Thank You to my Patrons!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Vida Cruz and Philippine Mythology

This was a really great discussion. Special thank you to our guest author Vida Cruz for persisting until she actually made it into the hangout, despite technical difficulties, and to our discussants for their patience while we resolved those issues to the best of our ability.

We started by discussing Vida's story "Odd and Ugly," which she describes as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Spanish colonial Philippines. In this tale, the Beast is a Kapre, a kind of hairy giant who lives in a tree and smokes cigars, while Beauty is a farm girl. The story is told in second person from the Beast's point of view. Vida told us that she had written about these two characters in different iterations, and the Beauty and the Beast portion of the story came last.

Since the Spanish were in the Philippines for over 300 years, education has been heavily influenced by them. There is a dearth of good literature about the early colonial period. When Vida attended Clarion workshop in 2014, she did more research for that story.

In the story, the kapre views the farm girl with a combination of guilt and fascination. He's been living the bachelor life in a magical tree, and it's a bit of a mess. His servants can't do work, because they are flowers. He hoards things he has found in the forest over the years.

Vida told us that Tade Thompson was one of her beta readers and helped her flesh out the connection to world history. Spoilers - the kapre is a former runaway African slave who was transformed. It appears that some of the origins of the kapre myth include the fact that the Spanish told the natives of the region that escaped slaves were monsters. This added historical element is integrated beautifully and sensitively into the story.

Another character in the story is a diwata, which is most closely translated to "fairy" but is also like a mountain goddess who roams mountains and lakes. In this story, the diwata is missing, and Beauty wants to know where the diwata has gone and why she is not helping to chase away the Spaniards. This diwata is modeled on a diwata called Maria Makiling who is the spirit of the mountains outside of Manila, the protector of both the mountains and the bay. There are many stories about her, quite a number featuring mortal lovers she had who either had to go to war or spurned her. There are stories about her from the Spanish colonial period, and also the American World War II period.

Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in Philippines mythology in the Philippines. There is a zine called "Spirits of the Archipelago" that focuses on them. Vida directs those who are interested in this topic to The Aswang Project website.

A lot of the mythological stories grew out of oral culture, so it is hard to recapture them since the people experienced colonial invasion. People have tried to write down these stories a few times.

Kate remarked how this mythology would be a rich vein to mine since the West has had so little contact with that body of knowledge.

Vida told us how the Spaniards tried to stamp out these beliefs and stories. Most people in the provinces, though, still believe in aswang and you will be able to see things like hanging garlic and brooms across windows. Tagalog people had four local gods associated with death and dying. The Spanish took their names and turned them into witches in order to demonize them. It's important for us to try to find the original versions of these stories and preserve them wherever they can be found.

Next we talked about Vida's story about the origin of the mango. She told us this one was difficult to write. She worked on it during the Clarion workshop and had intended it to be the story for week 1, but ended up having to postpone it to week 2. This story is set in the pre-colonial period. There isn't much literature on this period - more now than there was in 2014, but at the time she had to rely on Google searches. The story features a mountain tribe living on rice terraces. The main character is a servant who works as a handmaiden to the heir to the tribe. This tribe values telling stories and singing, but the princess can't sing. The servant's brother falls in love with the princess, and she helps him court her, but he dies hunting the dowry boar. His sister goes and sings for him, and impresses the diwata of the mountain so much that she grants her one wish. The sister wishes to have her brother alive again, and the diwata brings him back as a magical mango tree.

One of the stories that inspired this piece was a story about a very good boy who dies and when his parents beg the diwata to bring him back, she turns his heart into a mango tree. Another variant is about a girl who kills herself, and when her heart is buried it grows a mango tree.

The mango tree is culturally important.

Vida expressed some uncertainty about the hearts being buried, because she explained that in pre-colonial times your liver, not your heart, was considered more important. However, it may be that the heart was chosen because mango fruit physically resembles a heart.

