Fictionalizing the World: Depictions of Geography in Speculative Fiction


Speculative fiction, encompassing genres such as science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian fiction, has long been a popular form of literature. It allows writers to create imagined worlds that challenge our perceptions of reality while also commenting on current issues and potential future outcomes. While these stories often focus on advanced technology or supernatural elements, they also frequently explore the concept of geography. Through the creation of fictional landscapes and the manipulation of existing ones, speculative fiction offers a unique perspective on how geography shapes our world and influences the events that occur within it.

Geography plays a crucial role in shaping the worlds that are created within speculative fiction. The physical features of a fictional world, such as terrain, climate, and natural resources, can greatly influence the societies that inhabit them. For instance, desert landscapes in science fiction often depict harsh, unforgiving environments that force characters to adapt and survive, while lush, tropical environments in fantasy can evoke feelings of wonder and magic. These landscapes not only serve as a backdrop for the story but also play a pivotal role in the development of the characters and their experiences.

Furthermore, mapping and worldbuilding are essential components of creating a believable speculative fiction world. Authors must consider factors such as the placement of cities, rivers, and mountains, as well as the political and social structures that exist within their fictional societies. This process allows them to craft a detailed and immersive world, taking into account how geography affects the lives of their characters and the conflicts that arise.

In dystopian fiction, geography is often used to reflect the state of the world and its future trajectory. The barren, polluted landscapes of post-apocalyptic worlds serve as a warning of the potential consequences of human actions, while the stark contrast between the wealthy and impoverished districts in the Hunger Games series highlights the issues of social inequality and resource distribution. Through the manipulation of geography, authors can create a visual representation of societal issues and spark important discussions about the impact of our choices on the environment.

In a similar vein, science fiction often takes inspiration from real-world geographic features and extrapolates them into the future. For example, an increase in sea levels due to climate change has been a common theme in science fiction, with authors envisioning underwater cities or entire continents submerged. This allows for thought-provoking commentary on the potential consequences of our current actions on the environment and the survival of human societies.

In addition to depicting geography within their fictional worlds, speculative fiction also offers a unique platform for writers to explore alternative realities through the lens of geography. By creating alternate versions of our world with different geographic features, writers can challenge our perceptions of what is possible and imagine new ways of living. For example, in a world where the geographic poles are reversed, how would this impact society and technology? These imagined landscapes offer a glimpse into the endless possibilities of how geography can shape our world and our future.

In conclusion, geography plays a crucial role in shaping the worlds and narratives of speculative fiction. It allows writers to explore and comment on real-world issues, create immersive and believable settings, and challenge our perceptions of reality. By fictionalizing the world, speculative fiction offers a unique and thought-provoking exploration of how geography influences our lives and the potential outcomes of our choices. Whether in the form of a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a futuristic city on a different planet, the depictions of geography in speculative fiction remind us of the powerful role it plays in shaping our world and our future.