The holidays are upon us, and this year I will once again be forced by my wife and children to celebrate them. Believe me, I’d rather not, but that’s another thing entirely.

This year’s holiday season sees me busily preparing for a class I’m teaching on the subject of worldbuilding—a subject near and dear to my heart, and what I believe to be the very soul of the SF and fantasy genres. Mystery and romance authors need to pick a time and place in which to set their stories, and do research accordingly, but SF and fantasy authors usually need to invent a time and place, and that’s not as easy as it sounds . . . and it doesn’t sound easy.

It’s certainly a subject that requires more than one blog post, or as the people who attended my seminar at Write on the Sound in October found out, more than an hour and a half or so. Hence the eight-week class.

This week let’s take a quick look at one component to a richly realized SF or fantasy world: holidays.

The title of this post is inspired by my old stomping grounds, the Forgotten Realms world. Ed Greenwood’s Calendar of Harptos is a simple 365-day year made up of twelve months each with an even thirty days. But 365 isn’t evenly divisible by thirty, so you end up with five extra days, and these are special days—holidays—that sit outside, or between, months. There’s a winter holiday that comes between Uktar (FR’s November) and Nightal (December) called The Feast of the Moon. It’s described in the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide:

The Feast of the Moon: This holiday celebrates ancestors and the honored dead. During the festival, ancestral tales are recounted, and the stories and myths that bind cultures are taught anew.

That’s a pretty simple, two-sentence statement, and as you’re building your own world (or universe) think about holidays in that sort of simple statement. In our real world we have holidays like Christmas, which could be described in two sentences like this:

Christmas: Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, founder of the Christian religion, Christmas is one of that faith’s most holy days. It is celebrated by an exchange of gifts, and marked by celebrations and feasts with family and friends.

I think that more or less covers it.

But obviously there’s more to Christmas than just that…

Read the rest in…

Editor and author Philip Athans offers hands on advice for authors of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and fiction in general in this collection of 58 revised and expanded essays from the first five years of his long-running weekly blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook.


—Philip Athans


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About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. I know this is outside of the broad premise of your blog but your post “…Jesus Christ, founder of the Christian religion…” is wrong. Jesus did NOT start a church or a religion. The followers of Jesus(disciples)brought His word to the world. The word being that Jesus is the Son of God and believing in this is salvation and righteousness before the father. People start religions and churches. You don’t need a church or ritual to know Jesus. As a Christian I wanted you to know. Please delete this if you don’t approve instead of any flaming. Thanks and peace.

  2. Pingback: DO I REALLY HAVE TO WRITE ANOTHER CHRISTMAS POST? | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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