Some years ago, I blogged about my plan to write a book about politics for writers, filling a gap in the existing materials on worldbuilding. Most writing teachers focus on details such as the structure of the nobility, or the form of government, or other political features that are actually secondary to the fundamental questions of power, rule, and conflict. I hoped that, using my scholarly background in political science, I could create a guide that succinctly gave authors a powerful tool to generate stories from political conflict.
So what happened?
In short, I’m very badly stuck on how to structure the book.
Basically, there are a series of key concepts that underpin politics: geography, technology (especially weapons technology), the related issue of legibility (how easily a ruler can monitor and tax the peasants), power projection, legitimacy and ideology, and the social order (how wealth and power coexist with each other), to name just a few. Starting with those, you can very quickly drill down to the fundamental type of story you want to tell, and design your world to facilitate that. The problem is that all of these concepts tend to interpenetrate, in a big gnarly ball of connections shooting every which way.
So in trying to essentially give a crash course on graduate-level PoliSci, where does one start?
And if someone wants a checklist for use in worldbuilding, what order would you follow?
I honestly don’t know. But if I keep dithering, the book will never get written, and all you aspiring worldbuilders will be left adrift in a sea of bad fantasy-kingdom pastiches. (Horrors!) My current plan, therefore, is to write blog posts about the various fundamental concepts piecemeal, without worrying overmuch about their order or relationship to each other. I will be collecting these posts, and past posts on related topics, in a new page called Politics for Worldbuilders, which you can see in the top of the blog.
(And don’t forget, I’m accepting submissions to a fantasy anthology, Ye Olde Magick Shoppe. Check out the announcement and start writing!)