Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Creating Worlds – part 2

I’m consumed with thoughts about world-building because I’m preparing for this Sunday’s panel discussion at the Bayside Literary Festival with Alison Goodman, Jesse Blackadder, Narrelle M Harris and Lindy Cameron.

I’ve been reflecting on my own writing process in relation to creating speculative fiction worlds. In my last blog entry I had a look at the factors that I need to have in place in order to make my speculative worlds go around. This post looks at the elements that are involved in creating believable worlds.

Attention to detail and accuracy… Festival director, Jessie Doring, associated both of these factors with the task of world creation in historical fiction. Instinctively, I want to them for speculative fiction too. Attention to detail is fairly easy to argue because we like the big and the small picture when we’re reading stories set in new worlds. The gritty stuff of sound and smell is important but so is the political system.

I recently read When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett. Her future world of fliers and non-fliers gives the reader both sorts of detail. Corbett gives you the ‘sharp forest scent’ on the wings of a flier and also provides a bigger picture that involves a complex and disturbing nexus between extremely realistically drawn political, socio-economic and religious forces.

Which is a nice segue into the subject of accuracy. Accuracy in a made up world? Really? Well, accuracy is called for – and I don’t just mean putting hard science into science-fiction. I think there are other areas where accuracy matters: internal coherence, non-speculative elements in imagined worlds and an attitude of truth-telling in your writing craft.

The world you create can’t be fuzzy or inconsistent and real world elements must be correctly rendered. Even the invented parts of your speculative world have to be correctly imagined, make sense, be precision-made and accurate. And – in craft terms – when you write about your new world, it should be so well envisioned that you are engaged in virtual truth-telling. Your world should be so real your writing should border on non-fiction.

I recently read a science fiction novel that opened with a scene in a public sculptor’s yard. The main character, a sculptor/architect, undertook a complex and dangerous bit of work during a surprise visit from the client who commissioned the artwork. I guess I’m the worst reader for this particular scene because Velislav Georgiev and I have been running a public sculpture business for a number of years and we’ve had clients drop into the studio. The scene didn’t feel accurate because clients get to see simple show-and-tell work and I wasn’t convinced that in the author’s imagined world this sort of truth had changed.

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