Life experiences enrich the imagination; imagination enhances life experiences.
Now that I’ve been doing this over a month and have established a routine, I thought I would take a step back and address the significance of the blog’s title: Inner Worlds Fiction.
Remember Origin, the software company that brought us classic games like Ultima
and Wing Commander?
I spent a lot of time in Babbage’s when I was in grade school looking at the computer game boxes on the shelves, wishing I could afford to take them home. I always remember Origin’s slogan that they printed on their packaging: “We create worlds.”
The first time I read the Lord of the Rings, what really blew my mind were the appendices. It was then that the full scope of world-building revealed itself, and I appreciated the constructive craft that went into creating the setting. After that I started to pay more attention to the setting of my favorite stories, whether it was Star Wars or Dragonlance.
This is what all SF writers, gamemasters and dungeonmasters, and video game designers have in common: we create worlds.
This is a kind of magic, if you think about it. What can you conceive by the power of your imagination, and then share that imaginative experience with someone else? When George Lucas writes about the world of the Jedi, he creates this space within his imagination and then transports us there to his world. In doing so, he makes it our world too. The fact that millions of people can share an experience of Tattooine, or the bridge of a Star Destroyer is magic. He’s taken something that only exists in the inner space of his mind, communicated it to the rest of us, and then made it real for us in the inner spaces of our mind.
A world is the combined effect of characters, plot and setting which engaged the imagination together. You can have a fabulous setting, but without characters do drive it forward you don’t have a new world. You can have great characters and drama, but without a new setting (even if it’s a “modification” of the real world by allowing the presence of the supernatural) you haven’t built a world.
Are these inner worlds real? Of course not, not in any more sense than any mythology is real. But they feelings and thoughts they can elicit in our inner minds and hearts are real, just as one can find in any other art form. And the good stories are modern myths, with all the power to touch our souls that myths have.
World building is a craft, and when you see it done well, it’s laudable. Tolkien is the obvious example, but there’s more crafters out there bearing mention.
For today’s post, I’m only going to mention two teams of world builders.
The first is Iron Crown Enterprises, specifically from the time that they owned the rpg license for Middle-Earth (before the Peter Jackson movies came out. I’m fortunate enough to own a bunch of these out-of-print rpg books. The sourcebooks are such a wealth of compiled, and fleshed-out, lore from Middle-Earth. They are, hands-down, the best sourcebooks on Middle Earth available, more readable and more detailed than Tolkien’s works. They come with large poster-size maps, and pages upon pages of illustrations, maps of dungeons, back story lore, and more. I never ran games in these settings, but the entertainment value from reading them is priceless for the Tolkien fan. Of particular note are the sourcebooks on Moria and Dol Guldur.
Huh. That last one is going for over $70 in the used section. Mental note: don’t lose these.
A wealth of examples of game and map art, like the one below, can be found here.
If you can get your hands on a copy, I’ll bet you’d get a good background of the extra content added to the new Hobbit movie.
The other super-detailed world crafter masterpiece is from the team at Bethesda. The recent computer game Skyrim is a crowning capstone (but hopefully not the last) of the Elder Scrolls series. It is, hands-down, the best fantasy rpg to grace the electronic medium, and the most complete, immersive game to date.
If the video doesn’t work… here’s the direct link to the Skyrim Gameplay video.
At any rate, this explains a bit the title choice for the blog. In the future, I’ll be sure include some articles about my favorite aspect of SF: world building.
Cheers for now,