The notion of setting, mythos or world building is something that’s rattling around in my head this morning. Which coincided with Swordsman Jason’s announcement that his Role-Play Book, Catalyst, has been completed and is on its way to get printed bound etc.
So big congratulations to Swordsman Jason. I’m using the PDF copy for as a test of the Nokia’s ebook capabilites.
Having seen the iPhone’s beautiful handling of PDF documents, the Nokia is sadly lacking.
Jason gave himself a budget of roughly a couple of hundred dollars to spend on art, printing/binding and an ISBN number. It actually will be a real book. There will be a copy of it in the Library of Congress as well as in Canberra. I can’t deny that the gravitas this lends adds bizzarely to the reading experience. It also highlights just how simple the self-publish business has become. You know, if you’re not concerned about making a profit.
What got me thinking about world building and mythos was Kill Bill. Occassionally my mind will drift toward this movie and once more I’ll marvel at just how well Quentin Tarantino managed to build a world that just pushed the story along. And what makes it so brilliant is that is how little it pulls you out of the story itself.
One of the things that I puzzle over is the way the world changes between Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2. Vol 1 is very stylized; movie or comic-real. Bright colours, exaggerated characters, heavy stereotyping. Vol 2 strips that away and leaves you with the grit of the US southern border. It only breaks this during the Pai Mei flashback sequences, and even then the harsh lighting detracts from the fantasy wuxia setting of the old martial arts master on top of the mountain.
Then again, Vol 2 is noticeably darker in tone compared to Vol 1. Which caught a number of fans offguard expecting the world that permits The Crazy 88’s and First Class Air Travel that has a place specifically to hold your katana would lurch onward. There is possibly an arguement to be raised about Western perceptions of Japan and their own backyard but that’s food for thought that’ll keep.
Kill Bill builds a legend in two movies and in legends, the world is as much a character as the stars themselves.
The World Building seminar hosted at Supanova was an interesting discussion that could have degenerated into Tolkein-esque wanking as cartographers and biologists attempt to impress one another while thinking about what strange alien word they have for meat between two slices of bread, so very easily.
It could have gone this way, and it didn’t.
Certainly the importance of knowing the world in varying levels of detail is important, sometimes essential for an author to make sense of writing a story and often the best authors only let their audience see 1/3rd of this work that they’ve spent months or years crafting. What perhaps was the most interesting though was the section where they talked about George Lucas.
Love him or hate him of late, Lucas understands the basic essential truth of world building and deals with only two questions an audience wants answered:
What happens before birth?
What happens after death?
It’s possible there’s a third that I’ve forgotten. Have to check notes.
But the point being that asking and answering those questions suddenly gives a tight beam of focus for a writer to create a world, religion, society, culture, etc.
Sometimes the answers are quite similar to the world in which we live now, only with a crucial difference. Or perhaps no differance at all and your characters just in play in it. Or perhaps its a mystical faraway land or aboard a space-station or the back of a giant turtle. But the questions of life and death tie characters to readers and ultimately that marriage is what writers strive to achieve.
On a semi-related note and possibly another topic to be posted: Matthew Reilly is coming to Indooroopilly Library on the 21st of October, I believe. Not sure if it’s Q&A or just a signing but either way I’m going.
There’s a strong possibility I’m going to punch him in the throat. But that’s only because I love his work and hate having to wait past cliffhangers.
Battlestar Galactica characters, Lee Adama and Gaius Baltar (Can’t remember their actual names) narrowly avoided a similar fate by not attending GenCon shortly after I saw the 10th episode of BSG Season 4.