Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ken Liu discusses world-building

He describes the technology in his fantasy as Silkpunk, which is tremendously evocative of Eastern Asia, rebellion and fancy gadgets.
I read the theories of technology proposed by W. Brian Arthur. Arthur argues that technology could be understood as a kind of language, where common components and subassemblies are like the words, idioms, and clich├ęs of a language, and engineers are creative thinkers who arrange and assemble these into beautiful, functional compositions that harness natural phenomena to solve specific problems.
This gave me a new way of looking at the problem: each “-punk” subgenre is defined by its own distinct language of technology. What I needed was defining a new language of technology that was appropriate to the effect I wanted to achieve. Since the defining feature of this language was a design aesthetic rather than a source of power or a domain of science, I decided to call it “silkpunk.”
The nouns of the silkpunk language are materials of historic importance to East Asia (silk, ox sinew, paper, bamboo …) and seafaring cultures of the Pacific (feather, obsidian, shell, coconut, coral). The power sources – let’s call them verbs – are muscle (and animal products like ox sinew), wind, water, and – in a very primitive manner – steam. The principles of composition in this new language draw upon biomechanics and Classical Chinese philosophy and engineering practices. The result is a language of technology that is flexible, organic, and lifelike, visually and mechanically distinct from the brass-and-glass rigidity of steampunk.
I don't think that my worldbuilding is great, but so far it is my strongest point.  I most need to focus on character development.  But now I want to explore silkpunk further.

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