In keeping with our worldbuilding theme to help out the creative young minds of the Shared Worlds creative writing program, we asked this week’s esteemed panelists the following question:
Q: Which sf/f story is your favorite example of worldbuilding? Why?
Read their answers below…
is a British film editor and author of the unheroic fantasy trilogy, The First Law
. He is nominated for the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer this year, which he firmly believes he will lose to Scott Lynch.
My own taste as a writer is for a light hand on the worldbuilding. In epic fantasy – where Tolkien and his mighty efforts of detailed world making still loom large – I feel that world can sometimes be emphasised at the expense of the characters, and it’s the characters that chiefly interest me. I like to keep the setting where I think it belongs, in the background. A detailed and convincing background, hopefully, but a background nonetheless, and one that contains relatively little of the fantastic. So it always seems like some kind of magic to me when a writer manages to have their cake and eat it, giving us tastes of the truly weird and wonderful without it getting in the way of people and story.
The best recent example I can think of is from Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora. The city which is the central setting of the book is built around, inside, and on top of a much more ancient city made from glass. This beautiful and mysterious architecture shows through, and contrasts with, the ugly crust of human buildings on top and the often filthy lifestyles of the villains living in them. It’s a wonderfully simple idea, takes minimal time and effort to explain to the reader, requires no map and no glossary, but immediately gives a unique feel to pretty much every location in the book and allows for some great, vivid, descriptive writing. Sunset shining through the elderglass, sparkling on the water of the canals, I can see it now… The city truly becomes a character in its own right, and one with which the people in the novel all have their own relationship.
A fascinating, beautiful, and alien setting created without interrupting the flow of the story? That’s my idea of great worldbuilding.
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