Notes to World Building and Cosmogonies

I’m gonna talk about two things here: Cosmogony and World Creation

Any theory concerning the coming into existence (or origin) of either the cosmos (or universe), or the so-called reality of sentient beings.

World Creation
Essentially a process of defining a sandbox and populating it.

The Cosmogony of a story is a core concept I have to address at its start. In a sense I have to do it before things start. World Creation is something rather different. This is all about the design of the author. Both are ripe for speculation; particularly in SF & Fantasy.

My starting point on these is back in Classical Greek Philosophy which provided explanations for life… the universe…… everything.
Yep. Sounds familiar.

Plato and Aristotle are fundamental to our understanding of the West. They’re also pretty important to what we write too.
So. Mr Plato, and Mr. Aristotle, please take a bow.

First I need to clear up a couple of misconceptions which are pretty commonly held. Antiquity feeds into the West but this isn’t done direct. An important line of transmission is through Golden Age Islam. That civilisation shouldn’t be confused with the present-day barbarism in the Levant – which is basically opportunistic murderers and wannabe terrorists. The line of transmission is of course broken in the West; the break is called the Dark Ages.

Back to writing. Plato, using Socrates as his mouthpiece (or vice versa), produced a body of work that dealt with ideas such as perfection, purpose, and whether there was any point to politicians. 🙂

A central theme that emerges from his work is the hierarchy of forms – from imperfect to pure. You can see this put into (good imo) fictional practise, in Roger Zelazny’s Amber series – there are many copies of Amber and Amber is the one true world….
Plato, however, dealt with the art of creative writing by calling it out as folly, at best, and dangerous – in the sense that it by affording them opportunity to take vicarious pleasure in the plight of others. It didn’t contribute to the ‘Good’, it encouraged wrong thinking….

He was of course referring to the tripe of his times (Poetry and Plays) – which ‘stimulated the lower part of the soul’ – it essentially gave people kicks and could be pretty disreputable. This couldn’t possibly apply to the tripe of the here and now…. 🙂

Plato’s perfect state would have little, if any, room for poetry and plays.

Aristotle, however, made a study of writing. His work is only available through an Arabic version written by Averroes (ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd – for those who like foreign looking words) is misleadingly titled the Poetics. It is relevant here and now… but it lacks a good translation and… (I’m drifting off the point here) one thing it underlines is the sense of balanced story form. This is achieved by multiple points – here I recommend avid Antiquarian Classicists to read the part 11 which deals with problems and solutions (my notes are here).

This section looks at artifice (artefacts :-)) in the art of the writer, and makes suggestions on how to deal with them… However.
When looked at from a certain pov,

Plato (not forgetting Socrates)




A tapestry; a cloth of events
where cause and effect are part of the same weave

Phew. That’s out of the way.

The universe.
Most of it is unknowable at this point of time.
Our guesses are circumscribed by the fact we can barely make out 20% of what we think is there. Ref: Fritz Zwicky’s work on dark matter.
What’s in dark matter?
We don’t know.
It’s not visible and it’s well away from the gravity wells of stars and planets – If it wasn’t, we’d know and it wouldn’t be called dark. That is, Fritz (and those who carry on this work) wouldn’t still be calling it that. It’d have some luminous name like err discovered matter.
I know what I’d do with it. Science like this makes my heart sing.

Before we finish, here’s a final word on science.


Ussher deduced the age of the Earth from the Bible. His Earth, a young Earth, begins 1300 years after urban societies appeared in Mesopotamia; 1500 years after the waters of the Mediterranean finally breached the Bosphorus to flood the coastal communities of the Black Sea; 70,000 years after the Toba event.

Ussher’s conclusions weren’t supported by advances in geology. The uniformitarians, an inspiration for Darwin, hypothesized a longer chronology. But as gradualists, they rejected continental drift and the later plate tectonics. Until the 1960’s some answers couldn’t be right, despite the evidence. But opinions change.

Assume an Old Earth. Old Sun. Old Universe. What are the chances that evolution and circumstance produce life? And if life, intelligence. And if here, elsewhere. And if elsewhere what? More advanced? A neat, civilised, benign arrangement? More belligerent? Can it be that we are alone?

Now I like world creation.

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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