Making the Iceberg: A Two-Part Workshop on Science Fiction Worldbuilding (with James Cambias) - ONLINE
Worldbuilding in science fiction is like an iceberg: most of it is under the surface, out of sight. Only a small fraction sticks up into the light, but without the rest to support it, that fraction would sink. In this two-part workshop, writers will meet virtually on two separate Saturdays, for three hours each. After a short lecture on worldbuilding each day, the group will be guided through the basics of science fiction worldbuilding via an in-class team project, with a focus on alien beings and worlds. This course is perfect for writers in the field of fantastic fiction, game designers who want to make their settings more effective, and fans of author James Cambias who want to see how the magic trick really works. No math or science beyond high school algebra is required. Limited to 10 writers.
"Making the Iceberg" has two main parts: the first session will focus on creating alien beings and societies and how the demands of the story shape those elements. The second will focus on creating a planet and star system for those aliens.
After a brief lecture about worldbuilding in general, we will embark on a "worked example" team exercise, involving the whole class, in which we'll create an alien species and civilization.
The lecture examines "What is Worldbuilding and Why Do It?" and will focus on worldbuilding in several contexts: fictional places in the real world, fantasy settings, and science fiction. The SF section will get slightly more attention as that will be the focus of the worked example exercise. The lecture will also address how worldbuilding is a part of storytelling, and how to shape the world to suit a particular story.
The team worldbuilding example will take the class through the process of building an alien species for a science fiction story. The class will make choices to drive the process — although there will be fallback options as well. We'll begin by choosing what story to tell, which will give us a sense of what sort of beings our aliens must be. We'll talk about what biological, social, and ecological features the aliens will need in order to play their role in the story. We'll also discuss how technology and environment affect societies, and how alien societies will differ from human ones.
The second session will follow the same structure as the first: a brief lecture followed by a break, and then a team exercise. The lecture will look at physical worldbuilding, including a brief introduction to the basics of planetary science, noting the various physical characteristics of a world - mass, composition, orbit, rotation, moons, atmosphere, and so on. We'll talk about "bottom-up" worldbuilding, in which one makes use of a known extrasolar planet and extrapolates what its environment would be like and what kind of life could arise there.
Armed with that information, we'll collaborate to create the world for our alien civilization. If necessary we can go back and edit some details of the aliens as needed to make it all fit together. Everyone will leave with a full writeup of the world and aliens as we've made them, free to use in your work! There is a chance a local illustrator will join the group for one or both sessions, to provide visual impressions of our aliens and their world (although this is not a guarantee).
WHEN: 2 Weekends: Saturday, October 30 & Saturday, November 6 (1 - 4pm EST each day)
WHERE: Online, via Zoom video conference (live)
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR
JAMES CAMBIAS is a professional science fiction writer and game designer, with five novels and eight full-length game sourcebooks published, along with two dozen short stories, and scores of game articles and collaborations. Some of his game projects are particularly relevant: in GURPS Space Fourth Edition for Steve Jackson Games (2006), Star HERO for HERO Games (2002), and his contributions to the Star Trek Roleplaying Game for Last Unicorn Games (1998-1999). He wrote extensively on worldbuilding for science fiction. In short, he literally wrote the book on worldbuilding, three times. He also holds a degree in History of Science from the University of Chicago.
RECEIVING THE ZOOM LINK: For one-day workshops, we send out the link to attend the Zoom session 1 - 2 days before the event, via email. For multi-week workshops, you should receive info and the link about 3 - 5 days before. Please mark your calendars when you first register and look for our emails. If you don't see the email in your inbox on the day before the class, please check your spam and junk mail folders (and search all folders) for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org before contacting us. We have found that very often our emails end up in those folders. This is based on your own email settings, and you can prevent this by adding our email as a contact.
ONLINE SESSIONS happen remotely, via Zoom video conference. All you need is a laptop, computer, or phone with functioning audio and a webcam. Those who RSVP receive directions and a link to "join" the session via email (please see above note about receiving the Zoom link). All online instructors will log on to the video conference a few minutes before the start of the session, so please plan to log on early if you'd like assistance! We'll do everything in our power to help you get comfortable with the Zoom format, though we are not able to offer technical assistance beyond basic Zoom orientation.
REFUND & CREDIT POLICIES AT PVWW
Because of non-refundable fees that we, PVWW, must pay for every transaction that happens, we are not able to give full refunds to those who register then withdraw from a workshop or class. If you withdraw from a workshop ten days or more before the start of the class: You'll receive full credit toward another workshop or class of equal value OR a refund minus 10%. If you withdraw from a workshop nine days before the start of the class up until 48 hours before: You'll receive full credit toward another class OR a refund minus 30%. If you withdraw from a workshop less than 48 hours before the start of a class or after the class has begun: We are not able to offer you credit toward another class or a partial refund, unless in the case of a medical emergency. If we have to cancel a class for any reason, you will receive a full refund, or if you choose, a credit in the amount of your payment, to be used for any future PVWW class. Anyone who does not specify whether they would like a refund or a credit for a cancelled class within 3 months will automatically be refunded. Please contact Joy (email@example.com) for all matters concerning credit and refunds.