[— Karen Myers —]
Worldbuilding is a very large topic — for this post I’m going to focus on some of the fundamentals of how cities and armies work, since getting that wrong usually includes screwing up basic economics, logistics, or even gravity. If you can’t make that stuff seem real, you’re in trouble.
And what’s the best place to learn all that? From actual history. And where better to get a guide than a professional military historian, eh? Even better if he covers the classical world all the way up, and focuses on how fiction gets it wrong.
Bret Devereaux, in his blog A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, lays out very well-founded discussions of what is wrong about the way fiction (written or game or film) presents the economics that hold a nation together, or the constraints on how armies move, or the reasons cities take the form that they do. Since most of his blog consists of rather pointed criticisms of how the real world is being simulated by people like us, it’s a great point of view for us to become familiar with.
For example… In this article, he critiques the new Amazon Rings of Power not for its lack of fidelity to Tolkien, etc., but for the gross impossibility of some of its representation of any sort of reality. https://acoup.blog/2022/12/16/collections-why-rings-of-powers-middle-earth-feels-flat/.
In https://acoup.blog/2019/10/04/collections-the-preposterous-logistics-of-the-loot-train-battle-game-of-thrones-s7e4/, he gives us a head-shaking discussion of the bogosity of the Loot Train Battle from Game of Thrones.
The Fremen Mirage critiques the notion of the morally and martially superior ‘savage’, using Dune as its (negative) exemplar.
I found the discussion of how cities grow as agriculturally surrounded entities especially helpful in designing an older urban environment and its circles of economic layers.
There’s even a handy subset of articles as resources for worldbuilders such as ourselves: https://acoup.blog/resources-for-world-builders/. I’ve read them all and recommend them. Browsing through the articles in this link is… educational. And, besides, the fellow has an excellent grasp of snark.
What worldbuilding horrors have you encountered (or committed)? How did you discover your errors?