Worldbuilding and Issues

The Downsides of Good Worldbuilding

Bigotry and the products thereof.

Because if we want to be honest with ourselves, the future is not going to be perfect. Life will probably be much better, certainly. Humans shed or weaken a few prejudices as we go along; but there’s so much prejudice wrapped up in the way that the world operates that a world without it would be tremendously unrealistic; especially if we want to create a world that functionally comments on it in the real world. For every time that Captain Picard insists in Star Trek: The Next Generation that 24th Century humanity has eradicated bigotry, there are dozens of instances of characters in that same series that display exactly those ills – because science fiction is too strong a medium in which to comment on the social ills of the modern world, it’s necessary to project those ills into the SFnal future.

It would be bad storytelling to show a world in which all the dangers and difficulties that our heroes overcome are external ones – not only bad storytelling, for that matter, but dishonest as well.

It’s a dangerous ground that you have to tread. To be honest with ourselves and our readers, we mustn’t give in to the temptation to make characters who hold bigoted beliefs completely irredeemable, because everyone holds beliefs that are wrong, spiteful, harmful. We tell ourselves that it’s ok because we’re good people. We make ego-defensive constructs that say that we’re right to hold these beliefs. We make ego-defensive constructs that say that these beliefs are ok because we don’t hate ALL people in that group or that group, only the bad ones.

Everyone. Does. It.

That doesn’t make it ok.

But characters need those impulses and ideas that represent their darker natures, or they’re incomplete.

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