Why I Wrote It – News, Media, and Worldbuilding

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr. Find out more at my newsletter.)

Why would I do an entire book on news and worldbuilding? Because I was (and am) pissed off at people misunderstanding the importance of news in fiction and life. We’re not talking about my most noble of goals, but it led to a good book.

When I wrote this book in 2019 people were waking up to the impact of disinformation, news-as-propaganda, and internet bullshit. Many people wished this had happened much earlier because plenty of people sounded the alarm, but at least there was an alarm. I was one of the people wishing this had happened a hell of a lot earlier because, look, it is evident that people are tragically deceived between networks like Fox and internet propaganda.

Of course, when I think about real-life issues, I start asking how these issues are portrayed in fiction because it’s what I do.

I realized quickly that fictional settings rarely deal with the questions of how news works. Sure we sometimes get great things like Sir Pratchett’s The Truth, or maybe a reporter character, but I couldn’t recall anything that stood out beyond that. It was time to do two things:

One, keep doing my political activism.

Two, write a damn book on worldbuilding and news.

If that seems petty, it was – I was annoyed and wanted catharsis. However, there were two benevolent motivations:

  • Fiction is a tool to help us understand the world, to think, and imagine. If people who were worldbuilding thought about news, their stories would in turn, make the audience think. Plus, we might get more cool stories out of it.
  • Those reading this book would also think about news and media in general and become more thoughtful. Worldbuilding is very educational, very thought-provoking, and I view it as a form of personal growth.

It was time to write a book on news and worldbuilding – which was also easy.

Remember when I said this age of disinformation got to me? I’ve been a news junkie since I was in my early 20s; I was the guy buying the newspaper in college and turning on 24/7 news on my radio at work. My career in IT has been dependent on information, reporting, and data. You can see why I was annoyed – and that I had a great foundation to write another worldbuilding book.

Yes, some of it felt good to get out.

The result is a pretty good worldbuilding book. It’s got some great questions, some thought-provoking bits, and comes from both the heart and experience. Definitely, one I’d put as high up in my collection because it dealt with something that wasn’t typical to worldbuilding coaching.

It’s also a reminder that a mix of irritation and personal experience is a surprisingly solid start for a book.

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Superheroes And Worldbuilding

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I have a few oddball books in my “Way With Worlds” collection on worldbuilding, and the Superhero one is one of them. It’s the first book of the series to tackle worldbuilding in a given genre directly, and though it may not be the last like it, it’s one near and dear to me.

I love the superhero genre.

The superhero genre is a meta-genre that combines many other genres, tropes, ideas together in one heady brew that wears a cape. Orphans turned detectives team up with godlike aliens and humans transformed by chemicals to fight sentient gorillas and criminal clowns. It takes a few trope frameworks (people with unusual abilities develop specific identities and roles) within which you can go wild.

I even helped run a shared universe superhero newsletter back in the day. The crew created their own characters in a shared setting, we’d often trade-off, and the result was a four-year-plus series of stories and a giant body of work. It went every direction, yet also was still recognizable as a superhero body of work.

Again, I love the superhero genre. That would have been enough to write a worldbuilding book on it – but there was more.

Superheroes are a genre that deserves more exploration as it is a meta-genre, a wrapper for many familiar characters and story types. Because it allows one to write so many ideas while still using an easy-to-access framework, you can make the bizarre accessible. The Grant Morrison Doom Patrol or the anime Concrete Revolutio are just some examples – the former surrealist, the latter a puzzle-box. In today’s grand age of superhero tales, we have a chance to explore.

I was further motivated by thoughts of new caped horizons and masked adventures. Yet, one other motivation came into play.

We’re so inundated with superhero stories, I wanted to make sure people didn’t fall into tropes old and new, so my book is a small contribution to avoiding that. My superhero worldbuilding guide asks hard questions to help people make believable worlds. Because superhero worlds are often many genres, that means such a worldbook inspires people to think through bizarre possibilities – and make them seem real! To reconcile alien invasions, time travel, cybernetics, and a mild-mannered reporting career pushes one to artistic heights.

So my worldbook was born of a love of the genre, hope for more, and fear of stagnation. A small contribution, perhaps, but a heartfelt one, and one I hope inspires others.

Sometimes the best thing you can do when you love something is to inspire others who love it to go to heights you never imagined. That’s where “Superheroes and Worldbuilding” came from.

Who knows what other genres I could tackle?

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Worldbuilding Checkup

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Worldbuilding Checkup” is a strange book in the lineup of the Way With Worlds series. The books consist of two guidebooks and then an ever-expanding set of books on specific subjects. Why, suddenly, have a book that’s all “let’s check on the basics”? Well, that actually tells you something about my methods.

Originally I never intended to do more than six of these books.

The smaller “Worldbooks” as I call them were originally designed to be tie-ins to address subjects I wanted to write more on, and get interest in the core books. To flesh them out I went over the core books, the past columns, and subjects I really wanted to write more on. Out of those notes, I realized that a book on more abstract questions would be useful.

See, a lot of the original six books were deep dives on subjects that really needed more exploration – gods, magic, sex, and so on. But among my notes were a lot of questions that could be asked in the abstract – is your world internally consistent, is your timeline useful to you, and so on. I realized that there should be a book that was just “hey, let’s see if your worldbuilding is working.” Then the notes easily became a full book.

Thus, this slightly odd entry in the series was created.

Somewhere after the first six books were written I realized I was on to something and decided to keep going. I also raised the price as a friend with a marketing background noted people would take them more seriously – and I suddenly sold more. There was a market here (and, strangely, I found sometimes charging more is a service that helps people see that your work is valuable).

So as more and more books were created, I realized this book has a special place.

Maybe you don’t need a deep dive on creating believable methods of reproduction or you don’t care about superheroes. None of my specific subjects interest you because you don’t care or you’ve got a good handle on them. But if you’re wanting just a quick check-in to see “hey am I doing this right” the book has you covered – and it definitely does sell, though not as much as others.

I’ve wondered if maybe I should consider other checkup type books, probably one on record-keeping and saving data. Or maybe it’s a one-off. I don’t know yet, but the joy of writing these books may lead me to a new one eventually.

There’s two lessons here.

The first is that for any kind of specific set of guides or instructions, you may need something more abstract or high-level. It may not be for everyone, but there are probably some people who know enough or want that view.

The second lesson is, well, plans change. Now this book is an odd one in the expanded series – but one that may in time inspire more works . . .

Steven Savage