Anime Boston 2019 - Foundations of World Building - BH Pierce Sits at a table as he presents a lecture.Host: BH Pierce

Whether you’re an aspiring author, a Game Master on-duty, or even just a person who appreciates a well-crafted fictional city, it’s hard to deny the appeal of the fun that can come from building a world. Producing populations and crafting civilizations can carry a unique rush that’s nearly impossible to describe. That said, while it’s easy to imagine these worlds, it’s immensely hard to really sell that reality to the public.

BH Pierce, whose Atelva Chronicles stories have enchanted readers since 2016, aims to change that. In Foundations of World Building, Pierce aimed to teach attendees the ins and outs of creating believable cultures and societies, and how to present these creations to an audience. Pierce structured the panel like a college lecture, handing out a syllabus that outlined key terms and additional resources at the start of the panel. Once everybody had their notes, he quickly dove into his lesson.

Pierce maintained a friendly, laid-back atmosphere through the panel, as he chatted up concepts like scope, scale, and even the basics on how to describe the unexplained. The effects of location and climate, the presence of technology, and even ways inhabitants would gather food were all fair game, as he laid down the basics for a plausible universe. The location of societies, the way people gather food, and even the way magic or technology play into a world were all ripe for conversation through the lecture.

Every concept was linked to a real, memorable mnemonic visual, which helped to cement the idea in the minds of the audience. For example, on the discussion of breadth, Pierce brought up the differences between the Star Wars trilogies, highlighting the hero’s’ journey of the originals as being a low-scope adventure, where the world is less important than those who interact with it. The political intrigue of the prequels, though, saw the scope grow deeper, as the world suddenly became far more important.

At the same time, Pierce had the room apply what he was teaching after every major topic. Through the panel, he would pause, and challenge the room to build a fictional society of their own, taking suggestions on every major idea, starting with the general climate, and running through the four major pillars of a society in religion, economy, military, and government. This proved to be the highlight of the event, as the room quickly began to shout out ideas on what this would should be. Fans debated whether the realm should be in a mountain, or a mangrove, or the middle of the ocean. They tried to reason why Essential Oils would be a prime export, and how a fire marshal could become the leader of a nation. Through it all, it was apparent that Pierce wasn’t entirely ready for what people were ready to pitch. On more than a few occasions, he stopped taking notes to put his head down and let out audible laughs.

By the end of the panel, though, the room had a world of its very own. They collectively dreamed up a city-state in a mangrove, where it was always raining fire. This realm, led by the mighty Fire Marshall Ray, traded in bottle caps, fire repellent, sunscreen, and essential oils, as well as normal things (that were on fire). These people ate pears, fire sheep, and vorpal rabbits, and chose their leader in a literal trial by fire. The state’s religion sought to set fire to the world through Cross Fit, which would be rewarded by a really cool hat (and mangoes).

They were a peaceful society, whose army of Fire Fighters (not those ones ) waged war against the Water People in lands far, far away.

That city-state’s name was Rhode Island. And, as a Rhode Islander, I can confirm: everything is always on fire here, even when it isn’t. So, good show, audience!

Joking aside, the panel was equal parts fascinating and insightful, and proved to be a fantastic primer for aspiring creators of all stripes. It was easy to see the gears turning in the minds of many of the fans, as they pondered and dreamed about their own fictional states and cities. Some might go on to create the next Middle Earth. Others, meanwhile, might just create another Rhode Island. Whatever the case, they were given a strong foundation to do build upon.