or Legion and buy the guys a round and ask. Or hit the library.
On understanding the soldier’s mindset: A soldier doesn’t necessarily fight for his country. A soldier doesn’t necessarily fight for profit. All soldiers fight for the guy next to them.
Also, anyone who’s been in the military (and also first responders) have a little PTSD. PTSD makes you a different person. If you want a better, non-Hollywood understanding of PTSD, read Myke Cole’s essay What PTSD is (I did this, and highly recommend it).
… I’m out of time and space, but if I can, I’ll do a follow up later on the last panel I have notes for, Writing Rogues.