If you read the title carefully, you’ll notice the book is for both fans and authors. It’s really true. If you’ve read a decent-sized bookshelf worth of fantasy (or science fiction, or other speculative fiction) there will be plenty of enjoyment in Presley’s book for you. Heck, even one fantasy book and some movies might put this easy read into your “this will be fun” pile. The author uses plenty of examples from movies and books that keep it interesting throughout.
But does a fantasy author really stand to benefit from a worldbuilding book? I was a tad skeptical, but I saw Dyrk Ashton recommending it on Twitter and somehow I managed to be one of the first people to obtain a paperback copy. I’ve been sipping on it ever since and it has made me think very hard about the world I am building in my debut novel.
I suppose I imagined it would be boring or filled with self-evident reminders like, “Don’t forget to think about the way people in your world think about religion.”
Glad I was wrong. Turns out there are a ton of fascinating ways of thinking, survey results from fans of fantasy, historical examples and trends, and practical ideas about worldbuilding in this book.
Since I only write succinct reviews here, I will give just one example. Presley discussed a spectrum of reader wants running from the “familiar” on the left side and the “new” on the right side. I found myself pleasantly surprised how many subtopics related to this spectrum, including “the Entertainment Dilemma.” Readers often want “familiar” with a twist of the “new,” because they got such a high from one particular book or story.
The most familiar example he used was . . . the movie Die Hard. I didn’t realize how many movies (not just sequels) were Die-Hard-with-a-twist (White House Down, Lockout, Under Siege, Olympus Has Fallen). Then, just applying that to my own tastes in fantasy was an interesting exercise in self-awareness.
He also helped me understand why traditional publishing houses often put out books that I do not enjoy. The gatekeepers of trad pub are people tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. A literary agent or editor at a publishing house is much more likely to value the “new” departure from standard tropes while the typical reader really wants another immersive experience like the one they found in Middle Earth or Westeros.
Worldbuilding for Fantasy Fans and Authors is filled with fascinating topics, such as “Would an elf by any other name still have pointy ears?” Whether you’re a fan wanting to reflect more on why you love a well-crafted world or a writer who uses a top-down approach to worldbuilding (akin to being a “plotter”) or one who uses a bottom-up approach (a “pantser”), I believe you’ll be enthralled by Presley’s thoughts here.