Tag Archives: podcast

41 – Worldbuilding: Second Order Effects

Daystar and Alexander discuss worldbuilding, and why considering second-order effects is so important to making it rational, and can help in finding or fleshing out good plots.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


Asterisk War Sucks


2:50 Battle School concept

6:46 Inadequate Equilibria As Story Elements

22:55 Shadows of the Limelight

28:22 Consequence of the Consequence

37:20 Aesop Exacerbation

41:14 Confronting Civilizational Inadequacy

Alexander’s Book Recommendation

My recommendation for this week is The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson, starting with “The Way of Kings.” Sanderson is a rather prolific author, and this is his epic fantasy series, with thick, doorstopper books, dozens of viewpoint characters, and a larger scale than he’s worked on before.

I feel like worldbuilding, and specifically, second-order worldbuilding, has always been one of Sanderson’s strong points. The world of Roshar is dominated by immense, rock-hurling storms that move from east to west, which has all sorts of interesting first order effects, like the best places to build cities being in the lee of a mountain or cliff, and architecture being suited specifically to defend against heavy winds from one side. The second order effects are in trade, travel, the organization of civilizations, and the prominence of cities. Because the highstorms grow weaker as they move across Roshar, the vegetation and plantlife is affected, and the civilizations that live within them are adapted to different conditions.

If you want to give it a listen instead of a read, you can go to Audible and get a free book credit when you start a trial, and by using that link you can help support the show!

40 – Review: The Prestige

Daystar and Alexander review the movie The Prestige, and explore what made it such a well constructed, perhaps even rational, work of fiction.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


The Prestige



2:24 Summary + Was it Rational?

16:30 Foreshadowing

21:34 Clashing Ideologies

25:22 Noticing Confusion

30:25 Magic and Storytelling

45:40 Repeat Viewings

39 – Children in Fiction

Daystar and Alexander discuss children in fiction, including what makes them realistic and why reactions to them can vary so widely.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


Stranger Things

IT by Stephen King

Dark Wizard of Donkirk by Alexander Wales

Time Stamps

0:31 Advantages of child protagonists

4:43 “Children don’t act like that.”

16:00 Keeping smart/mature children children

20:37 Evergreen methods

26:40 Predictive Processing and “Wonder”

34:33 Pokemon: The Origin of Species


Hey everyone, this week I’m recommending IT, by Stephen King. While the movie that was recently released was a well made adaptation, it’s impossible for any single movie, or even pair of movies, to capture the world and characters of the book, which is about 450 thousands words long, almost half the length of the Harry Potter series. The reason I’m recommending it this week is because IT is like few other books in capturing the feeling of being children: the friendship, the fear, the tragedy, the lack of control, the imagination, all of it.

There’s also an evil shapeshifting clown monster, of course, an eldritch avatar of fear that is nearly as iconic as any horror monsters out there, but that’s not where I would say the heart and soul of the story is: for me that has always been the characters. The children in IT can at times be caricatures, but they’re caricatures in the ways that kids can be caricatures, still developing who they are as people by committing to one dimension at at time while you watch the other two grow. And seeing them all do this together, to fight an unspeakable evil that only they can face, is fantastically done.

As a rational work, IT is middle of the road: a lot of the monster’s true mechanics are left vague, and what “magic” there is in the story is the wild and unexamined kind. But there are great explanations for why it’s up to the kids to deal with this instead of getting adults involved, and the characters do their best to understand their mercurial enemy and strategize against it without the gifts of particularly high intelligence or rationalist techniques. Mistakes feel organic and understandable, and there’s little if any Idiot Ball holding.

Some content warnings: the book does include a lot of grotesquery, in the forms of gory deaths, including of children. There’s also a sex scene near the end that squiks a lot of people out for understandable reasons. Overall though, I think IT is one of Stephen King’s best works, and the first piece of fiction I think of when I think of writing realistic children. The second, incidentally, is also by Stephen King, a much shorter non-horror novella called The Body, which was adapted into the movie Stand By Me and can be found in the book Different Seasons.

Both can be found at Audible, and if you don’t already have an account, you can sign up for a trial and get a free book at http://www.audibletrial.com/rational

Thanks for listening!

38 – The Medium of Prose Fiction

Daystar and Alexander discuss the unique aspects of the various mediums of prose fiction, and how new technologies introduce new opportunities and challenges.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


The Northern Caves by nostalgebraist

House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski

The Dionaea House


Dogs of Future Past


5:03 Technological limitations

11:01 Conventions

16:45 New Media

19:27 Music

24:45 Subjectivity

31:45 Mediumception