Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Explaining the Technology

I've already discussed how I find it disappointing there aren't more settings that combine magic and technology. It was... right here (yes, I know, not even one month in this blogging thing and I'm already shamelessly linking myself).

Ironic, then, that I am currently working on a setting with a few technological elements... and no magic.

Yes, I know.

It's not what I want to talk about, though. While I worked out the kinks of my world, I came up with a simple problem: explaining why I had different level of technology in the same world. What I mean by that is that I wanted airships next to the old printing press, or large amounts of electricity with communications limited to telegraphs.

My first thought was to explain it through the humans' needs. Why spend time developing technology if it won't serve? That could explain why there was no wire communication along with the airships. But what about the rest? And why on earth would zeppelins still be the main method of travel?

I need reasons. I know I could let some of these things unexplained, since it's unlikely I'll get to say all of this in the novel. But I can't. When I ask myself the Why Question, I need to answer it.

I was stuck, though. Nothing I thought up seemed good enough. What did I do? I called upon a writer friend, of course! Here's what he told me: "Maybe they had a lot of natural gases?"

Maybe I'm the only one who never thought of it that way, but I was amazed. Flabbergasted. Not once did I try to explain it through the resources. It seems simple now, and obvious, but it hadn't crossed my mind. After my friend asked me that question, everything fell into place (you know how fun that is).

I guess the moral in this is simple. When trying to explain the evolution of any society's technology, there are two things to consider: needs and resources. What you want to do, and how you can do it. The formal and material cause. (I know, I know, shameless!)

With that, I return to my worldbuilding. Also... 10 days until NaNoWriMo!


  1. OoOoOoOh.... sounds steampunky. I could not write steampunk for this very reason. It seems very hard to me to explain the juxtaposition of very old technologies with very new!

  2. It is, indeed, steampunky. Not the very definition of the genre, but close enough (and closer to it than anything else).

    I find explaining everything to be a lot of work, but I love it, so it's not like I mind. ^^