Kate asked if there were any spirits or deities associated with weather and storms. Vida said there was a creation story where someone fights a giant bird and the fight causes storms, but the world is born from that fight.

No one person knows everything about these stories. If you talk to different people you get different pieces of them, like trying to assemble a puzzle.

Vida has not yet written a story about the purple yam called ube. We were encouraging her to do so!

In fact, food features in both of the stories we discussed. A kapre who is courting a woman gives her food, but you are not supposed to eat it - especially black rice - or you will be stuck in his realm. The kapre favors a single tree. When you go inside it, it's one room of his house. The talking flower-servants were Vida's own invention. In fact, they livened up the story quite a bit! She told us the story was much slower when it was just the kapre and Maria, so she added the fire tree as a second in command. The flowers mirror aspects of filipino social communities where people know each other, gossip and have petty fights.

Right now, Vida is working on a Tiptree grant for a project involving an alternate Philippine archipelago with mythological creatures, told in the form of news articles. A journalist is determined to expose gender issues, the rise of fascism, and other things. One of the stories, "First Play for and by Tikbalang Triggers Uproar on Opening Night," has been published, but four more are planned. In one, Maria Makiling the diwata runs a popup cafe with human heartbreak as her secret ingredient. She picks up people really suffering as victims of martial laws under Marcos. In a sense, she said, writing this was to counter the revisionism that is currently happening in Philippine politics, where there's a resurgence of fondness for Marcos. Vida says that recent talk about the "good things Marcos did" have her worried about upcoming elections.

Still in the works is a story skewering the Duterte regime, in which there's a civil war between mythological creatures and the government because Duterte kissed Maria Makiling without consent and she demanded an apology.

Another story is about a human girl, age 12, and a mermaid marooned on shore after Typhoon Haian, trying to survive in the post-typhoon city. This one features a mermaid hierarchy, climate change, and sea pollution diminishing the mermaids' power to stop typhoons.

When asked what other filipino writers she was inspired by, Vida cited Dean and Nikki Alfar, who she calls the Oberon and Titania of speculative fiction in the Philippines. She says that the genre didn't really boom until the 2000s, but that every spec fic writer there owes them a debt. She also recommends The Infinite Library and Other Stories by Victor Ocampo.

Vida told us she really wants to see an alien invasion story set in the Philippines because the people there are so used to such things. She said if they met an alien "we would invite it to our houses and serve it lunch, but make it take its shoes off first. We're kind of doing it all the time."

Vida also recommended a great image of the three diwata Marias (Makiling, Sinukuan, and Cacao) and a friend, which can be found here.

Vida, thank you again for coming on the show and sharing your work with us! This was fascinating, and I hope you can come on again sometime.

Don't forget, if you like the blog and the show, you can come support me and get extra worldbuilding goodies like links and topic prompts at my Patreon, here.


Monday, March 25, 2019


This was a topic that came up because of recent online discussion of "right to repair" laws. I had initially understood these as laws intended to counter planned obsolescence, but in large part they are to protect businesses that refurbish and resell electronics etc. from being sued (under accusation of violation of intellectual property law).

Kat noted that our culture is very pro-corporate and forces people to be consumers. Would it be possible for people not to be consumers? What kind of legal structures exist that make it easy or difficult to choose not to consume?

Morgan noted that something as simple as a faulty charging cord can turn a sophisticated piece of equipment into a "brick."

Who builds things in your society? What is repairable? Who repairs it (if anyone does)?

Che noted that repairing something often voids a warranty, so we discussed what a warranty is and what it does. Essentially it is an agreement saying that the item is rated to keep working for a period of time. Short-term warranties protect against defects. Longer-term warranties restrict the purchaser so they can only get their product repaired by the company that originally made it.

Why don't companies do more to protect consumers? Where is the benefit? Why not have an onboard surge protector in the computer itself?

Repairing things used to be normal. Now it has become (as Kat says) "hipster and twee." It's also become commercialized so that in order to do a "life hack" you need to buy a product.

