In my life I have visited space, Mars, alternate dimensions, and galaxies far away. Witnessed power, world shattering events, the fall of empires, and the death of legends. Seen aliens, monsters, mythical beasts, wizards, and magic. Everyday escaping into the settings of fiction literature, to travel an infinite universe of imagination. What is it that draws us into these worlds that look nothing like our own, and what is it, we want to see?
World building has become an invaluable aspect in literature, specifically sci-fi and fantasy. The brilliant J.R.R. Tolkien spent decades building Middle Earth for readers to spend a few dozen hours inside. Not all authors can, or should, put that amount of devotion in, but a well thought out world creates a place people want to visit, before anyone knows it exists. We want to see the amazing, the epic, the unfathomable; worlds nothing like what we know or expect and be taken to somewhere exciting or dangerous from the safety of our reading chairs.
By no means does world building over shadow plot, however, a world that has life to it, becomes a character unto itself. Backstories, and history add a depth that draws in the reader, sometimes without even putting the words on the page. Details such as religion, technology, foliage, Animalia, food, or culture, help to make these worlds real, echoing our own reality. When world building is used effectively the setting can become the highlight of the story and consumers want to know everything involved. Yet there is a massive fan culture invested into the knowledge of every planet.
In many tales, specifically the fantasy genre, the world becomes an integral part of the story. In the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson a devastating storm tears up the land every few days, creating a new reality that has had to adapt. The plants and animals have to have a way of surviving, the cities need to be built to last. The entire story works around the idea that these storms may come at almost any time, forcing the plot and characters to adapt and be prepared.
The maps at the beginning of a good fantasy series mean nothing to us at first, as we proceed through the story each element begins to make more sense. We delve deeper into a world not of our own and we can explore new places. It has become more fascinating as our own reality feels as though there is nothing new to see. Harry Potter creates an augmented reality inside our own, and we can dispel belief, thinking there may be secret Wizarding schools hidden from us. Then there is the entire sci-fi genre which takes us to far off worlds, expanding our imaginations, as we have all wondered what is out in the great expanse.
We crave this exploration as humans. These genres feed off of our dreams, and give authors an outlet for their own imaginations. We are able to travel the stars and fight goblins, create visions in our minds of things we never thought possible. That is why reading is so valuable, reminding us it is our own minds that are the infinite universe.
Thanks booknerds, I am off to travel my imagination.