A lot of science fiction and fantasy authors think about world building as a way to create a cool setting, and I think much of their consideration goes into ways to make their creation unique from what came before. But they don’t always consider it as a way to enhance the values or message of a story. There are several ways to integrate your world building into your storytelling, and one thing I think you might consider is using your secondary world to talk about real-world issues that are important to you.
Our real-world is full of all kinds of different problems, and one of the powers of fiction, especially speculative fiction, is its ability to imagine better worlds. I think many fledgling authors can forget this, and while they build their imaginary worlds they focus on unique races, how their magic system is different, or what future technologies might be interesting to write about, instead of thinking about the values of the different people and cultures in their world and how those ideologies are reflective of our own. Sci-fi and fantasy stories are places where you can showcase your idealistic society, or tell a cautionary tale about what you perceive as a dystopian society.
While there is certainly something to be said about the importance of protesting, petitioning, and other means of being socially or politically involved, writers are in a position to attack the problem indirectly through story, which can potentially be just as if not more powerful. An idea from a good story can be like laying a blueprint for the way a problem could be solved or showing that there can be more idyllic societies.
For example, why not focus on a story about a police force that handles situations in your fantasy world without violence? Or have a society in your larger world that doesn’t harbor any stigmas against homosexuality?
Wherever you stand on the political spectrum or on a given issue, I’m sure that there are things in the world that you see as problematic. Building your world, or parts of your world, around the idea of solving some of these problems can add a lot of heart and depth to your fantastical world. It is, of course, important not to be overly didactic in displaying your viewpoints because that can pull readers away from the story, but simply showcasing some institutions that handle things in a more idealized fashion can bring life to the world, or be used to highlight the difference between good and evil forces in your world.
While considering magic systems and technologies is certainly important, thinking about how your story engages with the real-world is important to consider as well. Whether you realize it or not, every story has a message, and what values you are espousing is something you can build into the very structure of your world…or worlds.
The inspiration for this article came from a Mythic Scribes piece by Thomas Cecil on using fantasy settings to illustrate other ways police forces could operate.