I freely admit to being drawn to certain types of worldbuilding in the fiction I read. Sucker Buttons, you might call them. One of my main ones is settings where the worldbuilding plausibly, consistently, references historical and natural reality.
Which can, yes, include some Deliberate Values Dissonance. Take, for example, the bit in Lord Marksman and Vanadis where Tigre offers Alsace to his captor Elen if she’ll save it from invaders and rule it like she does her own lands. At first I blinked. Offering loyalty to someone who’s an active enemy of your kingdom’s king? But in the setting, based on a variant of old medieval Europe, that wasn’t unusual. There were all sorts of patchwork alliances, whose hands held whose could be tricky to figure out, and just because you were the king didn’t mean the knights just down the road weren’t your mortal enemy.
(And the king didn’t have enough control over his own nobles to keep them from trying to pillage and burn Alsace. Which was one of the things that did happen in history – and did, historically, send lords of lesser power like Tigre scrambling for alliances wherever they could find them.)
On the biological side, Parasyte is an interesting take on how a sort of alien invasion might go down. It addresses symbiosis, parasites in the wrong hosts, and how much of behavior is nature versus nurture. Or as one of my fellow writers put it, one of the scariest things about the Parasytes is that they’re predatory infants. Watching some of them learn to cope, or not, with human society is one of the more intriguing parts of she show.
When it comes to novels, P.M. Griffin’s Star Commandoes does reality proud. Yes, they’re space fantasy, with renewers and massive starfleets and animal empathy. They’re also based on natural threats, everything from army ants to underground caverns being deathtraps to an erupting pyroclastic volcano. Mother Nature doesn’t need to be on Earth to kill you!
Even Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress fits here. Yes, the series looks like it runs on Rule of Cool. But if you take the Kabane as “what if this monster were real”, the anime is a fairly realistic approach to, what would a just-industrialized AU equivalent to late Tokugawa-era Japan look like after dealing with twenty years of nigh-unkillable zombies?
(Hint: Not pretty. And the harsh realities of quarantine would make a stratified society even worse. The Koutetsujou is actually populated by very open-minded people, given their home culture. Yes, even Kurusu. Maybe even especially Kurusu. He’s willing to reevaluate what he thinks he knows in the face of evidence, if enough of it hits him on the head. This is not a usual samurai trait.)
So, basically, this ties into one of my previous posts: Make everything up, your story may be hit or miss. Ground a setting in reality, and it breathes.
…Sometimes it also slavers, gibbers, and howls. Or goes thirsting for your blood. ‘Scuse me, I need to go catch a Hayajiro out of here now….