The Worldbuilding Academy is a writers’ residency organized by Fondazione di Comunità Messina (FdCM) and Sci-Fi Economics Lab (SF-ECON). Please consider applying. In this post you find the relevant information.
Worldbuilding is the activity of constructing an imaginary world, often for the purpose of acting as the backdrop for a creative endeavor (a book, a film, a video game). Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, geography, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers.
We (FdCM and SF-ECON) want to develop an open source world to set speculative fiction (sci-fi or fantasy) in. Its chief characteristic is that it pays attention to its economy: behavior, dynamics and institutions. We aim to create an exciting setting for works of fiction, based on economies that are ideally radically different from our own, and yet believable.
From this exercise, we hope to learn about what kind of economic systems people are attracted to (or repelled from). We plan to treat the materials produced by the Worldbuilding Academy as a sort of ethnography of utopia. In this sense, this is also a research project.
The development process has two components.
- Our writer-in-residence provides, top-down, a general overview of the world, determining broad characteristics such as the world’s inhabitants, technology level, major geographic features, climate, and history. The broad architecture of this world could include different social and economic spaces to provide more diversity and contrast. This is a familiar technique in speculative fiction, from Anarres and Urras in LeGuin’s The dispossessed, to the Hives in Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series, all the way to Tolkien’s economic geography where the small commerce of the Shire contrasts with the heavy industry of Orthanc.
- Anyone can then take part in “filling in”, bottom-up, the inevitable gaps. Using the Harry Potter saga as an example, Rowling has invented (top-down) wizarding money. But readers do not know if it is pegged to gold (as suggested by the fact that their cash is minted in precious metals: but then who is to prevent wizards and witches to magic more metal into existence?), or of it is a full fiat currency; the role of the different wizarding currencies in regulating foreign trade, and so forth. This leaves a space for Harry Potter fans to design, bottom-up, their own wizarding equivalent of central banks, the WTO, the IMF, and so on. This part will be led by SF-ECON, which already has a small, but active, community.
Intellectual property rights
After the information session of October 16th, a clarification on IPRs:
- The Worldbuilding Bible or Worldbuilding Canon, the world itself, is the intellectual property of its author(s), but must be licensed with a Creative Commons – Attribution license.
- Any actual work set in the world described thereby (novel, or short story, or film, or game, or economics paper or whatever), is the intellectual property of its author(s), who license(s) it or not any way they want. Since the world is open source, these rights are not tainted by claims over the creative input that went into making the world.
Where? In Messina, Sicily. You will be the guest of FdCM, headquartered in an inspiring seaside location, on the strait overlooking mainland Italy. FdCM is experimenting in creating a radically different economic system in the city – you are encouraged to hang out with them, learn about it and be inspired.
When? The period is flexible, but it should be no more than 15 days long and end by the 1st of December.
What about logistics? FdCM will cover your travel costs up to 500 EUR; provide you with a small lump sum for incidentals (1,000 EUR); and provide you with a car. It will also provide a completely autonomous apartment and a writing space. FdCM will do their best to make you feel welcome, and Sicilian hospitality is legendary!
Who should apply, and how to apply
We welcome applications from absolutely anyone who cares about our collective capacity to imagine completely different economic systems. It will help if you are a speculative fiction author, economist, anthropologist, social scientist, but it’s not necessary.
To apply, write a short letter of intent to email@example.com. Explain how you propose to go about building this world. Add a CV, or a link to one, or a link to your personal website, or anything else that allows us to learn more about you. We may ask for a call to ask you some questions and clarifications.
There is no deadline per se, we review the applications as they come and stop when we find a suitable candidate. If you have questions, just ask them here; or in the online information session that takes place on October 16th, at 2pm Brussels time.