ASU Worldbuilding Initiative

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Worldbuilding—the process of constructing a world, often but not always an imagined one—is not one skill but rather the effect of many skills and knowledge bases working together: it is by necessity an interdisciplinary undertaking, even in its simplest form.

Meet the Director

A man with short, salt-and-pepper hair and a beard wearing a plaid shirt

Matt Bell is the author most recently of the novel Appleseed (a New York Times Notable Book) and the craft book Refuse to Be Done, a guide to novel writing, rewriting, and revision.

He is also the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Wall, a non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldur's Gate II, and several other titles. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Conjunctions, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Arizona State University.

Our Mission

The ASU Worldbuilding Initiative endeavors to identify and engage the realists of a larger reality at ASU: students, faculty, and staff invested in imagining stronger communities, more egalitarian societies, truly sustainable economies, more just ways of inhabiting a planet under duress, and other ways of making better futures together.

Rooted in the Humanities

No matter the medium they work in, every worldbuilder is first and foremost a storyteller, describing how people live in an imagined place or imagined time. To tell such stories requires the worldbuilder to alternatively think like a philosopher, a poet, a linguist, a historian, a political scientist, or an anthropologist. An inherently interdisciplinary exercise, worldbuilding activates every skill and possibility that the study of the Humanities yields.

Imagining Otherwise

Every inhabited world, real or imagined, offers a story about how human beings interact with each other and their environment across the past, present, and future. The novelist Daniel Heath Justice says that to tell stories of worlds that do not yet exist is to "imagine otherwise," generating models for new ways of life, new ways of thriving.

Imagining Better Futures

Better futures that cannot be successfully imagined will not come to pass. The Worldbuilding Initiative is an attempt to increase the possibilities we have available to us by giving students and faculty a chance to participate in a narrative experience built around wonder, collaboration, curiosity, and problem-solving, putting into practice the modes of inquiry, thought, and imagination that will be essential to the envisioning of our future ways of life.