Do you own a sautering iron? Kat feels as though she should have one, but says this is likely because she lived on a houseboat where she needed to weld things.

Screws used to be standardized, and most things used screws. Now companies have started using proprietary screws. They will make things that can be assembled without tools, but that can mean they can't be disassembled. Sonically welded plastic is sealed so you can't open it, or so you can't open it without breaking it.

We often assume things should be thrown away, but we aren't even very good at knowing how to throw them away properly. People often ignore recycling rules, for example.

Sometimes you will see a post on social media about decorative repair of clothes, where you patch something and add an embroidered flower or something. This is an option only for people who have the necessary skills.

Culturally, we have lost some of the "hand-me-down" tradition of passing things along to younger siblings or cousins. Clothing has become more common in landfill.

People are having fewer opportunities to learn how to use tools like hammers, etc.

You can also repair other things. If a recipe has gone wrong, you may be able to change it in some way to make it come out all right.

Having knowledge of how something is constructed (object or food!) is useful to knowing how to repair it.

Medical care, especially first aid, can be a kind of repair. Especially if you are on a boat or otherwise isolated from the immediate opportunity to seek care on the outside, you need to have some skill at handling this yourself. Kat thinks having an army medic's kit would be very helpful! We're encouraged to go to experts for healthcare.

Repair could be considered a cultural right and ritual.

There used to be people who would travel around and offer their skills as a tinker to repair pots and pans and other items in the home.

Science fiction loves its engineers and inventors, and repair of spaceships etc. occurs numerous times in Star Trek. However, when you have replicators, disposal and reconstitution atom by atom is an option and makes repair of everyday items less common.

Fantasy has a very interesting thematic concern with repairing what is wrong with the world.

Morgan pointed out how interesting it was that the thirteenth Doctor constructed her own sonic screwdriver.

What would a science-fictional Radio Shack look like?

It's worth taking inspiration from Neal Stephenson and asking how things degrade over time.

We're often too busy in our stories to think about whether things break and whether they need to be repaired.

How often do we look at how things get washed?

Many stories get written by the type of people whose tea appears mysteriously. It's worth taking some time to look for the tea-bringers.

Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall books were great because they gave some attention to who does menial tasks, and who does labor.

In fantasy, we often have repair, and clockmakers. But if you see a cauldron, who made it? Think about where to find the woodworkers and blacksmiths.

Are some things repairable at home, and others only repairable by experts?

Are ceramics repairable? How?

Often our repairs are visible, and documentable. What would happen if you had nanotech to repair things? How would that effect carbon dating or the other means we use to reconstruct the history of an object?

Was the pot broken for a reason? Sometimes haunted objects get broken or buried in faraway places. Maybe something was broken to annihilate it, and it should not be repaired.

Think about the social context of repair. If everything gets thrown away, repair might be transgressive. If everything gets repaired, getting a new thing might be transgressive.

Poor people might need to repair things more. If you have more money and more leisure, you might dispose of things. Tossing things out is a sign of privilege. Poverty encourages repair, but it means people might not have tools or skills to accomplish the repair.

Kat noted that people who live on farms or boats can still use tools that seem outdated in cities (like a tool to turn wire into a hose clamp!).

In science fiction you don't often see people tying things together. Snaps are much more common. Buttons are a very old technology.

Think about whether an heirloom artifact might be repaired. I used an artifact like this in my 2008 story "Let the Word Take Me."

Science fiction sometimes forgets that people do collect and keep things.

Some cultures are geared to preserve objects and others to destroy them.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this discussion! Dive into Worldbuilding will meet tomorrow at 4pm Pacific to discuss Competitions. I hope you can join us!


Monday, March 18, 2019

Footwear (Parts 1 and 2)

This topic was so much fun that we gave it two hours! We came into it from the question of how worldbuilding drives footwear. Obviously, climate and geography are involved. We certainly have to get beyond the default fantasy assumption of boots. What other kinds of rugged footgear are there? We also talked about footwear behaviors.

