I realize I forgot to post last Friday’s column at The Night Bazaar. For those of you who want to follow my pieces about writing science fiction, fantasy and horror, I’m posting every Friday over there. Here’s a teaser for my piece about world-building and fantasy fiction:
I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, but my greatest love is fantasy. As a young reader, I reveled in the richly-textured worlds of fantasy, like Tolkien’s, C.S. Lewis’s, the worlds of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. I loved especially the fantasy-science fiction crossovers and the science fantasies that had a science fictional explanation for evocative fantasy elements, or utilized some science fiction tropes in an otherwise fantasy setting — Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover, Roger Zelazny’s Amber books, Michael Moorcock’s Runestaff series. To this day, I think the millieu of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern has some of the coolest ideas ever written that blend science fiction concepts and fantasy esthetics.
But it’s not just richly-textured fantasy and SF-fantasy crossover that requires world-building. Every type of fiction builds a world. The value in considering world-building from a strictly high-fantasy/heroic-fantasy/sword-and-sorcery perspective is that those sub-genres can lapse, in their world-building, into cliché even more easily than other genres. A straight-up predictable vampire horror novel, say, may be packed with clichés but it has relatively little world-building. Ditto with an overwrought military technothriller — the clichés there are likely character-driven and situational, not due to the world-building. But secondary-world fantasy is built on world-building.