More World Building

So I read a quote from M. John Harrison that has me thinking.

Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.

Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unnecessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

Above all, worldbuilding is not technically necessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’s victim, & makes us very afraid.


This is very interesting. From what I gather he is saying, “STOP HOLDING THE READER’S HAND!” When expressing the conceptualization of my imaginative world, I have always thought it best to explain little outside what is relevant to the immediate story. Through the evolution of the plot we come to see and understand the world and the little snippets that allow us to peek into the fictitious mind monster. If in your world you explain everything, what will there be left to explore if you come back, and sometimes the unanswered or unexplained stories are a better suit. It lets me, the reader, fill in the gaps with my imagination and biases.

When I’m reading and it says lobby, I don’t need the colors described. Lobbies are fairly uniform and universal, this is a wasted effort on the writers part and wasted time on my part learning in detail about something irrelevant. If the lobby plays a large part in the scene, throw some descriptors my way, but don’t get over zealous.


The source of this article can be found here.


So who are good world builders to you and what kind of world building do you prefer?

Tagged , , , , ,

2 thoughts on “More World Building

  1. Alaric Rays says:

    I agree completely with your thoughts on world building. Let me use my imagination!
    “Hello” he said. Hello is an introductory word that people sometimes say when they are going to introduce themselves to other people. Those other people may in turn respond to that introduction with an introduction of their own. This introduction does not have to be “Hello” but may be any other number introductory phrases that people use when introducing themselves to other people. I will go to in depth detail about the origin of every other introductory phrase as they appear just in case you don’t pick up on the fact that they are indeed, introductions. “Hey”, the man replies. Now ‘Hey’ is another introductory phrase that…….
    Gun to head.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: