Carrie Vaughn joins SciFiChick.com today to promote her new release, Martians Abroad, and talk about the worldbuilding fantasy vs. science fiction!
The Details that Build a World
by Carrie Vaughn
Worldbuilding is the lifeblood of SF&F. We love these genres because we want to travel to other places, see new and amazing worlds, the more fantastical, futuristic, and amazing the better. And the more believable those worlds seem, the more we feel like we could buy a ticket on a starship or simply step through a wardrobe to see it all for ourselves, the happier we are. Build that world, readers will come.
I spent ten years writing an urban fantasy series in which werewolves, vampires, and all sorts of magic exist in our world. My new book, Martians Abroad, is about a third generation Martian colonist visiting Earth for the first time.
Was hard, switching gears? Was it a big leap to go from magic to space ships?
I gotta say, and this may come as a surprise to some people, worldbuilding in the science fiction book might just be little bit easier. Because all the information is right there. If you’re extrapolating from where we are now to where we might be in a couple of hundred years — colonizing the solar system, imagining what the technology might look like, considering what science tells us is possible — the choices are limited. Yes, you have to be accurate. People will fact check every word you write. But for most of the questions an author like me has about this science-fictional world I’m creating, there’s going to be a plausible answer. A more plausible answer, anyway. A scientifically reasonable one. We can make good guesses about the effects of low gravity on human anatomy. I know how to describe the Martian landscape because I can look up hundreds of beautiful pictures, thanks to the rovers Curiosity, Spirit, and Opportunity. After the last fifty or so years of solar system exploration and discovery, there’s surprisingly little I had to make up. And can I just gush about how utterly cool that is?!
In fantasy, authors often have to build their worlds from the ground up. Yes, I can make it all up by the seat of my pants. It still has to be believable. I still have to make choices that make sense and seem right and fit together to make a great story and a world my readers want to visit. And there are no real right answers. On the one hand, anything goes, right? Well, I’m not sure about that. I think this freedom from real-world data also means I need to be a lot more careful because there’s no good way to double check my work. No way to know if what I’m writing is believable until it ends up in front of a reader. The reader always has the final word on whether the worldbuilding in a book is successful.
In the end, both fantasy and science fiction require thoughtful world building and attention to details. The source material may be different, but the goal is the same: make the reader believe.
About Martians Abroad:
Teenage Polly Newton has one single-minded dream: to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. But her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.
Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. But when strange, unexplained, and dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.
About the Author:
CARRIE VAUGHN, the New York Times bestselling author of the Kitty Norville books, is also the author of the stand-alone novels After the Golden Age and Discord’s Apple, and the young adult books Voice of Dragons and Steel. She holds a Masters in English Literature and collects hobbies—fencing and sewing are currently high on the list. You can visit her online at www.carrievaughn.com.