Geofiction and Conworlds

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Geofiction is the creation of fictional geographical entities with no other primary purpose than the joy of creation. Conworlds is short for constructed worlds, and refers to fictional world or planets. Geofiction and conworlds are examples of fictional geography, albeit "geography" in a very broad sense, including the planetary scale (and beyond). (The term "constructed world" is also used in a few fields of science, but with a very different meaning.) Geofiction overlaps with world-construction or world-building (i.e. the creation of conworlds; see below), but between them, there are differences in geographical scale and purpose, and differences in style and focus, although most of these are tendencies more than sharp distinctions. The term "geofiction" was coined by a group of Dutch hobbyists in the early 1980s. Later they formed the Dutch Geofiction Association (in 1984), which still exists. The term "world-building" was first used - according to Wikipedia - in American science fiction writing workshops of the 1970s (but there seem to be no sources documenting this).

differences between geofiction and world-building

Geofiction and world-construction or world-building overlap: fictional worlds created for no other purpose than the joy of creation are examples of both. Fictional countries, regions, and cities are examples of geofiction (if created 'purposelessly'), but not of world-construction. Worlds created for games, books, or other purposes are examples of world-construction, but not of geofiction. There is, furthermore, a related category of fictional geographical entities below the planetary level and created with a special purpose, such as utopias and micronations, that are therefore, examples of neither.

The difference summarized:

purpose spatial scale
geofiction no other than the joy of creation (left open)
worldbuilding (left open) planetary (or larger)

In addition to these differences, geofiction more often takes place in a 'realistic' or earth-like setting (often in the form of the creation of a small country on earth), while world-building more often takes place in a fantasy or science fiction setting. However, in this respect too, the overlap is larger than the difference.

note: Since the authors of Maping Hacks in 2005 mistakenly identified "geofiction" as fictional map-making on the basis of a single, no longer available internet source, and this mistake was copied on the Wikipedia page on Worldbuilding it has become increasingly common (in English) to define "geofiction" as just fictional map-making. Aside from the fact that this redefinition only leads to confusion, it is also rather odd given that the term "geofiction" has no etymological relation with maps or map-making whatsoever.

geofiction and world-building on Geopoeia

The focus of Geopoeia is on creative counterfactuality, which is defined as having 'no other primary purpose than the joy of creation'. Geofiction wholly fits in that focus; world-construction only insofar it is 'purposeless' (or without an external purpose, at least).

see also: About Geopoeia.


Geofictional creations and conworlds are commonly classified by scale and location:

Fictional geographical entities on other planets (than Earth) can be considered independent creations if the planet is merely background setting and not the focus of creation.

Whether a certain geographical entity is located on Earth or on another planet is not always entirely clear. For example, the Nearly Real World is defined as "a world which is similar to the real world. It's just that in the Nearly Real World, there are a few more countries than in our world - and a few more land masses." The question, of course, is whether that makes if a different world. Considering the extent of changes and additions, it could certainly be argued that the Nearly Real World is a different world, and thus, that the countries on it are not located on earth. For further details, see Earth and Alternative Earths.

variants of geofiction and world-building

Most common is that a single person creates a country, world, etc. for his/her own enjoyment, and generally the focus therein is on aspects of history, culture, politics, society, and so forth. There are, however, kinds of geofiction/world-building (the first term will be used below) that deviate from this.

interactive geofiction

A common sub-variety of geofiction is 'interactive geofiction': geofiction as a kind of game in which the different creators let their creations interact with each other. Usually this means that different fictional countries on the same planet engage in diplomatic relations, trade, warfare, and so forth. The Dutch Geofiction Association has organized interactive geofiction projects from the second half of the 1980s onwards.

see also:

experimental geofiction

Experimental geofiction is geofiction as thought experiment. Starting from a (usually planetary or geophysical) deviation from known reality, the aim is trying to figure out - using available scientific knowledge - what such a world would be like (but in theory it could also be a country or city, etc.). For example, imagine a planet that always faces its sun with the same side, or that rotates with such a speed that the side that faces the sun very slowly changes (the rotation relative to the sun would be 60 years, for example). One can easily imagine that the climatological effects of this would be extreme. Figuring out the most plausible effects makes it very improbable that intelligent life could have evolved in such circumstances, which means that the experiment never moves from the geophysical to the social aspect. According to the Rare Earth hypothesis, even tiny changes tend to have this result. By implication, if one adheres to realism, then experimental geofiction rarely - if ever - goes further than physical geography: realistic human geography requires a very earth-like setting. However, the Rare Earth hypothesis may be wrong, and even if it is right, a possible escape would be science fiction: one could suppose that intelligent life would be brought to the strange world through space, and then develop the social aspect from there. Such experiments seem to be rare, however.




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