Christina's post last week made me think more about worldbuilding--and in particular the consistency of worldbuilding. If your book is set in this world, it needs to obey the laws of physics and biology, not to mention what I know about psychology, sociology, economics, and so on. I mean, I don't know much social science, so I'm not too picky on that score. But if you postulate that in your near-future US society, people are going to be A-OK with sacrificing sixteen-year-old kids, like Neal Shusterman does in Unwind, I'm going to be a little cranky even if your book is otherwise pretty decent. And I'm really picky about physics and math, because that happens to be my thing. If your plot ignores basic mathematics, like basically every vampire book ever, I'm going to get really cranky. I'm going to pick on The Passage(Cronin) because it's the one I read most recently, but look: if vampires have to turn people into vampires every couple nights or so to survive themselves, this is an exponential function with a rapid doubling time. Mathematically, this basically means that everyone is gonna be vampires really soon, and then they'll all starve. This is why I can't read vampire books any longer.
If your book is set in another world, I suddenly become much less picky. I'd like it to be consistent -- no breaking rules that were previously set forth in the book. But that's a pretty low bar, and I don't even insist on that. The Harry Potter books, for instance -- have you ever tried to figure out rules or laws underlying the magic system in the Harry Potter books? Or figured out how the economy works? It'll give you a headache, because it really isn't set up consistently. And yet I totally love these books.
I think I have much more stringent requirements for science fiction than for fantasy because I was brought up on all kinds of whimsical fantasies like Narnia, The Phantom Tollbooth, that kind of thing -- where fantastical aspects were piled on top of one another without worrying too much about consistency. My SF upbringing, on the other hand, involved the hard-science masters like Asimov and Clarke: people who tried to make their science as correct and consistent as possible. And I guess I retained that even as I got older.
I know people, though, who are just as picky about their fantasy as their SF, and some who are more picky. How about you? Do you care about consistency? If so, are there particular genres, or topics, that you really care about, the way I do about science and math?
1. Interview and Giveaway with Clare Marshall, author of The Violet Fox, e-copy of The Violet Fox (INT)
Violet Fox Giveaway
2. Interview and Giveaway prize pack of Beckoning Light and Perilous Light by Alyssa Rose Ivy (US only), 11/12
Afterglow Trilogy Giveaway