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New Worlds, Year One by Marie Brennan


Book cover

New Worlds, Year One

Marie Brennan’s New Worlds, Year One: A Writer’s Guide to the Art of Worldbuilding has an accurate title. It comes from a series of posts hosted on the Book CafĂ© blog, where Brennan writes about the topic of world building. This will be of interest to authors of speculative fiction across a whole range of genres (including games masters) and to readers too – especially the ones who want to appreciate well thought out designs and a set of pins to poke in thinner balloons. Why would you buy what you can read for free? At $3.99, it probably saves you a lot more than that in time, plus you benefit from an edited collection in a conveniently portable format (mobi or epub). If you are really keen, you can support Brennan via Patreon and for a budding author, that might be a solid investment. In other words, this is a perfect example of the relatively recent model of democratised patronage which, I imagine, could itself be the basis of a range of speculative works!

How does the book work? You get a series of short essays which get you thinking about a wide range of considerations should you be inventing a setting for some form of fiction and want to go a bit deeper than models such as elves, dwarves, dragons and gold pieces or galactic spanning empire with credits, universal language and faster than light travel. Brennan turns over stones such as what makes a believable name, how to concoct a good insult and why you really don’t want to to walk down the road with a hundred gold pieces in a pouch, pulling you lopsided and bruising your hip.

The weakest point of the book is multiple references to supporting the author on Patreon. Sometimes it sounds a bit like an advert and I am fairly sure that aspect isn’t going to age well. However, aside from the weighty anchor in the late 2010’s, it is packed with ponderings and open questions so, if you are that aspiring imaginer of worlds, and I’d be tempted to say it is worth at least a platinum if Brennan hadn’t persuaded me that economics doesn’t work like that.

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