Why Build Worlds?

I love build­ing worlds com­plete­ly from scratch, just like I love prepar­ing a meal from fresh ingre­di­ents instead of using ready-to-cook food. And since both process­es require real work­ing physics, we won’t talk about mag­i­cal fan­tasies here.

I don’t real­ly know when build­ing worlds became a pas­sion of mine. But I do know that each year’s sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies make it grow stronger. I didn’t even notice I became swal­lowed by this amaz­ing thing. I am a sci­ence fic­tion writer and my pri­ma­ry pur­pose for build­ing worlds came as a neces­si­ty. Lat­er, how­ev­er, I real­ized that those worlds were much more than just set­tings, back­sto­ry and his­tor­i­cal events.

World build­ing itself is a form of sci­ence fic­tion. Just like a nov­el may draw you in to go on adven­tures you nev­er had or will nev­er have in real life, a well designed world may pro­vide you with the same expe­ri­ence of escap­ing real­i­ty for a while and enjoy the realm of the unknown and vast uni­verse. And you don’t just cre­ate things. You learn about them. You enrich your expe­ri­ence of the world you were born from and are liv­ing in.

Also, world build­ing is fun.

You can go any­where, any­time. And the play­ground is immense­ly huge.

And believe me, the com­mit­ment is wor­thy of the sense of accom­plish­ment you’ll get in the process. That’s why world build­ing mat­ters. As any form of fic­tion does.

Sci­ence fic­tion, to var­i­ous extents, focus­es on the objects with­in a world. The tech­nol­o­gy itself is a char­ac­ter, if not the de fac­to main char­ac­ter. Since most peo­ple are peo­ple-ori­ent­ed, an object in a cen­ter of atten­tion is a deceit of a sort. And as a mat­ter of fact, the more I know about the cur­rent state of sci­en­tif­ic and tech­no­log­i­cal research and devel­op­ment, the hard­er it is for me to read most sci­ence fic­tion. I often find that, rather than being too imag­i­na­tive, it’s not imag­i­na­tive enough.

Seri­ous world build­ing, to me, is hard sci­ence fic­tion and it is imag­i­na­tive enough because it is based on our cur­rent sci­en­tif­ic under­stand­ing and tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments, not some futur­is­tic pre­dic­tions about it. This is where past, present and future over­lap and are with­in one’s grasp. Science/technology itself is not the main char­ac­ter but an instru­ment here, as it should be for a human.

Inter­act­ing with your own cre­ation, being the intel­li­gent observ­er of your own uni­verse, makes it alive and real­is­tic. And, if by any ‘coin­ci­dence’ you are a writer, it leaves more options for you to focus on char­ac­ters. You are, after all, build­ing the whole thing for them to exist. The world and its inhab­i­tants should be insep­a­ra­ble.

There you have it, your bor­der­less sand­box.

P.S. A note to some lazy folks.

I dare to say world build­ing is a form of art. And it fol­lows the same rules as any oth­er art form out there. You don’t draw por­traits with­out get­ting famil­iar with the object of draw­ing (even pure­ly fic­tion­al) nor with­out exam­in­ing the works of oth­ers before­hand. You don’t build worlds with­out learn­ing how they func­tion and what are they made of. Even sketch­ing out a few quick details requires under­stand­ing what you are doing. How you do it — it’s your busi­ness. How­ev­er, it’s your per­son­al work, don’t expect oth­ers to do it for you.

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.

3 Comments

  1. I would agree with you, that world build­ing is a form of art. A mas­ter world-builder can cre­ate a mas­terpiece that we, as read­ers, can mar­vel over for years. The great­ness of Tolkien isn’t so much that he more or less invent­ed the genre of fan­ta­sy, but that his world-build­ing was exquis­ite. Peo­ple are still today los­ing them­selves in his world.

    What makes sci-fi or fan­ta­sy great, is when the world the sto­ry takes place in is brought to life; when it becomes not only tan­gi­ble, but a liv­ing and breath­ing enti­ty.

    But cre­ation is a dif­fi­cult thing, and to get it right can take many years of hard work. Imag­ine try­ing to build a human. Think of all the dis­ci­plines you would have to learn to even attempt cre­at­ing a human body: anato­my, bio­chem­istry, biol­o­gy, neu­ro­science, phys­i­ol­o­gy, etc. Build­ing a world is no dif­fer­ent.

    I look for­ward to read­ing more of your insight on the process of world build­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly from a sci­ence fic­tion back­ground, as I’m more of a fan­ta­sy writer myself.

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