Someone who heard that my hobby is world-building today asked me what type of worlds I build. I tried to explain a little what andwhy I do it.
“I wondered whether these are dark worlds and whether you ‘escape’ to these worlds.”
Escapism is a great part of all parts of fantastic literature. But escapism isn’t really the core of what I am doing. I consider world-building to be primarily a creative outlet, a balance to a job that is firmly rooted in the normal world, and in science.
I also assured her that my worlds are fairly positive. “They’re about heroes and adventure,” I said. But I realize this was not really the core answer. Yes, my worlds are not totally bleak (although I have created bleak worlds). The point is not to create a depressing setting, the idea is to create a world that is interesting, compelling. This invariably means that the world must contain a grand conflict of some sort. The bigger, the better. In the real world, wars, famines, disasters, plagues, and alien invasions are a bad thing – in created, imaginary worlds they are not. There would be nothing for the protagonists to do; no wrongs to right, no villains to fight. Worlds must have conflict to be enjoyable.
And this also means, to get back to escapism, that we do not really want to live in the worlds we design. Sure, it may sound interesting and exciting but that’s just because we can safely ignore the pain and suffering that any such events would bring in the real world.