How NOT to Conworld.

Discussions about constructed worlds, cultures and any topics related to constructed societies.
Khemehekis
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Khemehekis »

Pabappa wrote: 22 Jul 2021 02:16 http://www.oocxties.org/evilsnack/cliche.htm

I found this very old webpage a few nights ago, .... it's so old it lists clichés instead of tropes. I remember coming across it nearly twenty years ago, but I never was able to find it again when I tried to go back to it. Thankfully TVTropes provides a permanent link. Essentially TVTropes does today what this site once did, but I found the compactness of the original site very useful and I also like the way it ranks different items on a scale and also groups some of them into more than one category.
That's interesting, since I actually remember reading some of these without remembering where they were from. The "utopian society that has the death penalty for a minor crime", the "culture that is just like some Asian culture on Earth", the "the one man and woman who are on a generation ship to save humanity and settle the third planet from its sun are named Adam and Eve".



P.S. While we're speaking of ancient webpages on how not to conworld, how about this one by Justin B. Rye?

http://jbr.me.uk/lingo.html
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Dormouse559
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

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elemtilas wrote: 23 Jul 2021 16:32
Dormouse559 wrote: 22 Jul 2021 08:24 I'm glad you were able to find the page! After reading your description of it earlier, I was curious whether it still existed. Looking forward to getting a better look at it later, but as far as first impressions, I think the Star Trek indicator is a useful inclusion.
A Star Wars indicator would be good too perhaps.
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Pabappa »

Okay this is sort of a mess because Im referring to four different worlds here .... an early childhood writing which combines science fiction and magic, a teenage writing which was much the same but had teens instead of young kids as the superheros .... a later teenage writing where i STILL had magic and sci-fi elements mixed but mostly wrote about large numbers of people .... and finally my current world which takes place in a low fantasy world with absolutely no magic at all.

Im just writing this up because I felt like it .... showing that some of the ideas can in fact be justified .... without saying that any of them are specifically good or bad plot ideas.

😴 A sexually selective plague kills off or sterilizes almost all of the men, or almost all of the women.
I basically did this in my teenage writing but it was a minor plot element since it happened in a place out of reach of the superheros and they were neither helped nor harmed by that distant war.

❓ Creatures from our mythology (e.g., centaurs, dragons) occur among the wildlife native to an alien planet.
The definition of "dragon" is pretty vague, so I think this is viable, but I suppose it would be odd to have a planet in which there is only one dragonlike species and nothing else like that.

😴 The evil duplicate of the hero, sidekick, universe, etc.
I got the idea for this from Zelda II .... but later I separated the character from his duplicate and only the name remained.

🐷Societies wherein gender roles and attitudes are completely reversed.
Women are taller than men on much of planet Teppala, so this idea is one that I'm still clinging to, and will never give up, although I'd say that the balance of power is reversed, not the gender roles .... women are still doing most of the childcare, for example, and men, despite being physically weaker, are doing most of the fighting in war. Thus this is the only idea on the entire list that still applies to my current writing.

🐂Men and women live in separate societies (and I'm not talking Mars and Venus, either).
This idea is another one I still cling to, .... although i came up with the idea when i was still writing science fiction, i've still maintained it even in my low fantasy world .... for the Crystals, and a few others, I want to have literal male and female nations, although nothing in the plot depends on this, so if I concede that it's not viable I can reduce it to a legal formality and say that men and women live together but obey different laws because, formally speaking, they have citizenship in male or female nations respectively, even if the nations' territories overlap. (And men vote for men, women vote for women, etc.)

😴 Whiz kids.
🐂Children with access to the highest levels of military planning, scientific research, and governmental decision-making.
🐂The gang of cute and/or misfit kids rescue the universe, where a large group of competent, organized and well-armed adults failed.
❓The aliens' plan to exterminate the human race is stopped at the last moment when they notice a human exhibiting some virtue, such as love, humor, etc.
All four of these are okay if the children have magic powers, particularly mental powers, as the child superheros of my early writing did. It didnt even occur to me that it would seem odd to have children running the country and international (or even interplanetary) political events .... given that, with their mental powers, they are smarter than most adults, why wouldnt they be in charge? That said, much of what appeals to me about my early writing is that I made it up as I went along, and the superheros were prone to impulsive decisions, such as in one case singlehandedly canceling a major war because they befriended some young kids on the opposite side.

❓Although humans still have multiple languages, each alien race has only one langauge.
❓The entire population of the planet lives in one city.
I think these are believable .... I did this on purpose in my early writing for the spiders of planet Theta, and said that they were by nature more centralized than humans are, and therefore had only one language and one large city (though the rest of the planet still did have some settlements). In fact it was a plot element .... the superheros knew that they could easily find their way around the unfamiliar planet because there was only one city and no reason for them to look elsewhere for their treasure

✅ Inherited supernatural power (telepathy, lycanthropy, etc.) becomes pronounced at the onset of puberty.
I was working with this idea for a while but essentially abandoned that whole storyline. One corollary though was that children were also immune to magic, which allowed me to somewhat keep alive the universe of my childhood writing.

