A lot of writers are particularly famous for the world they create.
Think of Tolkien with Middle Earth. Through the range of stories that he produced, often in different styles and focussing on different readerships, he created a richly detailed and totally unique world.
And what about Terry Pratchett and Discworld. Through so many stories, often with different characters and radically different tones, Pratchett was able to satirise a broad range of aspects of society. But he was able to anchor all of this within this one universe – a world that in some ways became an additional character in itself.
There are many other examples – think about the worlds of Game of Thrones or the Dune stories. It’s an amazing and powerful thing when a writer is able to create their own unique and distinct universe.
I’m not sure if I’m ever going to be able to do this. Partly it’s because I’m not sure if I’m a good enough writer, or whether I have the literary tools required for such detailed world building. Partly, it’s because I have a roving mind (or maybe just a short attention span) and I’m always looking to try something new with each story that I write.
Still, I like to believe that even if I have never (and probably will never) created a single unique physical world for all my stories, I have managed to create a world for my stories in a different sort of way.
I see my stories as fitting into a kind of virtual world. And no, I’m not talking about some sort of online simulation. It’s like a world of the mind. A world that is characterised more by its otherness and strangeness, rather than its physical location.
From the slightly skewed Tolkien-esque fantasy world of Magnus Opum to the afterlife of A Fate Worse than Death, and from the slightly childish worlds of Dinosaurs and Flidderbugs to the surreal universe in which Neville Lansdowne experiences his adventures, I like to think there’s a kind of thematic or conceptual consistency. A way that the natural laws of physics or logic are upended in unexpected ways. A way that this “world” somehow functions as a strange mirror to our real world, highlighting things we might not otherwise have thought of. And I see my picture books, with a range of talking animals, monsters and other creatures, as a natural extension of that world.
I imagine that characters from one story could hop into another one. I can see Magnus falling off the world with Neville. I can see Jimmy Clarendon going back in time to meet the economically challenged dinosaurs, or being perplexed by a Tiger-Turtle.
So I may not ever create my own literary world in the conventional sense, but I do believe I am still in the process of creating my own literary world.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as