Friday, March 11, 2016

Follow Friday - 246 Is the Smallest Number N for Which It Is Known That There Is an Infinite Number of Prime Gaps No Larger Than N

It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - The Bookavid.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: What are some of your biggest pet peeves with books? (i.e. Love triangles, etc.)

I read a lot of speculative fiction. That means I read a lot of books that imagine worlds that have elements such as aliens invading the Earth in the middle of World War II, or the Napoleonic Wars being fought with air forces comprised of dragons, or humans have all gained the ability to teleport from place to place, or some people are able to read minds, and so on and so forth. I really love these sorts of books, so long as they are done well. What really annoys me are books in which the author clearly didn't think through the implications of the element they've introduced into their story.

As an example of this sort of book done well, I point to Alfred Bester's science fiction classic The Stars My Destination, which imagines a world in which people can teleport. The story itself focuses on Gully Foyle and his quest for revenge against those who abandoned him when he was marooned in space, but the world surrounding him is so well thought out that it makes the story that much better. Bester wondered how, in a world in which people could jump to any point they could visualize, houses could be built to ensure privacy, or how prisons could be constructed to prevent those incarcerated within them from simply jumping out at will. And so on. Every element of Bester's imagined world is thought out and holds up to scrutiny.

On the other hand, Naomi Novik's Tremeraire series has some annoying holes in its world building. Novik imagined what our world might have been like if dragons existed, and then set her stories in the Napoleonic Era, creating a series reminiscent of the naval adventures penned by C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brien. The problem is that even though she spent a fair amount of time thinking about how dragon military units might be organized and how to transport dragons by sea, she didn't really work through how the changes in the global balance of power would have affected the attitudes of her British officers. Despite the fact that nations in Asia and Africa have substantial dragon forces which almost entirely offset any European edge in technology, the British officers are continually surprised when their plans are foiled by the natives they encounter. The world is radically changed from our own, but no one seems to have informed the inhabitants of that world that they don't live in ours.

This sort of oversight happens with depressing regularity in speculative fiction. One might find a world in which a godlike superintelligent being has discovered an almost infinite energy supply, and yet the economy remains mired in an almost perpetual recession, or a world in which some humans have developed magical powers and this seems to have had almost no effect on the hundred or so years of technological development that transpired since magical people popped into the world. And so on. When world-building is done well, it adds an almost sublime element to a story that pulls the reader into the alternate reality imagined by the author, but when it is done poorly, the story lands with a clumsy thud that yanks the reader right out of it and has them asking what in the hell is going on. I love great world-building. I loathe clumsy world-building.

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  1. Great post. Bad worldbuilding gets on my nerves. If you’re going to set a story in an unfamiliar world, you have to think about everything.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. @AJ Sterkel: Weak worldbuilding taints almost everything else about a book. It doesn't necessarily ruin a book, but it does make it much more difficult to take seriously.