I want to take a minute to talk about the concept of world building.
The term was thrown around a while back in the Bolthole shout box. It’s an interesting term that means many things to many people.
It implies the physical world, the geography, the cities and towns, the settings. It can apply to the politics, the views, culture and philosophies of a person or group of people.
It can apply to the people themselves, or the flora and fauna. And the world makes a powerful mark on the characters and events that occur in a story.
Behind every quest or conflict are the forces of the world you created causing it. You may not realize it. It may not be obvious at an initial glance, but closer examination of the details often reveals a reaction to events and situations in the setting which the characters react to, which in turn result in a new event or change in the landscape.
It is this weave back and forth between the actions of the characters and the effects of their actions on a world that is the basis that drives… everything.
So with all this down, what do I feel is the best example of world building? Well, there are plenty of well known examples to mention, such as Middle Earth or the Imperium of Man or Hyboria. But I think the best is that of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D series.
I’m not going to gush over everything in explanation, but Kikuchi does an amazing job of building a fantastic and horrorifying world of intrigue. In 1999, a nuclear war broke out that nearly destroyed mankind. So the vampires took control of the world, making humans their slaves. A combination of psychological power and manipulation of the DNA put a tremendous fear of vampires into the hearts of humans. Between then and 12,090 A.D., the vampires (now dubbed the Nobility), recreated all kinds of mythical monsters through their advanced technology, genetic engineering and superhuman powers. The landscape of the planet was changed forever.
But at some point, the Nobility lost power. Many of them died, others left and disappeared. Although not yet extinct, humanity reasserted itself as the master of its own destiny and built a centralized government, taking the reins of the Nobility’s technology for their own benefit.
But on the frontier, various beasts and creatures threaten the pioneers trying to master the outlands. Hunters of many trades are established to counter them, such as Werewolf Hunters and Dragon Hunters. But none are as feared as the Vampire Hunter D.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many little nuisances. Like gigantic grapes or weather control towers. Details about monsters and life on the frontier. How people survive, how they thrive. Life working alongside the government as well as against the wilds. That’s the kind of depth that you don’t find in a lot of fiction these days.
It is not just a story that takes place in an alternate world. It is an alternate world, and the story is the byproduct of it.