Not-Podcast: Subtle world-building fails and current WIPs

Fresh new post-comps edition of the ongoing podcast-esque project. I talk about something I’m running into in one of the books I’m currently reading that is proving to be a barrier to me really immersing myself in its world, and that I feel is often a stumbling block when it comes to constructing really vital, believable fantastic worlds of any kind – especially hard to deal with because of its subtlety.

I also read a bit from one of my current two WIPs (short SF time travel-gone-wrong piece). The text of it is after the cut. Enjoy.

– – –

CERA is telling me that the visual feed is fine. I curse again and I shove her back into another round of diagnostics. I have no idea if an AI at her level can feel–that kind of thing is for the people who made her to puzzle over, though after a year in training with her and a third of a second in nearly constant uplink you’d think I’d know her well enough to tell–but I could swear that she’s getting tense. Or perhaps I’m projecting. Perhaps it’s my own tension. I’m taking deep breaths. I’m making myself relax into the folds of my cocoon. Easy. Easy.

I understand that, in theory, the system could have broken down in such a way that CERA can’t see the damage even when she runs the full set of diagnostics. I know that this is possible. But knowing it is useless. We have no plan for that scenario.

CERA, if the visual is working then why can’t I see stars?

Unknown, CERA pings me, and of course it is. Without any of the rest of the sensory array, how could she even begin to collect herself into an answer?


It’s a half-literal stab in the dark. I don’t even know if CERA can speculate on that level. I drift in the cocoon, in warm darkness, and I listen to the silence of her thinking. I know it’s wild anachronism, but I imagine immense gears turning in blackness, grinding through numbers like meat.

It is a remote possibility that the craft has emerged into normal space-time far beyond the edge of any local galactic groups or clusters.

I have to take a breath and hold it, listening to my pulse pounding between my ears. That would be beyond miscalculation. That would be disaster. Which I planned for before I climbed into my soft cocoon world. Or I told myself I was planning for it. But it’s never quite the same as being faced with the fact of it, is it? You think you can teach yourself to expect the worst, to train your mind to bend around and against it like a reed. But so often, it’s a lie.

Some things you can’t plan for.

How remote is the possibility?

CERA tells me. I swallow the number down and it burns in the core of me. Really, I know, it doesn’t matter how remote the possibility is if it’s actually what’s happened. I float and I try to think. I turned off the visuals what feels like hours ago, but now I cut them back in again and stare at the darkness.

Nothing. Not even the tiniest, faintest specks of light. If the rest of the sensory array was online I would have ultraviolet, infrared. But I don’t.

All I have is what’s in front of me. I just need to be sure of what that is.

CERA, I say. Give me full manual interface.

Immediately I can feel it, a kind of ticking over into a widening of everything. The visuals are still engaged as I dive into her, spreading myself into her channels and pathways, hunting for a sign.

2 thoughts on “Not-Podcast: Subtle world-building fails and current WIPs

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  1. So many good points in the podcast! I’m also terrible at reading books by publishers I’m submitting to, reading their blogs, and/or following them on Facebook or twitter, but it’s so important to do some combination of those things both to show support and to get to know them (as a form of research).

    Also, totally agree that authors need to marry language to their fantasy world – this drives me nuts, too and will throw me out of the story instantly when contemporary language and even ideas/concepts sneak their way in.

    Great podcast – thank you!

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