Way With Worlds: Pyramids of Power

Classic Pyramids

[Way With Worlds appears at Seventh Sanctum and at MuseHack]

Have you ever read a story and things just seemed to work . . . wrong?

  • The hero defeats one guy and then the world is safe, the Evil Army is destroyed, he gets the girl, and his chin is still awesome?
  • The superpowered alien who somehow manages to release massive, colorful, well-animated attacks that just well . . . have no side effects, no source, and no real explanation?  I mean how do you release a “gravity buster” without messing up everything but the guy you aimed it at?
  • The villain who’s massive, connected, complex plot works perfectly while in the real world you aren’t even sure the game you’re working on will ship without a day one patch and an apology?

You know that feeling. Things happen easily in stories and games – too easily. Cause and effect apparently are having a trial separation and you worry they’re going to get a divorce before the book ends.. Simple actions have massive and unwarranted repercussions. We snicker, we laugh, we roll our eyes – and we’re out of the world because things just work wrong.

A lot of world building is about Power, in the non-Machiavellian sense.  It is about how something gets a result, and when you don’t make it work right in your world, then your world is no longer “real.”

Power, from super attacks to a clever cutting comment, done wrong makes a world unbelievable. If you’re building a setting, writing in a setting, you want to make sure that you don’t trip people up so they stumble out of your world. In building your world, you have to get the power of things, of people and weapons and comments and plans, right or the world is back to being words on paper or pixels in a game.

Fortunately I have a rule for getting it right. I call it the Pyramid Of Power. Which is a useful rule, and not the place Kephr-Ra, The Never-Dying, hid the Staff of Omens to keep it from Man-Cat and the Silvermasters.

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Sympathy For The Intoxicated: Drunk On The Power of Technology

Monday, we got to meet Nathan Shumate of the accurately named LousyBookCovers. It’s a fascinating insight into the man, the project, and the . . . less than ideal covers that occasionally appear in self-publishing.

He mentioned one thing that struck a truth with me; that some people get drunk on the power that modern technology, print on demand, distribution, etc. presents. I wanted to explore that a bit because it’s rather personal, and very telling for us MuseHackers.

There’s plenty of power modern technology gives us. In many ways modern technology is all about empowering because power sells and people want to do their own thing. People want to make videos and books and music and games; many of them can now live the dreams that years ago would have stayed dreams except for a few. We have sheer ability now.

However, as we’ve seen power may not be misused but . . . well it can result in products of questionable value. Oh we’ve all done it. We all have that fanfic we don’t want to mention, that bad book cover we’re not proud of, that AMV that was kind of awful, or the company brochure that proved there’s a reason we’re shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near desktop publishing. We wonder how we missed how . . . not that great we were.

We miss it because we get drunk on the power.

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If The Future Is Cultural Power . . .

This article on the future of China as a superpower intrigued me, mostly for asking the question of what kind of superpower China could be.  As I analyzed it, I ultimately figured power has to be cultural on one level or another – simply using force of any form is limited and limiting, as well as exhausting and compromising.  So my rough figuring was China will have more power the more it is able to exert positive cultural influence.

Then I began thinking about the world.  Where US films are exported everywhere.  Where anime is a giant cultural export for Japan.  Where India has taken the musical to amazing heights.  Where Gangnam style has raised awareness of Korean music, and probably K-pop as a whole.

The US was also good at leveraging export technologies and economic and political power post WWII.  Anime would not have been nearly as popular in the US without fansubs, streaming, and cheaper delivery technology.  India’s media popularity has gone slow-burn, but seems to be helped by things like Netflix and hip cultural awareness like the Colbert Show.  Gangnam style wouldn’t even be KNOWN without Youtube.

Cultural power is something that China will want and need – and that means media and communications technologies, shows and comics, a real media/world presence.

So that makes me wonder what’s next for China.  Will it try to build a culture engine for commercial, economic, and cultural power?  Will one evolve or be allowed to evolve?  Is it even being thought of?

What will their geeks and geekonomy be like if they seek superpower status and cultural influence in the world?

I’m not sure I have answers.  OK I’m pretty sure I don’t, but it’s going to be interesting to see the Chinese geekonomy and how it works – and evolves – and connects it to the world.  You have to open up to have influence . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.