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I was listening to the latest "Writing Excuses" podcast by the same name. The hosts and guest suggested that you get "one buy" when it comes to weirdness in a story, especially if it's short fiction. Basically, a buy is one conceit or premise that changes the world from what we are comfortable with and know. Any other weirdness needs to actually be connected to this main conceit.

For some longer stories, it was suggested that you could bring in more "buys" as long as you didn't bring them in too quickly one after the other.

Does this apply to worldbuilding, not to be used in stories? Or can you have a big enough buy that almost any worldbuilding endeavor can be considered good even by these rules?

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How weird is too weird?


Jelly Donut World was pretty fucking weird.

The hosts and guest suggested that you get "one buy" when it comes to weirdness in a story, especially if it's short fiction. Basically, a buy is one conceit or premise that changes the world from what we are comfortable with and know. Any other weirdness needs to actually be connected to this main conceit.


A lot of my science fiction collection disagrees with that point. Even relatively tame stories like Dune have prescient space pilots, societies built on the collection and reuse of water, a totally carnivorous ecosystem, and all the madness associated with the Bene Gesserit.

Does this apply to worldbuilding, not to be used in stories? Or can you have a big enough buy that almost any worldbuilding endeavor can be considered good even by these rules?


It does help with any worldbuilding project to have some kind of central focus, even if you have a lot of other weirdness surrounding it. Most of my conworlds have the underlying weird physics / geography as the central focus and then build other weirdness around them.

Posted February 18th by Xhin
Xhin
Nature is beautiful

Jelly Donut World was pretty fucking weird.


the weirdest anime Ive watched (and I doubt either is really doubt weird to hardcore anime fans) is fighting foodons and a much more recent one in which every one enjoyed the food a little too much.

Posted February 18th by S.O.H.
S.O.H.
 

The one buy is a rather conservative way to build a world, but you end up with something more cohesive from it.

Personally, I think a good world has intrinsic structure: the logic is internally consistent, and it fulfills a sense of purpose. Even worlds like Spirited Away that are more difficult to grasp still have that sense of purpose and order. My Little Pony's world has a ton of freaking "buys:" magical unicorns, magical artifacts, tons of species, some which live for millennia, and Pinkie Pie, completely disregarding the fact that they're all talking horses. But even with looser definitions of what magic is and is not capable of AND consistency thrown out the window in that regard, it still works because of the structure and implied purpose. There are clearly defined classes, and within those classes there are differing levels of mastery. Magic requires powerful tools, or powerful ponies to pull off. That power is actually inherent, not something you can really earn.

You can easily have more than one buy (see: Futurama), but the important thing is to maintain some sense of structure and purpose throughout.

Posted February 19th by mariomguy

One exception to the "one buy" they did bring up was genre conventions so that might cover Dune and the like?

But conworlds don't really come with genre conventions . Maybe having as few conceits as possible is a better rule? Like you can have a lot of weirdness, like Jelly Donut World, but any time things were added they had to work off of what was already there at least. If someone introduced something new, they had to say how it worked with everything else.

Though I do agree that ONE buy is very constricting.

Posted February 19th by linguistcat

First: I think it might be “by” or “bye” instead of “buy”, like when you get to sit out a round in a tournament.
(I am prepared to be schooled in case I’m wrong!)

Second: I know of many great F&SF stories that couldn’t have been written, or even thought of, without two bys.

So my personal limit —— if I’m being serious —— is three bys.
But I might prefer stories with two to stories with more than two.
And if I’m the one making it up, I might not limit myself at all.

Posted February 19th by chiarizio

I just took the spelling of buy from what they had in their intro notes. I took it as one thing your audience has to "buy into" to be willing to read your story/enjoy your world.

ETA: I'm considering making a fantasy story but set in space. Would that be one buy + typical fantasy genre conventions? Or is this two buys?

Maybe it's one buy if I set it up as "The stars in this universe are actually deities who allow space travel within limits between their realms", and two if I state it as "this is a fantasy universe (1) in space(2)"?

Edited February 19th by linguistcat

I just took the spelling of buy from what they had in their intro notes. I took it as one thing your audience has to "buy into" to be willing to read your story/enjoy your world.


Yes, that’s reasonable-sounding; maybe that’s it.


ETA: I'm considering making a fantasy story but set in space. Would that be one buy + typical fantasy genre conventions? Or is this two buys?


Remembering that I like two buys, I’d say that’s two buys.


Maybe it's one buy if I set it up as "The stars in this universe are actually deities who allow space travel within limits between their realms", and two if I state it as "this is a fantasy universe (1) in space(2)"?


