Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Teaching at Rutgers


I'll be teaching for two days at Rutgers University next month. I don't teach very often -- and less with each passing decade -- so this is a rare event for me.

Aaaaand... apparently they're full up. But there's a waiting list. You can find it and everything else about the conference here.

Anyway, here's everything I'm going to be on at the conference:


Saturday, June 2, 2018

1:10-2:40 P.M.

Genre fantasy is very different from science fiction, much less well understood, and possessed of its own set of pitfalls for the unwary writer. This workshop will help you to avoid those pitfalls. Going back to the basics of world-building, you will learn to shape your fantasy world into something that both convinces and makes sense, while still retaining the magic that drew you to it in the first place. Exotic and richly detailed though your fantasy world may be, it is still ruled by the basics of narrative. Luckily, those basics are simple and easily mastered, leaving you free to exercise your imagination to the limit.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

10:10-11:40 A.M.

When writing science fiction, it’s all too easy to get lost in the minutia of world-building at the expense of your story’s coherence. This workshop will teach you how to move from your nifty idea to a finished work. Starting with the most efficient modes of research, you will learn how to build a world around your idea and then populate it with characters that will embody the idea clearly and effectively. Along the way, you will also learn how much of your research to include in the finished story – and, more importantly, how much to leave out.


Saturday, June 2, 2018

5:10 - 7:30 P. M.




Mark Pontin said...

Bah. With all due respect to your worthy self, sir, to paraphrase Hermann Wilhelm Göring, "Whenever I hear the word 'worldbuilding', that's when I reach for my revolver."

(Apparently, the actual quote is "Wenn ich Kultur höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning!" which literally means "Whenever I hear (the word) 'culture'... I remove the safety from my Browning!" Image-wise, this does possess the virtue of greater specificity, maybe because Göring himself never said it and it was actually a line written for a Göring-type character by a post-war German playwright.)

Anyway, yeah, I have Mike Harrison's famous comment about 'worldbuilding and the great clomping foot of nerdism' in mind. But Harrison was right, and for the precise reasons he detailed:

'I’m not against worldbuilding…

'…on the grounds that it impedes narrative. Nothing I’ve said has anything to do with worldbuilding vs narrative. Worldbuilt fantasy is over-engineered & under-designed. Whatever the term worldbuilding implies, it isn’t deftness or economy. A world can be built in a sentence, but epic fantasy doesn’t want that. At the same time, it isn’t really baggy or capacious, like Pynchon or Gunter Grass. It has no V. It has no Dog Years. It has no David Foster Wallace. It isn’t a generous genre. The same few stolen cultures & bits of history, the same few biomes, the same few ideas about things. It’s a big bag but there isn’t much in it. With deftness, economy of line, good design, compression & use of modern materials, you could ram it full of stuff. You could really build a world. But for all the talk, that’s not what that kind of fantasy wants.'

There are a few exceptions like THE IRON DRAGON'S DAUGHTER and Jack Vance's LYONESSE trilogy by folks who can actually, you know, write. But basically Harrison nails it.

Congratulations on the teaching gig, at any rate.

Michael Swanwick said...

Four things, though:

1. The one class is not about world building fantasy but about world building science fiction.

2. Your assumptions about what I plan to say are inaccurate.

3. THE IRON DRAGON'S DAUGHTER wasn't "worldbuilt" in the sense that you and Mike Harrison mean. It was just written.

4. Teaching is not an honor. It's more of a social obligation. So congratulations are not required.

But your passion about fantasy does you credit.

Mark Pontin said...

'Your assumptions about what I plan to say are inaccurate.'

I had and have now no assumptions about what YOU plan to say, and have great respect for your work. I merely noted the university's advertising material's tendentious stress on world-building.

'THE IRON DRAGON'S DAUGHTER wasn't "worldbuilt" in the sense that you and Mike Harrison mean. It was just written.'

And it's the better for it, and that's the point.

'Your passion about fantasy does you credit.'

Thank you. All respects --