For the Waterstones Blog
That’s a famous quote from author M. John Harrison, appropriated many times in debates over the necessity and value of worldbuilding. Opinions differ as much as individual books themselves on this topic, which continues to be a vital component of genre literature.
Worldbuilding as a term generally refers to secondary world creation, the kind exemplified by Tolkien when he crafted Middle Earth – a complete, functioning, multi-racial society with its own history, economics and cultures. But it’s as good a name as any to describe the process of creating a setting for a story, whatever that story may be. This process is an integral part of writing; both characters and readers need a world to inhabit. And as long as it remains humanly credible, it can embody elements both familiar and strange.