01.09: Worldbuilding with Mike Underwood, Adam Rakunas & Patrick Tomlinson

Veteran SFF authors, Mike Underwood, Adam Rakunas, and Patrick Tomlinson talk to Jay and Richard about their research and worldbuilding processes.
Worldbuilding! It's one of the defining elements of the science fiction and fantasy genres, in which the world itself, and how it differs from our own, is a central feature of the story. Readers should feel like they can escape into, and explore, and tell their own stories in the worlds we create for them, and so these worlds must be imbued with enough depth and detail to spark their own life in the reader's imagination. But how much detail is too much? And how do you know when your research has wandered too far down the rabbit hole? With such an ambitious worldbuilding project ahead of us, we turned to three veteran SFF authors for advice.

Mike Underwood, Adam Rakunas, and Patrick Tomlinson are three of Jay's oldest, and best friends in the SFF industry. They were able to catch up with each other at ConFusion, back in January, to discuss their research and worldbuilding processes. They also banter about such important topics as gas station Indian food, the victory of nerd culture, and the global threat of Funko Pops.

And speaking of alternate worlds, this episode was recorded back before our own world became stranger than fiction, and international travel was still something we could all actually do. It was recorded in Novi, Michigan, at ConFusion, with Richard calling in well past his bedtime back in Paris. The call quality was not great so we apologise for poorer than usual audio quality during the interview.

Michael R. Underwood is the author of the forthcoming Space Opera, Annihilation Aria, available wherever books are sold. We highly recommend you also check out his previous novels. If you're looking for somewhere to start, go with the Genrenauts series. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeRUnderwood, on his website at michaelrunderwood.com, or on Patreon.

Adam Rakunas is the author of the Windswept series, which was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and combines mystery and action with labor politics through rum distilleries on the edge of space. Follow Adam on Twitter at @rakdaddy or sign up for his mailing list on his website giro.org.

Patrick Tomlinson is the author of Starship Repo, Gate Crashers, and the Children of the Dead Earth trilogy. You can follow Pat on Twitter at @Stealthygeek, or discover more about his writing at patrickstomlinson.com.


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Building the Oracle posts on the 1st and 15th of every month. It is hosted by Jay Swanson and Richard Bilkey. You can tweet at us on @jayonaboat and @rich_bilkey, find us on Instagram at @jayswanson and @rich_bilkey and follow Jay on YouTube.

Our Super Patrons at the time of recording were Kevin, Karin Bates, Mystery Man, Susan French, Dixie Rose, David Guy, figures.seven.three, Steve, Jane Baker, Founder Timeless Capital, and Mr & Mrs DJ Poseur. If we are ever on an interstellar adventure, these are who we'd want as our crew.

This episode was produced by Zach Egan.

Our theme music is "Glory" and our ad music is "Light," both by David Cutter.

We record everything on a Rode Procaster and mix in Adobe Audition and/or Audacity depending on how out of our workflow we've fallen.

The show's art is from Jay's book Into the Nanten, illustrated by Nimit Malavia

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All of the thoughts and opinions expressed on Building the Oracle are purely those of the mouths that let them loose. Copyright 2020 Jay Swanson - all rights reserved. 2020 Jay Swanson