I’m new to worldbuilding and have started building my world last week. The world that I'm trying to make is a paranormal fantasy but as I was building the world I had an idea that I wanted to experiment but don't know how to approach this. The idea is each country in this world has a setting based on a sub-genre.

For example the types of countries I'm thinking to make are: One country that has a steampunk setting where the government is a absolute monarchy. Another one is a cyberpunk where a mega corporation runs the country.

Is an idea like this even possible? By “possible” I mean can it even make sense and fit in one world. And how can it? I'm having trouble trying to make sense of it. Are there even any stories that have a idea like this?

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    $\begingroup$ It is your world, as long as you are not bound by science, everything is possible. Suppose, in your world different areas have different laws of nature. If in one area electricity is somehow unusable, here comes steampunk. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 9 '17 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ They do not even make sense on their own. So why not just do it. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 9 '17 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 define 'not make sense on their own' please. What's so infeasible about Victorian Monarchies and Megacorporations? Both have and/or do exist. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Aug 10 '17 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ Steampunk is unrealistic. That doesn't mean any possible subset has to be $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 10 '17 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ I think the world is already like this. $\endgroup$ – Michael Aug 10 '17 at 22:32

Take Earth in the late 19th century.

  • Industrializing democracies and de-facto constitutional monarchies like the UK and US east coast. Industrialists, bankers, engineers.
  • Frontier sectors where "the cavalry" hunts down natives like the US West or southern Africa. Cowboys, settlers, bandits and sheriffs.
  • A great bureaucatized monarchy in China. A different autocracy in Japan, with different outcomes.
  • Small tribal units in much of Africa, not explored by the rest of the world (which wrote the maps).

However, the industrializing countries from the first bullet point did have a global reach, and the others did not. As the poem went

Whatever happens, we have got

The Maxim gun, and they have not.

Hilaire Belloc, The Modern Traveller

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    $\begingroup$ Fancy bringing historical realism into building a fictional world. :) Plus one for commonsense. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 9 '17 at 9:03

It can be done. I can think of a few examples off the top of my head

  • Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson -- The "phyles" in this world are almost a perfect match for what you describe.
  • Times Eye by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter -- In this story, the Earth is cut up like a jigsaw, and put together from pieces from different eras. If they can make Genghis Khan meet dinosaurs while taking advice from a Russian cosmonaut, you can have subgeneres!
  • Otherland by Tad Williams -- This one might be a bit cheating, because much of the exotic culture mashups we see in Otherland occurs in a VR world. However, given how important VR is in his story, I think it qualifies. We also get to see a cultural clash between several subcultures and one tribe of bushpeople. While the ways of !Xabu's people are fading in the story, you still have a setting where they exist alongside modern civilization.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert -- The Fremen and the Great Houses are as far apart in styles as you could get, and yet they share the same planet. They even fight, which is pretty impressive from a literary perspective. Despite being very different, Herbert managed to make them evenly matched.
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    $\begingroup$ You could have included Alastair Reynold's Terminal World where there is a science-fictional rationale for its multi-layered world which correspond, sort of, to different (sub)genres. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 9 '17 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ Also consider Ready player one by Ernest Cline, where different "worlds" are purpously built as part of a larger virtual universe. $\endgroup$ – Guran Aug 10 '17 at 6:50

One way to explain this is simply that the different countries have different levels of technological and magical development. So you may have a nominally modern tech country where fantasy elements are hidden (paranormal fantasy). You may have an advanced, purely scientific country, no magic used at all (cyberpunk). You may have a country where they mix technological and magical solutions (steampunk). You may have a country where only magic is used (epic fantasy).

You may have some difficulty explaining why the technological solutions don't spread out to the magical countries. One explanation that appears frequently in fiction is that magic breaks tech. For example, Kate Daniels, Wren Valere, and Harry Dresden make electricity work badly around them. For example, Kate often has trouble using a phone. Harry has to drive an old VW Bug because he fries the computers in newer cars (on a bad day, he fries the ignition of the Bug).

Perhaps the magical country is awash with ley lines or whatever. The scientific country has none. The steampunk country has lots of low level magical energy. So no modern electricity or internal combustion engines, but it doesn't interfere with steam engines. Your paranormal country may have remote places where magic is available but most of the surface is magic free. Practitioners need to store up magic to use outside of their enclaves.

Another solution, used in the Well World series was to make different locations subject to different physical laws. The basic idea was that the physical laws from multiple worlds were to be present in one world. There were distinct borders with different physics on either side.

The Hell's Gate series has separate universes (rather than countries). Tech universes are adjacent to each other and magical universes are adjacent to each other. They meet in the middle, where both tech and magic work. But the closer to the tech end, the less that magic works. And vice versa.

