This morning he resurrected an old argument from 2007, which you can see and research here.
It's a lovely discussion, and me only one cup of coffee into the day. You see, I am absolutely the fan of "world building" (i.e., secondary world creation) and it is an inherent aspect of my work-in-progress. Yes, I have maps, and languages and gods and tigers, oh my!
Why? Because I'm a nerd? Maybe. Anyway, here's something from an old Larry post that caught my eye...
Sounds more like a weak and twisted version of studying history, without the desire of those that do study history to apply that knowledge toward a greater understanding of ourselves. ~
Let's talk about that. I'll be the first to admit that history wasn't a strong subject while I was in school, all that bloody memorization of dates didn't work for me.
Yes, the appeal of Tolkien's Middle Earth, of tabletop gaming, of online gaming was the immersion into a secondary world that I could know and understand and participate in on some level. That cracked the egg, if you will, into giving me more interest in human history. The enjoyment gained from that level of immersion allowed me to step up to historical fiction, in books and movies.
For example, yes, "300" was not really historically accurate, but damn it was fun to watch. After that, reading Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield was far more enjoyable (and slightly more accurate). It didn't feel like I was back in high school, slipping notes to the hot spanish girl in the mini skirt while pretending to pay attention, while the teacher droned on and on.
After reading George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I looked up some material on the War of the Roses, and the Hundred Years War, from which the fiction is influenced.
Isn't that the point of fiction? To draw relevance in a way that is spectacular, if not inherently more digestible by virtue of it being fiction? Storytelling, from an ancestry of the oral tradition to our modern day usage has always served a dual function of entertainment and communication.
Good worldbuilding will not only immerse, it will inspire. Humans just aren't that original, and you aren't going to find a political or military event in all of fiction that hasn't been documented somewhere.
So what if it's 300 Dwarves against 100k Goblins beneath a mountain somewhere? Maybe that'll make you think of the Spartans, and next thing you know you're exploring your Greek roots.
Some immersion will be pure escapism, and that's fine. Who are we to judge what the individual reader gets from a story?
What is it that a story should achieve, exactly? Good prose gives appreciation for the beauty of language. Good dialogue allows the opportunity to savor the human condition in the exchange of words, whether they be witty, humorous, profound or provocative. Good characterization and growth allows the reader to relate, to understand, to empathize in order to gain a greater understanding of the self.
There is no story without setting - so why not make the setting incredible, educational, inspirational? How many castles, swords, mountains, valleys and oceans do you have to read about before you find the urge to explore your own world?
All of this is very nerdy, hmm? Maybe it is (but nerdism, as a phrase, makes me giggle). So what, I'm a nerd. You don't break 150k words on any sort of writing unless you are, methinks.
I don't think that info dumps are helpful, as that's a reminder of why school was sometimes boring. I believe in the power of prose, the magic of language, and I think dialogue should be true to the characters, and the characters should be true to themselves. The story is what matters, and the story should take you somewhere, and bring you back. Communicate and entertain.
I do have an agenda in my own writing, my own secondary world creation and perhaps it is jaded by the role my education has had on me; I suspect that's not only natural, but redundant as a statement.
I'm fascinated by ancient cultures, and how they were honed by their geography, their challenges, the geology of the land itself. My story(-ies) takes place in a secondary world with parallels to cultures that never did meet in our history, and yes my (secondary) purpose is to show how much humans were affected by where they ended up, and what they had to endure.
Why? Why not? If setting is going to be created anyway for the purpose of weaving a tale, why not make it something valuable in and of itself? So long as I don't overpower the narrative with my shiny creation, what's the problem, exactly? It's not making me a bad person for studying Neolithic cultures, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, the Roman Empire, the Incas, et al.
If the passion I've found in the discovery of the secrets of the earth, from people to plants to animals to geology can translate to my readers, to a desire for them to find their own place in the Universe, then I consider I've gone above and beyond in my role as a writer.