The Joys of Verisimilitude in World Building

The Muse of Invention

One of the best things about speculative fiction is the joy of pure invention, riffing off of  patterns we see in the Nature. The florescent flora of Miranda, in Avatar, comes to mind–stunningly beautiful, inspired perhaps by some of the bio-luminescence of the sea.


(Image of flora in Avatar)                                (Image of florescent sea anemone)

Michael Swanwick’s Stations of the Tide

Here is a passage from Stations of the Tide that I thought beautiful, inspired perhaps by the symbioses we see among sea creatures–from whales to crabs–like barnacles, remoras, and whale lice.

The orchid crabs were migrating to the sea. They scuttled across the sand road, swamping it under their numbers. Bright parasitic flowers waved gently on their armor, making the forest floor ripple under a carpet of multicolored petals, like a submarine garden seen through clear fathoms of Ocean brine.


One thought on “The Joys of Verisimilitude in World Building

  1. Absolutely! One of the most-fun things about writing the Trang books is trying to figure out how having a different biological reality would affect one’s social structure. If you think about the various family structures in human history, they are profoundly affected by the fact that, particularly in a low-calorie environment, women represent a real chokepoint when it comes to reproducing. So you get polygamy (but only with multiple wives), child brides (but not child husbands, because young men are basically disposable), and chivalry and other social codes designed to protect female reproductive potential–and then as a society gets wealthier and reproduction gets both easier and less important, there’s a big push-back by women, who are no longer seeing benefits from this protection, just repression. It’s a whole saga! And the challenge for the writer of speculative fiction is to reimagine that entire complex story with a completely different biological reality underpinning it.

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