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The Torg RPG by West End Games (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torg) was a multi-genre version of Earth. There is a backstory about how it got this way and the variety of genres included:

  • Living Land — a primitive, Lost World-style jungle covering large swaths of the United States' East and West coasts plus a small piece of Canada. The dominant species were humanoid dinosaurs called edeinos. Technology and magic were almost nonexistent, but the inhabitants had access to powerful miracles.
  • Aysle — a magical, low-technology realm that covered most of the United Kingdom and parts of Scandinavia. The realm was similar to traditional Dungeons & Dragons settings, but with slightly less powerful magic and somewhat better technology.
  • The Cyberpapacy — covering France, this is a realm which was initially a repressive, medieval theocracy (that wielded real miracles). En route to Core Earth it melded with a virtual reality and gained cyberpunk technology and attitudes. Ruled by the Cyberpope Jean Malreaux I.
  • Nippon Tech — an ultracapitalist nightmare society covering most of Japan where lies and betrayal were as common as breathing, and where martial artists, computer hackers, and yakuza fought to bring down the corporate-controlled government.
  • The New Nile Empire — based in North Africa, this realm combined a restored Ancient Egypt with pulp sensibilities. 1930s technology worked side-by-side with Egyptian magical astronomy and "weird science" powers and gizmos, while costumed Mystery Men patrolled the alleyways of Cairo.
  • Orrorsh — a Gothic horror realm ("Orrorsh" is an anagram of "horrors") set in Indonesia where the realm's Victorians considered it their White Man's Burden to protect the natives from the unspeakable monsters roaming the countryside.

There were a few books set in this muylti-genre world that might help.

A list can be found at: https://www.librarything.com/series/TORG+Novels

  • Storm Knights (Torg, the Possibility Wars) by Bill Slavicsek
  • The Dark Realm (Torg, the Possibility Wars ; Bk. 2) by Douglas Kaufman
  • The Nightmare Dream (Book 3 of the Possibility Wars/Torg) by Jonatha Ariadne Caspian
  • Strange Tales From the Nile Empire by Greg Gorden
  • Dragons over England (Possibility Wars) by Ed Stark
  • Out Of Nippon by Nigel Findley
  • Mysterious Cairo by Greg Gorden
  • Interview with evil (Torg, the possibility wars) by John Terra
  • City of Pain by John Terra

Intermingling the people from the different genres was what made Torg interesting to me because each person had a completely different world-view.

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I was going to reference TORG but Jerry answered that much more thoroughly than I could have.

In general, if you have modern travel options and modern communication, it would be hard to have such totally different settings on a homogeneous world. You might have areas with preferences for one type or another but that would mostly be stylistic. In general people would end up using whatever is best for a specific situation and have a blend.

You could have religious or cultural reasons for the divides. Religious areas may be anti tech or anti magic (or both). However, I don't know if that would have enough different settings for you.

That leaves a TORG like world with different physical properties for different areas. In this case, figure out what caused it, how long ago happened, and which, if any, of the settings was the default before the incident.

The main question here is: do items from one area function in another area?

In TORG, people had a field around them that allowed the properties of their birth zone to overide the local zone enough to let personal devices work for them.

Maybe there is a sharp cut off where people have to get off the train, walk to another platform and board the lightning rail.

Maybe there are blended zones between or the zones are mostly blended areas with the bias stronger as you approach its center.

Maybe items from one area only function for a limited time in another area: batteries die, magic items slowly loose charges/power, robots experience increasing glitches.

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I recommend reading "Clockwork Angels" by Kevin Anderson and Neil Peart. There are many very good recommendations to your question, however "Clockwork Angels" answers specific categories, i.e. a 'Steampunk' -like Monarchy culture, some in Dark Ages style trade City-States, all in a work were Alchemy works. As an added bonus, the story line is essentially an Alt-Earth version of Voltaire's "Candide".

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As a suggestion, you can come up with some kind of global cataclysm that would destroy almost everything except the large isolated and well-protected technological area. All the people are to build some kind of preservation colony under defensive dome, pretty much like in the "City and the Stars" by A.Clarke. Everyone capable of buying a ticket moves under the dome, most of the "poor" people's world is destroyed, though maybe not entirely. Then in a post-apocalyptic world new civilisation rises from scratch, while City Under The Dome stays isolated for some time. After the lockdown is lifted, there are two worlds: a marvellous technological heaven from the past and a brand new civilisation that might as well be in a steampunk setting at that time. Not sure about mega-corporation, though. Anyway, such contrast can be exploited in many different ways, I believe.

Besides, it depends on what is considered "in one world". Does the one universe count? If yes, then it's easy - make one planet an agricultural, make the other one industrial. The good example is "Commonwealth Saga" by P.Hamilton where exactly this approach is well described.

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