Kat asked: do people take off their shoes as they enter a home? If so, those shoes must come off easily, and can't be exclusively-lace-up boots. Does a house have a place where you can sit to buckle or lace shoes? She remarked that she used to think of shoe removal as an East vs. West phenomenon until she learned about Western no-shoes-in-the-house culture in Finland.

Sometimes you need different footgear for school.

Roman lace-up sandals stay on. Geta come on and off.

Some boots lace and zip both, to let them be more flexible. Morgan said she remembers going out without her boots zipped to save time.

In heavy snow regions you can find snow boots, and stairs made of grillwork with holes to let the snow fall through. There can be snow scrapers beside the door. You can also add special traction apparatus to your boots to increase your safety on ice and snow.

Boat docks can have grooves to make sure people don't slip on them.

Your shoes can influence your gait. Some shoes encourage tiptoeing or small steps. Others encourage sauntering. Shoes can reflect social status.

Cliff mentioned that hobbits wear no shoes at all. It's particularly noticeable when you arrive in a place like Bree, where humans are wearing boots and hobbits seem in danger of being stepped on a lot. They would end up standing on tables with their muddy feet, though!

In WWI, boots were both protective and dangerous. Trench foot and gangrene caused people to lose toes or their entire feet. When the trenches flooded, people's feet would swell and they might not be able to take their shoes off.

What are snowshoes made of? What materials would be available for your people to make shoes with?

High heels used to be male footwear, but now they are predominantly female footwear. Certain styles of footwear are coded (like dominatrix boots). Shoes can indicate subcultures. Watch out if you think lucite platform shoes are cool looking, because they have been marked as street-walker gear.

Nurses wear particular types of footwear. Certain brands cater specially to them.

Kat talked about the problem of shoes not fitting our feet. Different populations might tend to have different foot size and shape, as the Dutch who are statistically tall with large feet.

When rental shoes are critical to participation in something like ice skating, roller skating, bowling, etc. shoes and their fit can become an access issue.

Paul remarked that we haven't always had Left and Right shoes; they used to be symmetrical.

In science fiction, creatures can have clawed feet that are hard to shoe (this happened in Star Trek, for example).

Cliff talked about the ritual of footwear that used to take place on planes: people would take off shoes and put on foot covers.

These days, shoe sizes are somewhat standardized. They are cheaper, but don't fit all. Custom shoes will fit, but you need a cobbler and the means to pay them.

Sometimes shoes are designed to create an impression that feet are larger or smaller, since culture creates pressure for smaller feet among women. This is only a piece of the larger pressures surrounding women and the expectation of delicacy.

Foot binding was an indicator of social class in a particular historical time period in China, but to ask modern Chinese or others about it now is a racial microagression.

We should not exoticize the pressure to constrict feet for delicacy: bunions on feet only happen when you wear confining shoes many hours a day, but here in the US they are accepted as relatively normal.

Cliff told us about a conflict of cultural expectations between himself and his wife. Debby was a ballet dancer, and had pointe shoes hanging on the wall as decoration, but Cliff had spent so much time internalizing the expectations of his sitar-playing circles, which say that shoes should not be near musical instruments, that he found it uncomfortable to have shoes hanging on the wall.

Kat said if you are worldbuilding about shoes, consider whether a home has a designated place to put on shoes. There generally isn't such a place in white American culture. In any culture which requires shoe usage to differ drastically between outside and inside, you will typically find a designated shoe-donning area. In Japan, schoolchildren line up at the start and end of school to use shoe cubbies like lockers. Cliff mentioned that he encountered a similar setup at the college where he studied sitar. Western architecture tends to lend itself just to piles of shoes, although as Morgan mentioned, some homes have mudrooms, especially in the Northeast. Even those rooms, though, don't always offer a place to sit.

People who will have to put shoes on and take them off all the time are more likely to have a long-handled shoehorn that allows them to put on shoes while standing. Shoehorns themselves are not as common as they used to be.

