Setting, Worldbuilding and Geofiction

I’ve seen some debat­ing on the Inter­net about Set­ting vs. World­build­ing (here and here, for exam­ple). None of them pro­vid­ed a clear pic­ture where the sep­a­ra­tion line should lie. But the sep­a­ra­tion line is so great, that, in fact, it is not just the line, it’s the whole damn canyon.

Set­ting exists only in a nov­el, play, film, etc. It has no pur­pose out­side it. None. It is not the same as ‘world­build­ing’, because it is the imme­di­ate place and time of action, and the social envi­ron­ment of an indi­vid­ual, the POV char­ac­ter (and POVs are biased). It doesn’t go beyond that, but it sets the mood and it is what you cur­rent­ly see with your reader’s (viewer’s) eyes. Set­ting can be sta­t­ic or dynam­ic (depends on how the sto­ry is told), but it is not a process.

World­build­ing, on the oth­er hand, is the term describ­ing a process of con­struc­tion, engi­neer­ing, if you must, of a fic­tion­al world regard­less of how great/small it needs to be. It can include every­thing from physics to cul­tures, to lan­guages and even music. It is a con­struc­tion site of a ‘house’, in which each apart­ment can become a set­ting at some point in time. It’s a process of design­ing a frame­work, a ‘soft­ware pack­age’ to write, debug, com­pile and build anoth­er piece of ‘soft­ware’ which is a sto­ry or what-have-you. You ‘build’ because you are struc­tur­ing your ideas. You build a sys­tem. One of the great exam­ples of such frame­work is the Orion’s Arm Project. It is self-suf­fic­ing and pro­vides set­tings for sto­ries. Anoth­er fine exam­ple are The Hard Return books by A. J. Klassen (AJ had pub­lished ‘book 0’ so far, but there are more on the way, and as a wit­ness of the writ­ing process and occa­sion­al con­sul­tant pal I can tell they’re awe­some.) Love or hate it, but if you are a writer, a game design­er, or any­thing of a sort, you are build­ing a world.

Geofic­tion is almost self-explana­to­ry. At least the ‘fic­tion’ part, which is exact­ly the state­ment of dif­fer­ence in pur­pose from world­build­ing. Geofic­tion includes every­thing world­build­ing does, but it exists for its own sake. A great exam­ple of geofic­tion is Plan­et Fura­ha.

Jeno Marz
JENO MARZ is a science fiction writer from Latvia, Northern Europe, with background in electronics engineering and computer science. She is the author of two serial novels, Falaha’s Journey: A Spacegirl’s Account in Three Movements and Falaha’s Journey into Pleasure. Marz is current at work on a new SF trilogy. All her fiction is aimed at an adult audience.

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