Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 57

Sin Titulo

by Cameron Stewart
Genre notes: drama, science fiction, surrealism
168 pages
ISBN: 1616552484 (Amazon)

One of the things about worldbuilding we don’t often recognize is that it’s only tacitly the province of fantasy and sci-fi authors. Tolkien and Bradbury and Dick and Rowling and Martin are only showing us their amateur efforts in their novels. At the end of the day, a world you give a name is a world you’ve written off as one of your lesser creations. The real deals are those worlds that we continue to build and hone and craft across the landscape of our whole lives. We never think to name these because, really, what’s in a name? A cheap taxonomy? A way of excluding all the glorious and vibrant details? A commodification of our imaginative selves? Genuine worldbuilding is the cosmos we create and recreate with every waking experience—and a good number of those that ricochet through the meat of our subconciouses, informing our dreams and learning from the same. Genuine worldbuilding is not Middle Earth or Hogwarts or Westeros or Earthsea or whichever other podunk barely realized fantasy realm we’re so fond of. The real-deal worldbuilding takes place in every moment in the heads of every person across the globe. Billions and billions of worlds being constructed by the minute with a fidelity and complexity never imagined by any of the inhabitants of our favourite published fictions. It’s the unnamed, unpublished fictions that are the real majesties of the human creative spirit—only we’re so velocitized to their presence that we forget how incredible they are.

It’s in the connections that you and I forge between ourselves and the objects around us (whether animate or inanimate) that we develop the story of the world. The relationships that we draw up and then (magnificently) prove, whether between human or animal or vegetable or mineral or—most elusive of all—ideological, are fictions we craft to lend credibility to a universe that is plainly beyond the scope of any of our powers to comprehend. And because we are each of us so adept at worldbuilding, at composing a believable circumstance in which the stories of our lives might unravel themselves, we never blink at the suspension of disbelief that goes on when we do simple things like pay for gum in a supermarket line. Or when we attend a class on macroeconomics that we’re merely auditing. Or when we watch a Youtube parody of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s published story version of a storyworld that he created long before he refined it for the page. We’re so talented that we would never dream of couching our interaction with the world in terms of suspended disbelief. It’s only when our worldbuilding conflicts with the builded worlds of those around us that we encounter dissonance.

(And from there come the frustrations and fights and divorces and murders and wars which comprise the bulk of both our nightly news and our entertainment.)

As the bulk of Stewart’s discussion of worldbuilding occurs in his climactic, expository finale, I’ll demur from speaking of it too specifically. The author does discuss the difference between worldbuilding and true worldbuilding, founding his argument on a sort of embellishment of the Platonic forms. He posits that the true artist’s concern is with creating reality rather than imitating it. In a way, we could read this as a dismissal of Tolkien-esque worldbuilding and a promotion of the kind of reality-forging that takes place in you and I in every moment. He doesn’t stop there and I’m not sure he or his characters would be entirely comfortable with this reading, but that’s the story within his story that affected me—the story of several characters trying to build realities in which they won’t be sickened by themselves and their weaknesses. A story that somewhat exists as pedagogy, a nudge to the reader toward an existence in which the stories we create for our lives eliminate our weakest selves and one in which our histories are not our fault.

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