I’ve been taking an important writing intensive this week, Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford’s Writing the Other. For the past seven days I’ve been mainly focused on keeping up with the reading and writing/craft exercises, all of which are illuminating and useful, none of which I’m going to share in detail with those who have not taken the course (because it is copyrighted material presented by top-notch instructors and it is so cheap that you should take the course ASAP, if you consider yourself a serious writer of fiction in any medium).
One of the recommended readings for the course is available for reading online, however, and I thought it was worth passing along: “They’re Made of Meat”, by Terry Bisson. This is a classic tale, first published in Omni in 1990, and still relevant today. It’s a masterpiece of comedic SF but it’s also an excellent lesson in SF world-building, in that it demonstrates when and how to use world-building detail in an SF story without destroying the pacing, sandbagging the tale with excessive word count, or losing the thread of the point that the story (and the characters in the story) are trying to make.
As an exercise for people who want to learn the craft at a deeper level, try this: read this story, which is literally 815 words long by my count. Then tell me–how many world-building details can you count?
I counted 102.
Bow before the master, folks.