❓Humans leave for the stars, forget all about Earth, and rediscover it later.
I never decided on an explanation for why humans were living on so many planets in my writing, but one idea that I'd had (though it makes no sense, I know) is that humans originated on some other planet, and migrated to many planets across the universe, of which Earth was just one. Or that humans did originate on Earth, some subset of humanity developed space travel, and lost contact with the rest.
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Ketsuban »

Veris wrote: 02 Oct 2011 12:10 Deal-Breakingly Bad
4. A map with tons of unpronouncable, discordant names. Nothing personal, but like this. My ten-year-old nephew, who just started conworlding, makes stuff like that, and I only appreciate it 'cause he's my nephew, and is young. Someone in their twenties or thirties (or god-forbid, fourties) should be able to do better. Either way, my interest nosedives when I see something like that.
I feel like the discussion about this got drowned in D&Dchat but I'm curious to know how you manage to be satisfied with any fictional world when your standards are so high that Rosenfelder's work doesn't meet them. Your ten-year-old nephew makes maps whose place names represent multiple different language families which you can read reference grammars for? What does "unpronounc[e]able, discordant" mean?

(The initial claim by "joey" that they're all "fully-developed, fully-explained conlangs with fully-developed, fully-explained orthographies" was overreaching since Rosenfelder's strength has always been his ability to imply connections that aren't actually there - for example, he hasn't (to my knowledge) actually written a grammar for Tžuro, but the family resemblance to Old Skourene is evident from the few bits of vocabulary we've been given, like fsava "lineage" recalling Old Skourene bsepa "clan, lineage; family firm, trading house".)
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Dormouse559
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Dormouse559 »

Ketsuban wrote: 09 Aug 2021 18:11I feel like the discussion about this got drowned in D&Dchat but I'm curious to know how you manage to be satisfied with any fictional world when your standards are so high that Rosenfelder's work doesn't meet them. Your ten-year-old nephew makes maps whose place names represent multiple different language families which you can read reference grammars for? What does "unpronounc[e]able, discordant" mean?
Just to manage expectations for an answer, the comment by Veris is from 10 years ago, and Veris hasn't been active since 2017.
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Ketsuban
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Ketsuban »

Yeah, I wasn't expecting an answer from the OP. It's more a request for elaboration for anyone who read it and went "yeah sounds reasonable".
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by elemtilas »

Ketsuban wrote: 09 Aug 2021 18:35 Yeah, I wasn't expecting an answer from the OP. It's more a request for elaboration for anyone who read it and went "yeah sounds reasonable".
2011 was before my time here (I think!), but this thread keeps bobbing up to the surface like a chunk of ambergris and has been quite interesting in its evolutions over time. It must be about the longest thread on the CBB (apart from the big Conversation threads).

I'm not going to put words in people's mouths, but as I read that bullet point, I suspect that the underlying issue is aesthetics. While I don't agree with the OP's assessment of the map as written, I don't see any names that are objectively "unpronounceable" and the names are really no more discordant than you'll find at any continent-level map of Earth. I also suspect a certain amount of exaggeration in the tone. Hyperbole, thy name is Veris?

Yet for all that, I'd argue that Veris has a valid general point: a geopoet ought to be aware of aesthetics, the role of art as uplifter of the experiencer, the artist as guide for the experience and so forth. I think an argument can be made that Veris is of the opinion the map fails.

Now what I'd consider to be a most interesting consideration is this: if Veris ever came back, I think we should refer back to that OP and ask how the nephew's worldbuilding has progressed! That nephew would now be twenty. How would Veris assess his present level of work vs the stuff he made at the time? Has it evolved to the point where in his twenties...he has actually produced something demonstrably better?
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by BarnacleHeretic »

I hope it isn't too necro to reply to this.

One of my biggest pet-peeves (it isn't necessarily "bad conworlding" it just personally is unappealing to me) is when there are concultures that are very transparent analogues of Earth cultures. You know, you've got your fantasy Romans, your fantasy Norsemen, your fantasy Muslims, your fantasy Mongols, and maybe your fantasy Chinese and/or Japanese. I just find it very unimaginative and kind of dull. Note that this doesn't mean I have a problem with concultures that incorporate elements of earth cultures; it's totally fine if you want a huge empire formed by steppe nomads, or a culture that engages in a lot of maritime voyaging and raiding. I just prefer it when they feel more distinct and original.

Similarly, I'm not a fan of the "medieval Europe minus Christianity" aesthetic that seems so popular in fantasy. The religiosity of medieval Europe is to me the most interesting part of European history, so if there's any part of the medieval European aesthetic I'd be interested to see in a conworld it would be the various aesthetics of the Christian faith. I've always found the aesthetics of massive institutional religion more fascinating than the aesthetics of the more personal realization of religion I see in so many conworlds.

