“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” –Carl Sagan
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (otherwise known as the late 1970s) a documentary series aired called Connections, narrated by James Burke. It was about a bit of everything, but mostly about how the inventions and materials that shape our lives have unexpected and often vast interdependencies. What does this have to do creating ecologies for second-world fantasies?
I’ll get to that.
Now James Burke’s documentary series may not have always been factually correct and certainly had an extremely Eurocentric point of view, but the series was mind-blowing to me as a child. The major lesson I pulled from that show was not ‘fact,’ but process: the idea that the consequences of a decision, invention, or material all ripple, multiplying far beyond the initial triggering event. If you’re obsessed with creating worlds, as I was and still am, that has some serious ramifications. Because, not to put too fine a line on it, matter matters. What the everyday objects in a story are made from reflects the world it is set in.
To flip that quote from the late, great Carl Sagan: if apples don’t exist in your universe, you can’t have apple pie.