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Aspects of Conworlding

World building

The term "conhistory" usually refers to the internal history of a conworld (how events within occured) as opposed to its real life history (how the creator made and revised the world as an artistic work).

Focal point

As a general convention, a conhistory spans any number of years (hundreds or thousands usually) but reaches an end around a specific point that people within the world regard as the present day. This point usually coincides with the time when stories set in the conworld tend to take place, as well as the departure point for the (generally undefined) future. Naturally, the point that the conworld "ends" at has a large influence on how history before it might have played out and the general feel of the world. Common focal points include:

  • Ancient/Classical
  • Mediæval
  • Renaissance
  • Futuristic

Of these, the Mediæval period has proven the most popular and perhaps even iconic of the art of conworlding. As with so many aspects of conworlding, Tolkien seems to have set the standard here with his Middle Earth, which has left an indelible impact on many conworlders. Most worlds in this period incorporate not only the cultural and technological elements of the Middle Ages but also supernatural and magical aspects, making them settings for fantasy. Non-fantasy Mediæval worlds are conspicuously rare, though not unheard of among more sophisticated conworlders. Despite its pronounced popularity among writers and conworlders, the Mediæval period remains widely misunderstood and overly idealized. Those interested in using it are advised to research carefully so they may avoid errors and clichés like the mechanical horse (those mysterious creatures capable of running full speed all day without sleep or time to graze).

The renaissance or post-Mediæval period has appeared somewhat less frequently (perhaps since it lacks the romantic connotations of its predescessor). Worlds in this period may feature themes of recovery from centuries of darkness and decline, or else technologies and events reminiscent of the era. When combined with fantastic or SFnal elements, this period may yield steampunk and clockpunk. Mark Rosenfelder's Almea provides a well-known example, which also borrows the fantastic elements associated with more Mediæval worlds.

Futuristic worlds generally represent the science fictional side of conworlding, much as Mediæval ones embody the fantastic. As such these usually feature advanced technologies and an emphasis on scientific knowledge rather than myth. They may also have more enlightened and social systems where problems such as racism, poverty, and crime have been overcome. On the other hand, many futuristic worlds take quite the opposite approach and portray dystopias that take full advantage of the terrifying possibilities of high technology. Famous examples include the Star Trek franchise, known for its iconic technologies and exploration of social issues in a futuristic context.

Models of history

Those interested in creating a conhistory need to understand how real-life history has played out, as well as what factors drive history. As with so many social sciences, the field of history abounds in disagreement of what models best reflect the facts. Historians have approached the subject from a variety of angles, focusing on everything from psychology to class conflict as the key to explaining history.

  • Progressive, regressive, and cyclical

Most historians today focus heavily on systemic factors like geography and economy as key forces behind the course of history. These factors lend themselves well to scientific investigation, important for historians seeking to base their theories on hard fact rather than untestable speculation.

Jared Diamond, while not a historian by training, discusses ecological and geographic forces behind the way cultures and civilizations develop. He explains many key patterns in world history, such as the gradual dominance of the West, primarily as consequences of geographic factors.

The historical materialism of Karl Marx provides another scientifically oriented, if rather controversial, account of history.

In opposition to systemic and materialist analyses, the Great Man theory focuses on individuals thought pivotal in shaping the course of history.

Traditional accounts of history have often attributed its course to divine providence and oversight.


While modern historians aim to study and describe history in an objective and accurate manner, history is unavoidably full of ambiguity and interpretation. Many critical details surrounding past events have disappeared with time.