I was perfectly happy when my advisor suggested I take Cultural Anthropology, as it checked off four different requirements for my degree and was a freshman level class. (I’m a senior, majoring in history.)
Today we had our first class. One major point of today’s introduction was that anthropology covers all times and areas where humans have existed and do exist. Studying some aspect of today’s humanity is just as valid a branch as studying a long-dead civilization.
The idea that humanity consists of many very different cultures fascinates me. Some of the best SciFi out there begins with a civilization that is vastly different from any society known on Earth, such as Ursula K. LeGuinn’s The Left Hand of Darkness or Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye. Many stories (and they’re good stories) simply extrapolate the author’s own society, adding in some advanced tech.
Worldbuilding should involve the development of the characters’ culture, society, and political structure. The more different the society is from the familiar, the bigger the challenge for the author.
One of the first series I began working on as a completely built world are the Kingdom Come novels. They are primarily romance novels, set in a far-future human-colonized world. I wanted to write about relationships in a framework that was very different from the hetero-normative, primarily monogamous society I live in. Kingdom Come is polyamorous, with a traditional marriage consisting of several men and several women. I didn’t want to write kink. I didn’t want my characters to be breaking out of the traditional mold and trying something new, I wanted them to have different expectations imposed on them by their own society. On Kingdom Come, if your romantic group is small, consisting of just a few members, your friends and family will try to fix you up with other singles and small groups.
Having multiple characters in a relationship means I have more than one or two POVs. This can get complicated. I’ve experimented with a few different ways to tell the stories, from focusing on one or two characters to giving equal time to eight. I’m not sure what works best yet.
It would be interesting, not to mention make my life so much easier, if I could visit Kingdom Come and observe the relationships first-hand.
From an anthropological point of view.