Cliff mentioned that shoeshine businesses used to be found on street corners and largely service men's shoes. If you are looking at shoe-shining, ask who is doing the shining. Is it lower-status people? Marginalized ethnic backgrounds? Children? In the past, children used to do the job of shoe-shining, at least in many parts of the US, but they were discouraged by child labor laws. In some cultures a job like this would be gendered, and in others it would not be. If a shoeshine business is in a male-centric culture, women can be discouraged from going there even though their shoes also need care.

How does your footwear link your climate and the way you walk? A particular type of shoe will be adapted to protect the foot from a particular range of temperature and moisture. That type of shoe may also constrain how a person can set down their foot while wearing it.

The European hard leather-soled shoe is not made for many environments. In particular environments it can be lethally slippery! It's good for sidewalks that are just a little rough, but not practical for mud, ice, or wet areas. It is often presented as an emblem of civilization, ideal for durability and traction, but the contexts in which this is actually true are limited.

What kinds of footwear do workmen wear? In Australia you can have elastic-sided boots, in England you'll have rubber boots ("wellies"), and in Japan, truck drivers will also wear rubber boots, but a cook will wear a particular type of white rubber boots. American workers often wear steel-toed boots.

Floridians will tend to underprotect their feet and wear flip-flops all the time (we heard a story about a welder wearing flip-flops!).

In Japan there is also a kind of boot worn by workers who must climb scaffolding. It's a canvas boot with a rubber sole and a separated big toe.

Shoes with a separated big toe can leave calluses between the toes. You could have a plot point where people were looking for a callus between the toes to see if a person was an insider (who wore insider's split toe shoes) or an outsider.

How often do you wear shoes? If you wear them a lot, your feet may be tender and soft.

Some shoe companies argue that letting toddlers use hard-soled shoes will incline them to flat feet. We weren't sure how true this was, but cultures do have many different beliefs about what kind of shoes one should wear for one's appearance and one's health.

There is no one kind of foot for optimal health. It all depends on what you will be doing with your feet. In some environments, flat feet are not necessarily a problem.

Cliff mentioned the shoes that are coded for children with lights and wheels. Some of us wanted them for adults, too.

Are you allowed to take a dead man's boots? Are they spoils of war? Are they haunted boots?

What kind of footgear should you wear on cobblestones?

Are there special types of ritual footwear? Yom Kippur forbids leather sandals because they are considered a signifier of high class, and you are not supposed to do things that indicate class status.

There can be a lot of social pressure to wear particular shoes.

Motorcycle boots are supposed to protect you from the heat of the motorcycle. There are firefighting boots. There can be magnetic boots. What is on your feet under your space suit? It may have more to do with culture than practicality.

Morgan noted that the TV show Bones makes a point of talking about the inappropriate footwear of the character Booth, asking why he's wearing fancy shoes in a muddy, wet crime scene. It's a reversal of the trope of criticizing women for the same reasons.

A lot of shoes are coded for gender. Shoe shopping is stereotyped as female.

Going barefoot is relatively normalized in Australia, while in the US there are signs reading "No shoes, no shirt, no service."

Regionally there are different words for the same footwear, like "sneakers," "tennis shoes," and "trainers." Then there are lots of shoes referred to by their brand names, like Doc Martens, Keds, Converse, etc.

At this point, our time was up and we felt like we hadn't finished our discussion! So we decided to resume two weeks later. For the purposes of not making my readers look around for the post, I'm combining the two sessions here.

Part 2

In this session we began by talking about orthotics, where you either have special shoes, or you put special inserts into your shoes in order to improve foot health or compensate for foot problems of various types (everything from low arches to legs of different lengths).

There are also special therapeutic boots that you can wear to protect an injured foot. These are bad in many ways, but better than a cast!

You can also get prosthetic feet and legs. These take various forms, including running blades, lifelike prosthetics, and art prosthetics, which can be very pretty!

Some footwear is designed to change your foot for a particular type of use. Ballerina pointe shoes have a structure designed to allow walking on the toes.

