I’d like to ask members of the Worldbuilding community: can you recommend any fiction, poetry, film, or other media about the process of world-building? To clarify, I’m not asking for works that are the result of world-building (as most sci-fi and fantasy pieces are), but rather your favorite works that deal with the process and appeal of designing a fictional world.

Why am I asking this question? Recently, I’ve read two pieces that handle this theme, and I really enjoyed how they made me think deeply about the process of participating in WSE:

  • Jorge Luis Borges’ short story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, in which the protagonist learns of a secret society of academics who work to design a fictional society from the bottom up by “cataloguing” it in a series of encyclopedias.
  • Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities, in which Marco Polo narrates to Kublai Khan about the strange cities that he has encountered during his travels. It eventually becomes doubtful whether Polo has actually seen these cities or is just inventing them himself (and whether it even makes any difference if they’re real or not).

I’d love to hear some suggestions for further reading/viewing about Worldbuilding-related topics! (Especially from experienced WSE users who have been doing this for much longer than myself.)

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but the novel Aristoi en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristoi_(novel) is about a whole culture of elites devoted to designing societies; these are real societies, though, not imaginary ones. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 15, 2020 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ Do these works have to be fiction, or will you take discourse on how to build worlds? $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2020 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan It doesn’t have to be fiction per se, but it should be some sort of creative work, not a how-to guide. $\endgroup$ Jul 17, 2020 at 2:14
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    $\begingroup$ A few are mentioned in our list of worldbuilding resources page. A nearly un-ending list can be found on Amazon.com. Or am I misunderstanding what you're asking for? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 21, 2020 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


Most works that deal with geopoetry per se are non-fiction. Tutorials, how-tos, manifestoes, personal statements, advice articles, and the like.

As for fiction... One could, I think perhaps successfully, argue that Silmarillion is an answer to this question. It is, of course, highly mythologised, but I think lays out in a high artistic form some of the ideas that Tolkien expresses more prosaically elsewhere. Especially matters of aesthetics and language.

A little more tangentially: Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (certainly the movie) and Pratchett's Strata address the process of worldbuilding in a very literal sense. The settings there involve geopoets who are actually able to sculpt the worlds they conceive of, giving them actual form & existence within the universe.

It's still unwritten, so probably doesn't count, but one thing I've long planned to write is The Universal Catalogue of Bespoke Worlds. This is a fictional company I often use when answering worldbuilding questions along the lines of "what if a world were like XYZ". Often times, their geopoetical philosophy (i.e., my geopoetical philosophy) comes through as well. That would be a fiction that is not only the result of worldbuilding, but is also about the art and process of geopoetry itself.


J.R.R. Tolkien's short story, Leaf by Niggle, jumps to mind as an example of this.

Quoting from its wiki article, it:

...offers the underlying philosophy (Creation and Sub-Creation, ...) of much of Tolkien's fantastical writings.

...is often seen as an allegory of Tolkien's own creative process, and, to an extent, of his own life.

I suspect it will be very different from the examples you list in your question - it strikes me as a more reflective piece, with more emphasis on the character of the worldbuilder than on the worldbuilding itself - an illustration of how closely Tolkien's worldbuilding was tied to his life and his faith.

In any case, I hope it's helpful. :)


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