Fancast Spotlight: Worldbuilding for Masochists

Even though I recently announced the new Semiprozine Spotlight series, I’m still featuring fanzines and fancasts, too.

And therefore, here is the next entry in the Fancast Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.

Today, I’m pleased to feature Worldbuilding for Masochists, a 2021 Hugo finalist for Best Fancast.

Therefore I’m happy to welcome Marshall Ryan Maresca, Cass Morris and Rowenna Miller of Worldbuilding for Masochists to my blog today:

Worldbuilding for Masochists logoTell us about your podcast or channel.

Tide charts — a stack of books on constellation mythology — an elaborately sketched map — a bulletin board covered in illustrations of obsolete technology — research on textiles, naming conventions, architecture and a dozen ways to cook lentils — what could it all mean? 

It means worldbuilding. Big worldbuilding. Elaborate worldbuilding. Obsessive worldbuilding. Dare we say… masochistic worldbuilding?

Play along with three fantasy authors as they delve into the intricacies of building a fantasy world from the ground up. We build a new fantasy world together, we explore history, culture, science, and more as we learn new and exciting ways to choose the shape of our invented worlds, rather than merely repeating the presumptions of common tropes.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

MRM: I’m Marshall Ryan Maresca, and I’m a fantasy writer mostly known for the Maradaine Saga, which is four interconnected series set in the same city that braid together over time, starting with The Thorn of Dentonhill, A Murder of Mages, Holver Alley Crew and The Way of the Shield, and the latest book in that setting is An Unintended Voyage.  I also have a standalone dieselpunk fantasy, The Velocity of Revolution, about an undercover officer infiltrating a rebel cycle gang in an occupied, colonized nation. And I’m an obsessive worldbuilder.

CRM: I’m Cass Morris, writing historical fantasy. My debut series, the Aven Cycle (From Unseen Fire and Give Way to Night) takes place in an alternate version of ancient Rome, where magic has shaped society as much as law, politics, and war. In my other life, I’m an educator currently teaching composition at a community college, but most of my experience is in Shakespeare studies.

RM: I’m Rowenna Miller, a fantasy writer, history nerd, sometimes-seamstress, part-time English professor, and novice goatherd. My trilogy, The Unraveled Kingdom, follows a dressmaker through a revolution in a world inspired by 18th century France and England; my next book, The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill, is a historical fantasy set in the waning years of the Gilded Age. 

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

 So, the origin of the podcast, like so many things these days, came from Twitter. At the time– April or May 2019– Rowenna & Marshall and Alexandra Rowland were having several extended conversations about getting very detailed into worldbuilding– the effects of multiple moons on culture, how different fabrics choices can cascade into other elements, the sort of “if you decided to do A, how does that affect B, C, D” and so on.  And one of us commented, “So convention really should put us on a worldbuilding panel.”  And then someone commented to us, “You all should just start a podcast.”  And we went, “Should we?  Why not?”  

So we did!  And one of our first guests was Cass Morris, who was amazing. So when Alex decided they needed to step away, Cass was the obvious choice to join in on the fun.

What format do you use for your podcast or channel and why did you choose this format?

I think we chose a podcast specifically so we could actually talk to each other and geek out about worldbuilding together, while not having to necessarily be good on camera.  I know for me, audio is a very forgiving format, especially in the ability to edit it.

The fan categories at the Hugos were there at the very beginning, but they are also the categories which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines, fancasts and other fan projects are important?

CRM: Fandom is what drives so much of speculative fiction. I have no idea what my life would look like without the fandoms I’ve been involved in since childhood. Fan projects are a way of making full cultural conversations out of original stories, encouraging contextualization and re-examination of favorite works, drawing attention to marginalized creators, and making a place for every reader, viewer, and listener to become part of the narrative.

RM: I’m sure this is true of other genres and mediums, but most SFF writers–we were fans first and we’re still fans. Doing this podcast is the ultimate nerd fantasy–we get to talk to these people we are in awe of and geek out together. I think that fan projects foster that exchange–that the audience is not passive, the audience are creators. I always say that reading is a creative process, but fan work makes it even more active and vibrant.

MRM: Fandom is where we all start, one way or another.  Even if we don’t necessarily find our communities, we all get into SFF by loving some work so much we need to 

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online and fancasts have sprung up. What do you think the future of fan media looks like?

CRM: Personally, I’m looking forward to holodeck fan media.

RM: I’m all for anything that continues to make fan creation more accessible and more equitable. I want everyone to be able to play! As Cass said, it’s in fandom that some of the most important conversations happen–digging deeper into the biases and structures in works we love, and can center marginalized voices when, well, traditional avenues don’t always do a great job.

MRM: I think a lot about how much the capability of fanmade work has jumped to the next level.  You have, for example, fanfilms made in someone’s garage that look just like the original Star Trek.  So I’m excited about what sort of things fans will just be able to do with the tools at their disposal.  But also holodecks.  Holodecks would be cool. 

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

MRM: I’ve been paying more attention to BookTubers, and I’m glad that they’re getting attention in this category.  I’m a big fan of SFF180, though that’s in no small part because Thomas is an old friend.  

CRM: I have to shout-out CerebroCast, with the confession that it’s my agent’s podcast. But it’s seriously amazing — every week, he’s doing a deep dive into one character from the X-Men with a guest who loves that character, with particular attention to the perspectives of marginalized fans. There’s also been a lot of discussion of the sociopolitical implications of the current storylines, where the mutants are establishing their own homeland on the island of Krakoa. The podcast is smart, funny, equal parts heartfelt and snarky.

Where can people find you?


MRM:, @marshallmaresca on Twitter, @mrmaresca on Instagram

CRM:; @cassrmorris on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok; 

RM:, @rowennam on Twitter, @rowenna.past.perfect on Instagram

Thank you, Marshall, Cass and Rowenna, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out Worldbuilding for Masochists, cause it’s a great podcast.


Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast or a semiprozine and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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