A Thought-Provoking Video That Examines Worldbuilding In Fantasy Fiction

Author Evan Puschak, aka blogger the Nerd Writer, breaks down what he calls “the perils of worldbuilding” in this video, using the works of Tolkien and Game of Thrones, among others, as examples. On his blog, he writes:

The key point is that worldbuilding fiction, or the worldbuilding acts of authors and fans, imply a philosophy of writing and reading that isn’t workable. Game of Thrones has a lot to say about the vicissitudes of power, sure, but I watch it primarily because I want to know what happens next, confident that the whole clock-like story exists in the head of George R.R. Martin. (This may explain why I feel so uncomfortable when we are told the showrunners deviate from the books). I’m a passive participant in the story.

Which is fine. Sometimes people need to read for escape. But writing at it’s best is a living transaction between writer and reader. There is a rhetorical game being played that should force us to examine how language and communication works – because it’s these same rhetorical games that function in the world around us. Our world is built by interested parties, and it will stay that way if we receive their stories (which come in the form of political rhetoric, TV commercials and 24-hour news, among others) passively.

[Via Dresden Codak]


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As a kid, I used to buy D&D campaign settings (Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms) just to pore over and digest so I’d have a framework and rule-set for my imaginings. I was an only child and lived on a farm, so I never actually got to play an actual campaign, but just the maps, descriptions, deities etc were enough fuel for my young, nerd-ish brain.

I was always aware that stories were something different, however. And that’s where too many current fantasy authors stumble—the world-building becomes the story.