September 19th, 2014

quote - questions

Reader Assumptions, Lock In, and the Status Quo

Yesterday, Jed posted a link to a really awesome essay by sci-fic/fantasy author Kate Elliott, "The Status Quo Does Not Need World Building" (also mirrored on It's fantastic, and you should all go read it. Elliott provides a lot of food for thought, but here's a key quote:

When people write without considering the implications of material culture & social space in the story they are writing, they often unwittingly default to an expression of how they believe the past worked. This is especially true if they are not thinking about how the material and the social differ from culture to culture, across both space and time, or how it might change in the future.

Which details a writer considers too unimportant to include may often default to the status quo of the writer’s own setting and situation, the writer’s lived experience of social space, because the status quo does not need to be described by those who live at the center of a dominant culture.

This is a fantastic observation, and I would extend it a little further -- when the writer leaves out world building details, the readers are going to fill them in, and whether it was the author's intention or not, the readers will default to either the writer's dominant culture or their own. And this got me to thinking about John Scalzi's latest novel, Lock In.

(Note: Spoilers ahead! Well, sort of. No plot spoilers, but there are storytelling spoilers, one in particular that Scalzi seems to have gone out of his way not to mention. So if learning that kind of thing in advance of reading the book will bother you, read the book before you read my comments. It's a great book, and a fast read. So go on, read it. We'll wait.)

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