Worldbuilding: Cruel Season

house-690199_640A while back, I noticed a post on Facebook from one of my southern friends, who was looking forward to fall. This made me realize the strong cultural differences when it comes to weather and seasons.

For people in the far south, winter means cooler weather, relief from bugs, and more time spent outside. I’ve been to Florida in the winter, and it’s really nice down there. But in Montana, winter is a completely different animal. Even in the heat of summer, we don’t look toward fall, because fall heralds winter in. To us, winter is bad. No one here, especially someone who has livestock, looks forward to winter. We need to feed our cattle in the winter so they don’t starve to death, which can be problematic if there are five or more miles of foot-deep snow between us and the hungry cattle. In a bad winter, feeding cattle takes all day. Everyone wonders how long the winter will last and if they’ll have enough feed for the cattle.

Finally, spring comes, bringing the warm weather and baby animals. All spring, people fear the chance of a late storm that could kill calves or the garden. Spring turns into summer and people scramble to put up hay before winter starts.  Most of the summer and fall is spent preparing for winter, or watching for fires due to the dry heat. The fall comes, and with it frosts that kill the garden, sometimes before the produce is ready to harvest. Then winter is back again, and everyone prays it will be an easy winter without much snow.

This is all stuff that needs to be considered for worldbuilding. Are there seasons in your fantasy or sci-fi world? If so, which are the lethal seasons, the ones where the weather will kill? This is especially important if you’re dealing with a less advanced culture that needs to store food to survive hard times, or a nomadic culture that may have their way blocked by snow.


A picture I took a few winters ago of the snow blowing off the top of the hill.

If you’re getting really wild, seasons in your world might be extra long, making the cruel season even more dangerous. If the seasons are long, do your people migrate south for the winter or north for the summer?

Or maybe the seasons are short/non-existent. What will this do? Do people never learn to plan ahead because they don’t have to worry about being snowed in? What does this lead to? Will it mean starvation if the weather changes?


About Jessi L. Roberts

I live and work on my family’s cattle ranch in eastern Montana. I have a flock of chickens, a hyper golden retriever, some cows, and a few horses. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction and my head is full of wild sci-fi story ideas, some involving apocalypses and others involving aliens. I have been published twice in Havok Magazine, an imprint of Splickity.
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2 Responses to Worldbuilding: Cruel Season

  1. FaithSong says:

    Yeah, over here winter is the best season. 😛 A couple (okay, like… six…) years ago, we had a really bad ice storm (for us)… That wasn’t a good year. 😛 But, yeah… I like winter here.


    • Ice storms are nasty. There have been a few bad ones in this area, but they aren’t too common because the temperature generally gets too cold for anything other than snow. (We did loose a handful of calves in one, then in a nearby state, there were thousands(I think) of cattle killed in a really nasty one.)


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