I think we should put some mountains here, otherwise, what are the characters going to fall off of?

Promethea

 From Judd, who got it from Warren Ellis, who got it from M John Harrison:

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 unneccessary 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 neccessary. 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.

I don’t think I’d say this quite so strongly — I think worldbuilding is a fun game to engage in and it will be the core of Xenon: (if it turns out to be fun to play), but I really agree with this about theme-addressing fiction. It’s the reason that you build as you go in Shock: starting with only the most basic parts. You make sure the world is the one that says what you want to say because you build it to suit whenever you want to say something.

0 thoughts on “I think we should put some mountains here, otherwise, what are the characters going to fall off of?”

  1. I think we need to make a distinction between worldbuilding and “as you know Bob…” infodumping first.

    Worldbuilding can be just as cool and relevant and revealing as any other part of a book. It’s just not the entirety of the book.

    _Software_ and _A Deepness In The Sky_ are good stories that wouldn’t work in just any milleu. The worldbuilding shapes the way those characters live and think and act. It’s also firmly in the background, where it belongs.

    Dumping information on the reader, that isn’t really relevant to the story, is just shitty writing. It’s not a problem specific to SF although it happens more often and more annoyingly in SF.

    1. Oh, this isn’t at all about “don’t bother making an interesting world.” It’s saying, “Make a world as required by the story that you’re telling.”

    1. Yeah. A populated world, full of tension and crashing interests, is a beautiful creation. It’s the unpopulated world, full only of ruins and wildlife that is deep nerdliness.

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