world-building n.

the creation of fictional realms and their geology, geography, biology, etc., often including the history and culture of their inhabitants

OED has earlier evidence in broader senses.

SF Criticism

  • 1920 A. S. Eddington Space, Time & Gravitation x. 160

    It might seem that this kind of fantastic world-building can have little to do with practical problems.

  • 1992 Locus Aug. 22/1

    Vance…has a ‘supreme skill in world-building, the creation of alien societies completely imagined’.

  • 1993 Locus June 38/2 (advt.)

    Glory Season, is an example of modern world-building, in which all aspects of an alien world…have been conceptualized.

  • 1994 Analog Science Fiction & Fact Jan. 185/1,

    I realized that this physics idea often arises in SF discussions in connection with black holes or space construction or ‘world building’ for story backgrounds.

  • 1995 Interzone Feb. 32/2

    Science fiction reviewers—and readers, too—tend to be finicky about ‘world building,’ fretting unduly, it always seems to me, over whether the fictional world could really exist given the writer’s scenario, worrying over the bits the writer hasn’t explicitly elucidated in the text.

  • 2018 J. DeNardo Science Fiction Series Spotlight: ‘Revelation Space’ by Alastair Reynolds in Kirkus Reviews 14 Feb. page image John DeNardo

    There have been many space opera series over the past few decades that have served readers well, providing hours of immersive escapism and stellar world building.

Research requirements

antedating 1920

Earliest cite

A.S. Eddington, 'Space, Time and Gravitation'

Research History
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2018 cite from John DeNardo.

Last modified 2022-05-08 18:49:25
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.