A Brave New World … to Defend
(A celebration of speculative world-building—by way of farewell to 2013 Salt Lake Comic Con)
Guest Post by Bruce Eschler
The first-ever Salt Lake Comic Con drew record crowds this last weekend, with more than 70,000 people attending on Saturday alone. That should tell you something about the passion people feel for fantastical worlds. As a writer and reader of speculative fiction, I also think A LOT about other worlds …
Who am I kidding? A lot is an understatement. My mind is always wandering back to worlds that are filled with enchantment or mysterious advanced technologies. Like many readers and writers, this “mind trip” has always appealed to me and is one of the draws of the genre I write in. There are just so many wonderfully delightful worlds to immerse ourselves in.
Recently, I came across a quote by one of my favorite fantastical world creators, reviewing one of my favorite books and its accompanying world. I think this statement describes the essence of what those of us writing speculative fiction should shoot for. Ready for the quote?
In 1937, C. S. Lewis anonymously reviewed The Hobbit, saying … (drumroll) … Wait for it … You know this has to be epic, since it’s a comment from one of the godfathers of fantasy talking about the other godfather of fantasy … Okay, sorry, I get fanboy when talking about the Lewis and the Tolkien. Here we go: Of Middle Earth, Lewis says it is:
A world that seems to have been going on before we stumbled into it but which, once found by the right reader, becomes indispensable for him.”
Isn’t this completely, utterly, and fantastically true about your favorite fantasy (or even any speculative fiction world)? Consider your favorite fictional worlds and how much they mean to you. In fact, dare I propose they could mean more to you than even the characters that inhabit those worlds?
Now, don’t get me wrong. As a middle grade fantasy writer, I naturally love Bilbo, Harry, Gandalf, Percy, Hermione, Snape, Art, Thorin, Myrtle, Grover, Annabeth, and Jack, but the worlds Tolkien, Rowling, Riordan, and Reeve created are what keeps drawing me back into their fiction. (By the way, if you didn’t catch my references to the Larklight series by Phillip Reeve, stop reading this post and go buy those books. If the other character references didn’t mean anything to you, please make an appointment for a literary intervention.)
Back to my world-building soapbox. Upon the completion of the Harry Potter series, I’ll admit that my tears weren’t for Harry and his friends as I put down the book; it was the loss of the wizarding world that broke my heart. It was the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be able to return to the places I had come to adore (or at least not explore them afresh). My attachment to Rowling’s world made the danger Voldemort posed to it more nail-biting and hand-wringing than even the possibility of Harry’s demise in the final installment.
This is the kind of world I, as a writer, hope to create—a world that both your protagonist and your reader are willing to fight for.
Do This Now
- If each book is a country, how can you know what lands you like best if you’ve never wandered out of your own town? Go on a trip and check out some great worlds, reading outside your comfort zone.
- When you explore a fictional world that really resonates with you, analyze what it is that attracts you. How does the author convey this to the reader?
- Use your senses to give descriptions that breathe life into your created world. Visual, olfactory, auditory, kinesthetic—all of them help make a vivid mental impression on the reader.
- Pull out your old college history textbook—and also physics and economic and poli-sci—the more you understand about the world around you, the easier it is to draw outside the lines when you are creating your own worlds.
So, please comment: What other worlds out there do you find to be “indispensible” and worth defending? I’m always looking for new worlds to plop into.