Much footwear is designed around a certain set of expectations about which of your toes will be longer. This varies, however. The Vibram 5 toe shoes assume you have a flat toe profile, and thus are only appropriate for people with a certain foot shape. Some people love those shoes, and some find stimulation between the toes to be uncomfortable.

Morgan noted that our footwear is seasonal, with sneakers or barefoot in summer and boots in winter. Kat told us she has a pair of Baffin island boots with a cuff which were designed for frozen mud, and are too warm for a great many weather conditions. It's valuable if you live in a snowy climate to have a variety of snow boots for guests who might not be prepared.

Kat pointed out that in Japanese, the word "ashi" incorporates all parts of the lower extremity from the hip down, though people can obviously refer to just the foot.

Cliff mentioned a fictional situation in Samuel R. Delany's Nova where spacers wore only one shoe so they could have a third hand.

Sometimes, animals can wear shoes, as when their owners are trying to protect their feet from heat or cold.

Sometimes, humans can wear animal-foot-shaped shoes, as when we wear flippers to improve our swimming abilities.

What if you need your shoe to grip? In the last session, we mentioned magnetic shoes. This time we talked about grippy shoes, including gecko shoes and gloves.

We talked about roller skates. These have taken many different forms. They started with metal wheels and clamps that would go over normal footwear, with a key to tighten them. Then they got vinyl wheels. Then they had a divergence between the rollerblades, which are fastened like ski boots, and the quad skates, which continued to have skateboard wheels. Quad skates are the only ones that work for certain forms of roller dancing. Now we are back to having clamp-on skates again, but with a different kind of technology.

Rocket boots are also a type of footwear.

Shoes can be designed to attach to leg braces or other kinds of medical support for the legs.

Roller derby has its own subculture of footwear. One of our discussants described it as a "badass feminist subculture with aliases." They use quad skates. The sport grew out of 1920's roller skate races, which in the 1930's moved onto racetracks.

Ice skates began as tie-on blades for shoes, and now they have become both complex and diversified. Hockey skates differ from figure skates in that hockey skates don't have teeth at the front of the blade, which are used in the jumps in figure skating. Long track speed skating uses clap skates, where the blade is only attached to the top of the skate at the very front, allowing a skater to raise speed by keeping the blade on the ice as long as possible. Henry Lien has used ice skates in fiction, in his Peasprout Chen world. He created a martial art that combines kung fu and figure skating. People in this world don't skate on ice, but on a material called "pearl." We all agreed this was epic footgear worldbuilding!
Folklore is surprisingly full of unusual footwear, including seven league books, winged sandals, the single-toothed geta of the tengu, red shoes that dance you to death, red hot iron shoes used as punishment, ruby slippers, shoes enchanted to be perfectly quiet, and fairy shoemakers.

People may distinguish themselves by not wearing shoes, as in the case of mendicant monks and mystics. Foot-washing may be a tradition when footwear lets in dirt.

Some people design special footwear to create a deliberately unusual footprint, like a cryptic footprint. These are less than plausible because they typically show no flexibility of the foot bed.

Wooden shoes have existed in many locations. In the Netherlands, they are called klompen. In France they are called sabots. People throwing wooden shoes to stop the working of machines gave rise to the term "sabotage."

Don't forget to ask if there are any special turns of phrase related to footwear! How do we talk about our shoes?

Gestures with shoes can be culturally important, as when someone threw shoes at George W. Bush, or when Kruschev banged his shoe on the table. What would be the significance of something like this in your world?

How we put on or take off our shoes can be important as an element of character-building. Do you toe your shoes off? Shuck them off? What, exactly?

Sneaker culture is a modern footwear-centered phenomenon. It's intense, creates a drive for increased fashion and consumption, and has its own community. What kind of social groups might be designed around particular footwear, or marked by footwear?

In Greece at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the guards wear special shoes with pompoms and do formalized marching.

