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Infundibular thinking about worldbuilding

I am a lucky, happy fly on the wall in the International Association on the Fantastic in the Arts, which was founded by and is run by academics who study “that stuff.”  [deliberately not defined is “the fantastic in the arts;” these folks are inclusive; they are lumpers, not splitters] The IAFA admits members who are not academics: authors, artists, filmmakers, you name it, lumping, not splitting. They’ve even let me present papers. The more, the merrier.

In today’s loop I found a post from Casella Brookins, reporting that he has been posting roundups of links of stuff about that stuff to Wow! Signal.

Wow! Signal: March 2024

Today I’m drilling down through Brookin’s current amazing list of amazing articles into a recent blog post by Liz Bourke. Bourke discusses and comments on worldbuilding thoughts of Vajra Chandrasekera. (This post would be just a comment on her article, but that’s now closed for comments. So this is me commenting on quotes from a blog article mentioned in a blog post I found in a link roundup on a book review site mentioned in a listserv… infundibular.)

Chandrasekera’s criticism of worldbuilding as-she-is-wrote-of in the SFF community is excerpted in Burke’s article; he says that such worldbuilding doesn’t resemble the real world enough; it makes too much sense; it has too much of what was called at SF cons in the ’80s “internal consistency,” a quality then-much-praised by SF writers who were reluctantly willing to endorse what they saw as the few “decently written” fantasy novels. I don’t argue with Chandrasekera, exactly, but I think it misses the point.

Michael Moorcock’s position made more sense to me. “I only invent what’s necessary* to explain the mood of a character.” This comes from a footnoted quote from a Locus interview with Moorcock, quoted in another article on Medium which I found on the abovementioned roundup of links.

I pull back even farther than Moorcock.

Scholars often talk about fiction as if the author chose every word with Flauberticological care. This is fine, they’re having fun, don’t interrupt. But authors have their own agenda. As I listen to these highfalutin discussions, I generally don’t say so. But here’s what I’m biting my tongue on:

My eye is on you, the reader. I am telling you a story. I want to take you on an entertaining trip inside the heads of characters I make up. I want you to feel things, a whole series of feelings, and I want you to associate those feelings with specific people, places, and events, and I want you to end up with one final specific set of feelings all bundled into my agenda. I am messing with your head. I will put into my world that which serves me, the author, on my head-messing mission. If I do it so that you like it and oh yeah buy the next book, I win.

To pretend to broader, higher, or more intellectual goals would be what we technically call a lie.

Your take? Go here and read all the mentioned articles on worldbuilding. Let’s get infundibular!


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