It all started with a bit of NaNoWriMo insanity a few years back when I was two weeks behind and just went with what my overly caffeinated brain thought worked at the time. Started out simple enough, local problem caused by a bunch of descendants from some super soldier program of yore being harassed by military elements and once they got to town pretty much anyone in the way was gonna die. Rural location, but close enough to a relatively sizable settlement that I could scene-shift with no real difficulty. Of course it being November and me being behind an eight ball it quickly devolved into airships, a fractured continent at war with itself, rambling 'it's all a in a coma patient's head' mixed with Ryan's Death scene/speech from bioshock, and ended with the protagonist in the 'real' world getting visited by the leading lady from his hallucination to prevent him from suiciding.
Thank God I scrapped all that. Even by my standards it was more than a little surreal. I'd set it aside for awhile and moved on with things. However later out of boredom I picked up the whittled down manuscript and started to wonder at the world I'd peeked at here. Then I combed through all the discarded sections to see if there were any pieces I could piece back into the story I wanted kept.
In the end what I have reminds me very much of those old and terrible pulp novels that show increasingly implausible things such as Martians, hacked together manimals, aircraft that have no realistic method of working, improbable and impossible action sequences, and I realized I'd written a modern equivilant. Airships? Check. Human offshoots treated as an acceptable slave race? Check. Weapons that do things physics says they shouldn't be able to? Definitely.
So what changed? Why do I like my stuff but think all this other stuff is rubbish? I can't speak from someone else's perspective, but for me it feels like what I've written has at least a few thin excuses in place. Not much and liable to tear apart if examined, but reasons enough for me to suspend disbelief from a flagpole by it's jockey shorts and relax.
I suppose that's what should be asked of a tabletop setting/movie/stage play/video game/whatever. Do you buy the setting it presents as it stands or do you look at it and go 'wait that doens't work like that.'? If you can't feel immersed in the reality as presented then those working behind the scenes failed their job. It goes from being an actor in Lord of the Rings to feeling like you're a little kid with a bedsheet cloak stamping around your back yard waving a cardboard tube around for a sword and getting called out by your older siblings/parents/people you'd feel embarrassed doing such in front of. One feels epic and appropriate. The other makes you feel like you're about three inches high and shrinking.
This is also why I try asking for feedback. I know my head is wired different than most. So something I'm working on might feel like a living breathing space, but someone not gifted with the stack of notes shoved in my skull only sees a few limp words on screen and hangs their head in shame at my inequities.
So, for those that have read the 'after the end' materials. Does the setting seem to stand up? Does it feel like a flat world that you just don't buy? Inpuuuuuut please.