The best possible world(s)

Though I’m careful to apply the Cup of Tea Rule* to any reviews of my work that I come across, some comments do stay with me. It tends to be the negative ones, which isn’t my natural glass-half-empty nature so much as a reflection of many years giving and receiving critiques. Positive comments may warm the ego, but the negative comments are the ones you learn from.

Several reviews of Guardians of Paradise have pointed out that the settings aren’t the book’s strong point. The main complaint is that they’re too Earth-like. I do have some justification for worlds with strong resemblances to given human cultures in my universe, because that’s how these colonies were originally set up: as isolated communities, many of them intended to recreate some nominal Golden Age experienced by a historical culture on Earth. However, several thousand years of change, the last millennium of which has involved a degree of cross-cultural contact, will have led them to evolve, in some cases quite radically, and I need to reflect this.

Though much of Queen of Nowhere will be set in the space-based and cosmopolitan human culture at the heart of my future, I’ve now planned enough of the book to expect the story to include three planetary worlds, each one of which will have a distinct culture, with a lot of variation in tech-level, beliefs and social organization. I need to put the time in to make these worlds come alive.

Yesterday, during a rare visit to London, Beloved and I spent a while wandering around the British Museum. Even in the brief time were were there, I had several vivid reminders of how diverse and sometimes startling human cultures can be – and that’s just on one planet. So, this week, I will mainly be world-building.

*on reading a review of your work which evokes a strong response – good or bad – stop right there and go make a cup of tea. You have until you’ve made and drunk the tea – with cake or other consoling comestible if required – to rant about how the nasty critic misunderstood your genius or to crow about having finally had said genius acknowledged. Once tea-time’s over, go back to work. (This is one of many pieces of invaluable advice imparted to me by fellow SF writer Liz Williams.)

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