Worldbuilding: The Draw of Reality

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….


11 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: The Draw of Reality

  1. I’m learning more about plotting.

    Brainstormed follow ups to the outline introduction yesterday. Realized that I’d escalated the scale of the violence too fast, and needed some additional stages.

    Found out that one of my characters owned a bookstore in one continuity, which lets me use a criminal investigation from the introduction, add more character conflict, and tie in some needed things.

    The setting is post mid twenty first century world war, and I do not see the UN surviving what I assume. I need a UN cognate because of some of the source material. So like WWI produced the League of Nations, and WWII produced the United Nations, this world war produces yet another such organization. It is headquartered out of South America, and its army has imperial holdings in West Africa. (I also needed some places that are a horrible mess, even with peace between the major powers. Thankfully, I have a rich vein to mine.)

    And thank you to Insert Wity Name Here for that wonderful addition to stuff I had already planned.

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  2. A touch of reality can be just the thing . . . even when you don’t notice it’s there at first because you don’t see it until you stop and think about the situation, characters, culture, etc you’ve been presented with a bit more.

    Haven’t seen or read any of those examples. I know why I haven’t watched either Parasyte or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. If Parasyte is the show I think I’ve seen clips of running around in other things . . . no. Those clips already exceeded my tolerance for gore. Since Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress has zombies, it probably will too.

    Not saying they are bad shows just that for by and large, horror is not my genre. Some people like the artificial fear induced by horror films, television, novels and/or roller coasters or they find it cathartic – I don’t.

    Mostly because a lot of horror makes me feel like I’m having another panic / anxiety attack (which is no fun at all) and makes my sleep cycle even more wacky than it normally is (like many people with anxiety disorders I have frequent bouts of insomnia). Or nightmares (which again, anxious brain is more than capable of producing without help).

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    1. I don’t think I would ever be able to watch Parasyte animated, but in black-and-white manga, the gore is… less present?… visually speaking.
      And the story is quite good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have problems with face recognition that I think makes it so Parasyte doesn’t bother me the way it does most people. Bluntly put – I tend to have trouble seeing a face as a coherent whole on a normal basis.

        It’s not as bad now as it used to be, but the main eep factor in Parasyte… just doesn’t eep me.


  3. Huh, I wasn’t going to bring this up, but one of my favorite light novel series is the Vampire Hunter D series. Which has an *amazing* amount of worldbuilding going on as it continues. Admittedly, horrifying for a lot of it(though some scenes of amazing beauty, and it usually ends with a very humanistic note) But part of it is that he puts a lot of digressions in about how things work, usually a fair bit before they come up, or to explain something that wouldn’t be completely obvious to the reader, but still makes sense for the world as such.

    But gah, until you get to that end, it can get really dark, though not usually gruesome.

    *ponders* Then again, I tend to like further out sci-fi, the Vorkosigan universe is really good at building at “one change.” for a few books of social science and how it changes culture, but I know some people find the humor offputting.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think that’s one of the reasons I love A Civil Campaign and Captain Vorpatil’s Alliance, is it is very apparent that seeing things through Miles’ eyes really distorted how you view the other characters. Because when you look back, it’s clear Ivan isn’t dumb, he actually knows what’s going on and doesn’t want to cause his family more grief.

        …also, I give major points for having the scene with his mother, him and his wife burning offerings. So much said in one short scene, it’s one reason I like her writing. Even if the romance novels don’t appeal to me.

        Liked by 2 people

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