Geekdom Come, World Building 101

World Building 101- Technology

Tools. They’re what separate the advanced species of our universe from the thoughtless pond scum. And as humanity has advanced so too has its tools. From the wheel to the gun to the iPhone, man’s tools define his era as much as any government or crusade. Which is why I’m devoting this installment of World Building 101 to the topic of Technology.
Technology is an often overlooked aspect of a fantasy writer’s world and an often underdeveloped part of a science fiction writer’s quiver. Hopefully, this humble post can help you avoid some common pratfalls. To begin its important to pick a level of technological advancement and stick with it. Unless you have an incredibly clever plot device that explains away anachronisms it is important to avoid mixing your stages of development. In other words no cell phones in medieval times. Remember that science and technology build upon what came before. If you want to get an idea of what discoveries led to what technologies do some research on the history of innovation and industry. (Or, if that sounds boring, play a few games of Civilization)
There are four main areas of technology you want to focus on when developing your world: Transportation, Production, Medicine, and Weaponry. Transportation is first because while it seems innocuous, it is essential you sort this out in the early stages of planning your story. It takes time for your characters to get places and the more spread out your story the more the importance of transportation becomes apparent. If you expect your characters to travel long distances you have three options road trips, time jumps, or a quick way to cover the distance. Road trips are dull and can cause your story to drag is they serve no purpose in your story. Constant time jumps interrupt your audiences rhythm and jars them out of your story. That leaves a fast mode of transport. Horses, cars, trains, ships, airplanes, spaceships, light-speed engines, artificial Einstein-Rosen bridges, teleporters; these are some of the common modes of transportation available to you.
Manufacturing is another category that doesn’t seem all that sexy but plays a huge impact on how your fictional society functions. The amount of time, labor, and capital it takes to create a thing is what gives it value. When things have value, money gets involved. And money inspires all kinds of sins and is how individuals and nations accumulate soft power. If you don’t believe me, Google “means of production” and see the rabbit hole that leads you down.
Medicine has a few effects on your story. First and foremost it determines just how much damage you can inflict on your main characters. Chop off a medieval knights hand and its a pretty permanent deal; chop off the hand of a Jedi Knight and he just gets a new, shiny, robotic one. Second, it determines the overall population of your world. I mean if you don’t know the infant mortality rate of your fictional world can you even call yourself a writer?
Finally, we get to the sexy bit. Weapons. Look I could give you advice about how to make sure you take equal time designing all your weapons from hand to hand to ship to ship and try to base them on the same core technology like projectiles or beam or sonic or whatever. I could make sure to point out you should integrate your weapons into the fictional culture and histories of your world. But I’m not going to tell you any of that. I’m just going to tell you to go crazy. If you want to build a galaxy destroying super laser I say go for it. You want to design a long bow that shoots a weird purple acid, you do you. I am not going to be the one to rain on your parade.
On that note, I’m going to teleport of this exploding rock of a blog post and take a hover train to greener pastures. Until next time this has been World Building 101.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.