Worldbuilding: Passion and Lore

I’ll be upfront about it: I have a sucker button for fantasy biology.

I have a treasured copy of the 3.5 ed Draconomicon. I have various other monster sourcebooks, D&D and otherwise, and love to reread the sections on how monsters fit (or don’t) into the local ecology. Some books I haven’t held onto but have kept photocopies of various really-well-thought-out critters; Palladium’s psionic emirin is a particular favorite. (And probably part of where my bunnies get my cougar youkai from in MCO.) And when I poke around DeviantArt.com, I always look for different takes on classic beasties: chimera, seahorse, mermaid, and griffins to name a few. Bluejay griffins make everything better.

I love fantasy biology. Add an interesting bio aspect to a fandom, and my bunnies will be all over it. To name just a few – Ubel Blatt, Parasyte, Stargate, and now Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.

(Yes, I’ve only written fic for two of those… so far. No, I haven’t seen Kabaneri yet. I’ve seen vid clips, and the fan wiki, and I have notes. Including thoughts that the Kabane infection isn’t just one virus, but a sort of slime critter that comes with a host of infectious viruses that are symbiotic to it…. Meep.)

Having that love of a subject critical to the story is important. Because getting all the way through a story is hard, and if you’re not slightly obsessed with part of your idea… it’s that much harder.

But with a passion for your subject, you have something to lean on. Something you can dig into and convey to the reader. Something that you can research the real-life basis for when you get stuck, hopefully giving the bunnies both enough of a breather and enough new ideas to hare off toward the end of the story. Because unless you get very lucky, at some point we all get stuck, and need some outside info to break the deadlock.

Right now I need to go get some inconvenient quirks of biology into Seeds. Oh dear….

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19 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Passion and Lore

  1. >I’ll be upfront about it: I have a sucker button for fantasy biology.>
    I know the feeling. I have the habit with various forms of sci-fi tech. Though it often includes me poking holes in the vehicles/spaceships.

    Of course the thing with fantasy biology is that you can run into the REALLY weird critters where the only possible explanation is “A wizard did it and then they ate him.”

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Though if you want some magic biology fun, check out the Geneforge games series. The main faction is a society of magic users whose big thing is organic manipulation and creation via magic. They come up with some pretty crazy stuff for both infrastructure and combat.

        Though there is a nice ‘common-sense’ notion in-universe is that the law regarding any and all combat-creations (fireball spitting raptors, hulked up apemen, man-sized scorpions, acid-spitting armor plated worms etc) are to be 150% sterile. Because creations can go rogue, an no-one wants a self-sustaining population to occur in the wild.

        And when experimenting with new stuff, they subvert the stereotypical notion of the wizard working with dangerous things with no safety measures. These guys have containment protocols and backup plans that are a cross between the CDC and a maximum security prison. Because for them, an “oops” can result in anything from airborne ebola to a zombie plague or a giant rage monster trying to kill everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. >Eeeeep…..>
        Well when the possibility of the magic-spawned equivalent of ‘Project Tatterdemalion’ is greater then zero percent, excessive paranoia starts looking a lot more like reasonable levels of caution.

        For example the in-universe explanation for giant rats (you know, size of large dogs, rapid breeders, highly hostile to people etc), was because one wizard got his mitts on some minor Shaper secrets and messed up.

        There are reasons why they actively hunt down people that try to steal their knowledge.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You have read Peter Dickson’s (it might be Dickinson..it’s downstairs and I’m not) classic Flight of Dragons? Wherein he takes all that legend says about dragons and tries to make it work for Earth?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *Twitch* Reading the wiki about that is horrible. About as bad as the book that tried explaining dragons as methane-filled balloons… I like my fantasy and SF to be self-consistent, and I like trying to figure out real-world explanations for it, but the most popular “a scientist tries to explain it rationally” books always seem to be the most horribly flawed. (whether simple problems like only looking at one factor at a time, as with the methane-balloon dragons. “ok, so methane is lighter than air. It’s not enough lighter, tho, to lift the dragon without the dragon being literally a balloon, with skin so thin it pops under the stress of movement, and no weight-allowance left over for any sort of internal organs”, to simply getting stuff blatantly wrong and pretending it’s not wrong, to the type where what they’re explaining is “in name only”, because they’ve got their own pet monster/whatever that they want to give a common name to despite it being completely unlike what everyone else uses that name for)

      And this is ignoring the linguistic and definitional silliness. The Scientific Method is a _method_ of studying reality (with its own limitations and advantages), not a “thing” in itself. Anything that has consistently repeatable results can, by definition, have the Scientific Method applied to examining it. Including all “magic” that is more than “stuff randomly happens with no rhyme or reason”. So any attempt to “rationally” explain stuff that includes “science/logic is mutually incompatible with magic” is horribly wrong in its basic definitions, and unlikely to be any better in its actual application.

      (Sorry for ranting, but this one’s one of my pet peeves)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the things I’ve noticed is that the people who actually try to study biology are usually the people who come up with the most realistic “fake” biology. Actually, that goes for any science (sci-fi writers in particular). And you’ve got pretty well thought out “fake” biology most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. James White, of “Hospital Station”, said once that he tested all his ideas for aliens on a biologist friend. Basically; “I have this neat idea for an injured unknown alien – is this plausible?”
    “Psh! That’s not even a little odd. Let me tell you about…..”

    Apparently that is why one of his aliens managed to reach escape orbit on a dead bird powered by bombardier beetles.

    Flavia (bv97045)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Honestly, my favorite “explain dragons with science” book is History of Dragons and it’s sequels, which are more a natural history sort of book, written as an actual Victorian travelogue. Which is far more interesting then it sounds, I promise. Also, get the hardbacks to read if you can, the drawings are awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, she is rather hard to connect with for the first half, it’s specifically set up in a rather archaic style. Then again, I think it suffers from first book syndrome, I liked the second half enough when it finally got to the action. Then again, I had to suffer through much more annoying characters in my school reading.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Trey the Explainer had a segment on dragons heavily influenced by Yi qi and a species of gliding snake. Basically, Yi qi was a real life cockatrice in his view, a wyvern would be a big Yi qi with more avian scales, a hexapodal dragon would require genetic engineering, and the Asian dragons are big gliding snakes.

    For those of you who aren’t into dinosaurs, Yi qi had the Internet saying that dragons were real.

    Liked by 1 person

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