So, as you know, world-building has been a part of fiction–especially fantasy–for a long time. Think of Tolkien’s crazy maps, histories, languages. Think of Star Wars.
Here’s something awesome: Chris Wayan is a world-builder “more interested in planetary ecology than in narrative.” Interviewed by David Cole, he says:
One weekend in late 2001, I biked by a flea market behind Cellspace in the Mission District. I bought a globe for a few bucks. At home I started playing with it–pried it off its stand, tilted it so the tropics turned polar and poles turned tropical. Suddenly an intellectual problem snapped into focus: “We have one pole on land, one under the sea. So we have one cold pole–Antarctica–and one mild. Could Earth be tilted so we had two Antarcticas, or none? ARE there orientations where land or sea is under both poles? How would all that ice–or lack of it–affect sea level and climate?” It turned out there were a couple of solutions for each. So I got out my drill…
I love this. It’s totally related to counterfactual, but it takes it in a really interesting direction, towards ecology and systems-thinking. It also expands the whole endeavor–it’s not just words but maps, models, math.
Chris Wayan’s Planetocopia is here.