Many dancing styles come with their own style of footwear, like ballroom dance shoes, jazz shoes, tap shoes, clogs, etc.

Kat mentioned "taxi shoes," which are shoes totally impractical for walking which people will wear if they intend to take a taxi from place to place in New York. She mentioned in particular "scrappy thin-soled high heel spike" shoes.

A shoe can give you foot habits.

Sandals, which we often talk about as though they are a single style of shoe, vary incredibly widely. They are "any shoe that shows your foot." Some people try to hide parts of their feet, such as "toe cleavage."

The wearing of Birkenstocks is a subculture. Teva had its own subculture for a while, when it was the only brand of wet/dry shoes.

What would happen to your shoes on a heavy-gravity planet? Would there be no high heels? What about platforms?

You can choose shoes that change your body's appearance, making you taller, or tightening your backside. These shoes can fit you to chairs and other things intended for taller people.

You can have fireproof shoes, or chemical-resistant soles.

There can be rules for color and style according to the season.

Are you expected to match your shoes to your other clothes? Is this gendered?

How are shoes gendered in your society? Are they?

Some people remove the heels from high heels and modify them into "hoof shoes" to create the illusion of having horse-, cow-, or goat-like feet.

Thank you to everyone who attended these two sessions and contributed your wealth of footgear-related ideas!

Don't forget, if you like the blog and the show, you can come support me and get extra worldbuilding goodies like links and topic prompts at my Patreon, here.

Video #1:

Video #2


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Dr. Heidi Stauffer and Geology

It was an absolute pleasure to have Dr. Heidi Stauffer on the show to talk about her area of expertise, Geology. Our thought was initially that geology was underused in genre, but she had the insight that it can be overwhelming for people, and they don't often want to take that dive.

If you're really wanting to go deep into geologically grounding a story, Heidi recommends you start at the solar system level, at least for hard science fiction. It's fine also to start at the planet level. Many people make the mistake of having an entire planet have the same climate. Remember, even frozen planets differ at the poles and the equator. If you are working with fantasy, it's fine to start at the continent level. If your people have a concept of the whole world, it's a good idea to think about the planet. If your people think at the level of the country or kingdom, then the continent level is fine.

You have more control the closer in you go.

There is no problem with using known Earth climates. They would be statistically likely given the size of our universe, and the possibility of other universes!

Heidi was asked whether it works to say that on Titan, water ice is like bedrock. She explained that many people struggle with the concept that hydrocarbon liquid can behave like water. Titan is missing free oxygen. Earth's free oxygen came from life. If you want free oxygen on another planet, you must find a way to put it there. In fact, it's not great for living things, because it's highly corrosive. It caused one of Earth's mass extinctions.

You can look at atomic structure similarity if you try to hypothesized silicon-based life. It will however be "life unlike we've ever known."

Chemistry is important to apply to worlds. So are biology, ecology, math, etc.

Heidi's Ph.D. is in climate modeling, but she did traditional geology for her Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

Consider the scale you are working on, temporally and physically.

Heidi told us she TA'd the natural history of dinosaurs, which allowed her to teach people about body size vs. metabolism vs. gravity. These are a set of calculations that work one way for our planet, but would have to be recalculated on another planet. Big insects can only exist on high oxygen planets. A lot of paleo-botany hasn't been done, and we don't necessarily know what plants dinosaurs ate, which leaves us making educated guesses based on their physiological needs and the general features of the climate.

Small changes in a planetary/geologic system can have a domino effect.

You don't have to choose between science and story. Both are important. If you want to tweak the story science, you must do so plausibly. A hot planet can still have frozen water depending on its orbit.

The snowball Earth phenomenon had partly to do with planetary configuration and the life cycle of the star. Our sun was 25% dimmer at that point. In fiction, you could knock a planet a bit out of orbit, and when everything aligns, you get a heavy glacial episode.

Think about how to link the geology to the lives of your characters. What are the seasons like? This grows out of orbit speed and planetary angle. For example, what are things like on Mars? What would happen if it were 50% bigger? What if there were one less planet? Maybe there might be a planet where the asteroids are.