I'm also a little tired of non-human sentient beings. Again there's nothing wrong with it and theoretically you could do something really cool with this (the Meduse from the Binti trilogy come to mind as something I read recently that made great use of this). However, I can't help but feel that fantasy and sci-fi writers tend to add non-human cultures simply because that's expected of the genre, rather than because they have anything interesting to say with it. I guess I just personally don't get any inherent appeal from the idea, and I feel like it's been done so many times that it is starting to feel old, so unless it's for the purpose of saying something interesting or new I don't really see why it's necessary.

Finally, if the conworld has magic, I like it to feel genuinely magical. I know that's pretty vague and subjective, but what I mean is that I'd like it to be rare, poorly understood, possibly dangerous, and to have more dream-like/poetic effects. Nothing turns me away quite like a magic system that's just a free source of energy that people can tap into to shoot blue energy projectiles. There are exceptions to this, however, as my love of Akira make it so that anything with a "tele-" suffix and a suitably creepy "science aesthetic" explanation (in Akira the psychics were created by injecting salt water into the patients' neurons...) gets a free pass because it's not magic, it's Psychic Powers (lol). Or, alternately, if you're going for a battle shonen "magic system" then ideally it would ignore all of this and just be a nen ripoff, that gets a free pass as well because it's so much fun.
Last edited by BarnacleHeretic on 18 Oct 2021 04:10, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by elemtilas »

BarnacleHeretic wrote: 18 Oct 2021 01:50 I hope it isn't too necro to reply to this.
Hereabouts, there's no such thing as too necro!
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Backstroke_Italics »

Hooooo boy, lots to unpack here.
BarnacleHeretic wrote: 18 Oct 2021 01:50 One of my biggest pet-peeves (it isn't necessarily "bad conworlding" it just personally is unappealing to me) is when there are concultures that are very transparent analogues of Earth cultures. You know, you've got your fantasy Romans, your fantasy Norsemen, your fantasy Muslims, your fantasy Mongols, and maybe your fantasy Chinese and/or Japanese. I just find it very unimaginative and kind of dull. Note that this doesn't mean I have a problem with concultures that incorporate elements of earth cultures; it's totally fine if you want a huge empire formed by steppe nomads, or a culture that engages in a lot of maritime voyaging and raiding. I just prefer it when they feel more distinct and original.
I agree, though to me it's less about a failure of imagination (after all, I will happily read fiction set in those real world cultures), but the cringy ignorance that almost always accompanies any attempt to create cultural analogues in fantasy. You can have Asian-Fusion conpeople, but for the love of God don't make honor their main currency, and don't mix random elements without showing how they fit together. You spent six weeks getting their swords right, you can read a damn sijo poem.
Similarly, I'm not a fan of the "medieval Europe minus Christianity" aesthetic that seems so popular in fantasy. The religiosity of medieval Europe is to me the most interesting part of European history, so if there's any part of the medieval European aesthetic I'd be interested to see in a conworld it would be the various aesthetics of the Christian faith. I've always found the aesthetics of massive institutional religion more fascinating than the aesthetics of the more personal realization of religion I see in so many conworlds.
This trope comes in three flavors: Milhouse Van Houten, Spongebob Squarepants, and Fred Flintstone.
The first author is a coward, and doesn't want the icky unpalatable elements of medieval life to distract people from their boilerplate Tolkein ripoff.
The second author just wants a visual aesthetic, and probably gives all their Asian characters names like "Yakataka" and "Chow-Chow."
The third author assumes that people in the past behaved exactly as in the present, so Europeans must have secretly all been atheists.
Finally, if the conworld has magic, I like it to feel genuinely magical. I know that's pretty vague and subjective, but what I mean is that I'd like it to be rare, poorly understood, possibly dangerous, and to have more dream-like/poetic effects. Nothing turns me away quite like a magic system that's just a free source of energy that people can tap into to shoot blue energy projectiles. There are exceptions to this, however, as my love of Akira make it so that anything with a "tele-" suffix and a suitably creepy "science aesthetic" explanation (in Akira the psychics were created by injecting salt water into the patients' neurons...) gets a free pass because it's not magic, it's Psychic Powers (lol). Or, alternately, if you're going for a battle shonen "magic system" then ideally it would ignore all of this and just be a nen ripoff, that gets a free pass as well because it's so much fun.
This one is highly controversial among fantasy readers and authors. Award-winning author and world's dumbest man Brandon Sanderson famously said that magic should operate basically like fluid engineering or COBOL. That's because in his stories magic is basically fluid engineering or COBOL, and it would be annoying if things like that didn't follow rational rules. But other authors write about magic specifically because they want things to be magical, i.e. specifically those things that exist outside of rational explanation. I forget who said it, but someone smarter than me once put it thusly:
Real magic isn't real, and real magic isn't magic.
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by tikoo »

I think a conworld need have a priori aspects. It will consider the story of Babel. Once There Was One Language.
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