More about world building in the science fiction, fantasy and paranormal genres. Yesterday I wrote about world building for my wip, Earth Legend. I described a world similar in appearance to Earth but functioning differently. Such a world was needed for Earth Legend but it’s not what most novelists think of when they hear the words ‘world building.’
They think really, really weird planets that we humans would never recognize and shouldn’t be able to survive on. Or they need ghosts, goblins, etc to advance their story line so they invent them. I needed an Earth-like space ship. I invented one.
The trick, as any science fiction writer worth his/her credentials will tell you, is to make those strange story elements believable. And that’s where world building comes in.
Writers must create, in their own minds, the entire world inhabited by those strange creatures, or the world itself. So everything in the story hangs together. So some jarring element doesn’t take the reader out of the story.
Then they must ignore that world because the bottom line is that they are telling a story, not describing a world. That’s hard to do because writing is what writers do. What they must do.
Except in the case of world-building.
I once read a copy of a speech that was given at a science fiction writers’ convention. Sorry, it was long, long ago and I can’t remember who it was or where or when. But the theme of the speech stuck with me. Which was that part of the reason science fiction is so popular is that it is today’s cutting-edge literature because it, above all other genres, looks at the human condition, at people, at society and takes it apart and puts it together again in another way. For better or worse, according to the speaker, we see ourselves when we read science fiction.
I believe this to be true. Consider some early science fiction stories. Gulliver’s Travels, in which we see ourselves in each different world Gulliver visits. Think of the societies described by Jules Verne. And so on. Of course that’s not true about all science fiction. I’ve read some pretty bad stuff and some stuff that was awesome. Depends on the writer and the writing. Of course.
I believe that science fiction is so wonderfully reflective of us as a people, and so popular while doing what could easily cause it to become the subject of a congressional investigation, is because it doesn’t name names or point fingers. It just tells a story that the reader can generalize and put against known reality and today’s society. Especially those things in society that should be changed. Science fiction frames reality.
It’s so popular that it has spawned its own sub-genres. More about those later.
In the meantime, hats off to those science fiction writers who choose to show us ourselves without stepping on our toes.