primary world n.

the real world, as opposed to the secondary world of a work of fiction

SF Criticism

  • 1947 J. R. R. Tolkien On Fairy-Stories in Essays Presented to C. Williams 60 J. R. R. Tolkien

    It seems fairly clear that Lang was using belief in its ordinary sense: belief that a thing exists or can happen in the real (primary) world.

  • 1947 J. R. R. Tolkien On Fairy-Stories in Essays Presented to C. Williams 67 J. R. R. Tolkien

    I propose, therefore, to arrogate to myself the powers of Humpty-Dumpty, and to use Fantasy for this purpose: in a sense, that is, which combines with its older and higher use as an equivalent of Imagination the derived notions of 'unreality' (that is, of unlikeness to the Primary World), of freedom from the domination of observed 'fact', in short of the fantastic.

  • 1964 J. R. R. Tolkien Tree & Leaf (1992) 37 J. R. R. Tolkien

    The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken. The magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside.

  • 1964 J. R. R. Tolkien Tree & Leaf (1992) 45 J. R. R. Tolkien

    Fantasy, of course, starts out with an advantage: arresting strangeness. But that advantage has been turned against it, and has contributed to its disrepute. Many people dislike being `arrested'. They dislike any meddling with the Primary World, or such small glimpses of it as are familiar to them.

  • 1964 J. R. R. Tolkien Tree & Leaf (1992) 46 J. R. R. Tolkien

    Fantasy may be, as I think, not less but more sub-creative; but at any rate it is found in practice that `the inner consistency of reality' is more difficult to produce, the more unlike are the images and the rearrangements of primary material to the actual arrangements of the Primary World.

  • 1980 R. J. Branham Principles of the Imaginary Milieu in Extrapolations Winter 328 page image

    The fantastic assumption of sustained and consistent impossibility cannot long remain in a primary world whose physical laws and accompanying mentality must dismiss nonconforming phenomena as being either rationally explicable or incomprehensible.

  • 2004 B. Stableford Discovery of Secondary Worlds in N.Y. Review of Science Fiction #192 Aug. 6/2 page image Brian Stableford bibliography

    The writer, as an omnipotent secondary creator, need only state that the world within the text mirrors the primary world to establish the fact to his own satisfaction.


Research requirements

antedating 1947

Earliest cite

J.R.R. Tolkien, 'On Fairy-Stories'

Research History
Greer Watson submitted a cite from a 1992 reprint of J.R.R. Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories"; Thomas M. M. Gordon verified it in the 1947 first publication in "Essays Presented to Charles Williams".

We would like cites of any date from authors other than Tolkien.

Last modified 2021-01-05 19:38:06
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.