Shucks, I’m not sure. Does calling a cat’s tail a leg make it one? Either way I’d read it!

Posted February 19th by chiarizio

Futurama:

  • 3000 years into the future (and if that's not enough, time travel)
  • Robots
  • Aliens
  • Mutants
  • Space travel

    TMNT:

  • Mutants and monsters
  • All-powerful ninjas
  • Aliens
  • Robots
  • Time travel

    MLP:

  • Talking horses
  • Some fly
  • And control the weather
  • Some cast spells
  • Some do both
  • And live forever
  • Time travel
  • Mythical monsters (and friends)
  • Magical artifacts, spells, incantations

    LOTR

  • Hobbits, elves
  • Wizards and magic
  • Dragons

    You can have a great world with a ton of "buys," you just need to maintain a reasonable structure and sense of purpose. For Futurama, the core is the world 3000 years into the future, where in spite of aliens and robots and great technology being commonplace, societal and personal problems are still the same. For MLP the core of the show is plot-driven with the focal theme being friendship and relationships. For TMNT, it's literally just more things for the turtles to fight, and for most people that's enough.

  • Posted February 19th by mariomguy

    Maybe it's one buy if I set it up as "The stars in this universe are actually deities who allow space travel within limits between their realms"


    That sounds awesome. You should do it.

    Futurama:


    Honestly you could consider Futurama to be zero buys.. it's a sitcom set in space with all the sci-fi weirdness that entails.

    TMNT and MLP


    TMNT is pretty crazy. Multiple buys there. MLP looks like it's the same kind of thing. You're not really meant to suspend disbelief in those stories, or many other kids shows for that matter. Take Looney tunes for example, you've obviously got the anthropomorphic animals but you also have a shitload of reality-breaking mechanics happening for comedic purposes.

    LOTR


    LOTR (and the hobbit for that matter) were definitely way ahead of the curve for their time. Ridiculous amounts of buys happening.

    Posted February 19th by Xhin
    Xhin
    Nature is beautiful

    Honestly you could consider Futurama to be zero buys.. it's a sitcom set in space with all the sci-fi weirdness that entails.

    And yet, the mutants live under the sewers of New New York...

    TMNT is pretty crazy. Multiple buys there. MLP looks like it's the same kind of thing. You're not really meant to suspend disbelief in those stories, or many other kids shows for that matter.

    But it's a WORLD. MLP especially does such a great job focusing on the importance of friendship and the show covers a TON of topics (especially seasons 1-6) that so many people have bought into it, despite being off-the-walls inconsistent. It has structure despite the inconsistency. The world is filled with life and character. TMNT, at least Nick's 2012 reboot, attempted a more serious tone, and actually fails sometimes (the Triceratons and time jump really pushed it over the edge). But for a while it was trying to make itself at least functionally plausible.

    LOTR (and the hobbit for that matter) were definitely way ahead of the curve for their time. Ridiculous amounts of buys happening.

    The first paracosm?

    Posted February 20th by mariomguy

    Honestly you could consider Futurama to be zero buys.. it's a sitcom set in space with all the sci-fi weirdness that entails.

    And yet, the mutants live under the sewers of New New York...


    I'm not sure how this is zero buys. At the least, you have to buy that cryogenics work (that's the premise of the very first episode and what sets up the rest of the plot, even if it is a sitcom). You can say a lot of the weirdness is a result of that (Fry is in the future, so many things have changed and technology has advanced), but that's still at least one buy right there. And there are other "buys" that get introduced later that aren't just direct extensions of "Fry is in the future".

    TMNT is pretty crazy. Multiple buys there. MLP looks like it's the same kind of thing. You're not really meant to suspend disbelief in those stories, or many other kids shows for that matter.

    ...


    I can agree with these. TMNT is fun but at the very least there is the buy that chemicals turn some animals into humanoid versions, then the buy that there is an evil ninja warlord (or similar), and that the turtles who were transformed by chemicals, were found by a rat who was similarly transformed, and who taught them to use martial arts. MLP has a similar number of buys.

    LOTR (and the hobbit for that matter) were definitely way ahead of the curve for their time. Ridiculous amounts of buys happening.


    I think LOTR is debatable. On one hand I've heard it called Fantasy Prehistoric Europe, and depending how you want to count genre conventions (since it's fantasy, we can assume there's magic or the like), that description is between 1 and 3 buys. But you could probably point out what things you feel have to be bought into and good cases might be made for some, or some combos.

    Posted February 20th by linguistcat
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