Start with known, established things, and work from there.

What if Venus orbited Earth? Venus right now is too hot and too corrosive, and our instruments dissolve before they can measure much. What if it were cooler? It did have plate tectonics once.

Kate remarked that Tatooine would have weird tides if it had two suns.

Heidi suggested that we look at the moons of Saturn and Jupiter for complex tidal effects.

If you put a civilization on a rocky moon around a gas giant, how would you see daylight? When might it be blocked by the planet?

Heidi suggests the NASA websites, the NOAA website, and the US Geological Survey for research purposes. is a good source where people deal with controversies and new research about climate. The Intergovernmental panel on Climate has summaries written for non-scientists.

PBS Learning Media website is a place where you can search by subject and grade level.

Think about maps and plate tectonics. Earth has layers that differ in density and rock type. The asthenosphere has a texture like silly putty: it's solid in the short term, but liquid in the long term. The rock plates rest on this. They are not like continents in an ocean, but like broken ice on a pond, all of them moving at once. They can move relative to each other in three ways:

1. Pulling away from each other.
2. Crashing into each other. When two plates collide, the one that is denser (the oceanic plate) is forced under.
3. Sliding past each other. This is called a transform fault.

Mountains are generally formed by number 2. This is how the Himalayas were formed. Number 1 forms ocean ridges, a mountain range on the abyssal plain.

These movements can change over time. The "young" coast ranges in the US were formed when the pate boundary was subduction rather than transform. Mid-continent mountain ranges can exist but usually are old and blunt.

A downgoing oceanic plate gets melted as it goes further down. The melted rock can rise up as volcanoes.

The Himalayas were formed when the Indian subcontinent broke off of Gondwana and slammed into the Asian continent. They are still rising. There are marine fossils on top of them! A spreading ridge by Antarctica causes this. New mountain ranges are high and sharp. Weathering will slowly wear it down like the Appalachians. The Hawaii emperor seamount chain is considered to be caused by a hotspot. We assume the hotspot to be stationary with the plate moving over it (otherwise the math is a nightmare). In Yellowstone, magma keeps pushing up.

In a possible twist, there may be the equivalent of mountain chains pointing toward the core of the earth.

Volcanic eruptions lead to increased sulfur and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Lake Nyos in Cameroon is a crater lake with a volcano underneath. Carbon dioxide built up under the surface of the lake, and then the lake water overturned and the carbon dioxide flowed out into the surrounding area, wiping out every living thing including people in local villages.

The Long Valley Caldera by Mammoth mountain east of the Sierra Nevada has been monitored for decades. The idea for the terrorism alert level colors come from the volcano alert levels. They monitor carbon dioxide, ground motion, and earthquakes. A caldera forms when magma empties out of an area and the ground collapses.

Heidi recommends the movie/docudrama Supervolcano from BBC/Discovery channel. It can be found on Netflix and YouTube. (Not the one made by others).

Methane clathrates are substances where methane is enclosed in a crystalline structure with water. They contributed to the Permian extinction. An eruption of basalt that lasted for a million years filled a basin of sulfur deposits, releasing toxic gas and warming Earth, which was further contributed to by methane clathrates.

Geology is very relevant to daily life. It affects how your house is built, and where, and what you need to withstand shaking. Heidi has worked with natural hazard disclosure which includes things like how close you are to a fault, how likely the ground is to undergo liquefaction, whether you are in a flood zone, or in a dam break flood zone.

Thank you so much, Dr. Heidi Stauffer, for joining us! We had such a great time and continue to be curious about the effects of geology in daily life, so I hope we can have you back on the show very soon.

Today at 4pm Pacific Daylight Time, we will be joined on the show by guest author Vida Cruz! I hope you can be there.

Don't forget, if you like the blog and the show, you can come support me and get extra worldbuilding goodies like links and topic prompts at my Patreon, here.