Taking Issue in Origin

Hello. How’s it going? Nearly a month off this blog. Oh well. I come bearing crazy.

I was recently listening to an old episode of a podcast that frequently frustrates me–The Dead Robot Society–And I started getting a little bit of what some call nerd rage. The podcast had a guest on this episode: Tracy Hickman. Now, I will admit I’ve never read any of Hickman’s work myself, and I’ve heard him talk on other podcasts, such as Writing Excuses, and I Should Be Writing, and I’ve frequently had problems with things he’s said. This episode of The Dead Robot Society takes the cake, but despite the rage, it inspired some useful thoughts for me.

One of the questions Hickman was asked on the show was something like–How does one create a wholly original religion? His answer (Which I thought was as ridiculous as “I was told there would be no math”) was that one need not create thing wholly originally and rather should lift things from existing real world societies instead. Personally, I see his point about there being, shall we say, nothing new under the sun. However, I take issue with his encouragement to new writers to simply ignore the creative aspect of working things out in a way that does not correlate one to one with a society from our world.

Nerd rage right? I tried to warn you.

You see, Hickman’s overall argument began with a statement along the lines of–A world is a whole thing. He says everything should tie in and make sense as a piece. This he said before (!) the question about religion. His response to the question is so contradictory to me that it invalidates his entire argument. He says to lift stuff from our world so it makes sense because it has support systems in place. But those support systems will not necessarily exist in the world you are WRITING in. He says steal stuff roots and all, but make the world one piece that organically originates from its own past. I agree both those things are necessary.

His point falls apart, and makes him sound silly because he says it isn’t worth making material that is original or new. To connect an organic world to an earth-like present situation one should need to make something that (at least) transitions one to the other. And if that doesn’t arise organically then how is one to end up with the present situation being earthlike at all? What’s more; a strong understanding of human nature might be enough to say; start with a world origin different (A universe based not on gravity and whirling spheres, but instead on pillars and different arbitrary rules of physics for example) from our own and then advance it to the present day one wants to play with in-story without an excessive amount of effort.

I guess I’m coming from a different perspective from Tracy. He seems to be one of the more story-focused writers in general, focused on the present rather than a high concept. Maybe I’m wrong there. I know that, for myself, I like to create worlds so my stories tend to have a concept related to some weird world I’ve made up already. Perhaps his means is more effective, but I’ll have to live another 30 or 40 years before I can compare ends with his process.

Excuse me. I hope I’m making sense. I feel like I was moving petty fast there, and it’s a bit late for me to check it all through before posting. I hope there aren’t too many parentheses up there. Whoops my roots as a literature major are showing.

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