So this critic, Laurence Dodds, over at The Telegraph, has just slapped nerdom in the face with a stiff, leather glove of an article which not only rakes nerds over the coals for being way too enraptured with meticulous world building and the precise cataloging of every minute detail of their beloved fantasy realms, but also boldly declares that Tolkien's Lord of the Rings "is rubbish...a gigantic, sprawling trek of boring asides to even more boring battles, flecked like mouldy bread with tedious moralism."

It is clear Dodds is looking for a fight but he does make a good point about how being too focused on working out all the details of a fictional word can take away from good storytelling.

...for a certain kind of mind building an archive is so much easier than telling a story. Humans of nerdish brain looked Tolkien's work and thought: hey, this is easy! All I need to do is create a massively overcomplicated fake history with the barest excuse for a hackneyed plot to drive it! An entire generation of fantasy novels was predicated on the idea that a coherent world was more important than an interesting literary text, and in a society where our consumer habits have increasingly become our identities, there is a ready-made audience for books which reward the archivist reader. What's more, the very activity of canon formation is what nerds most enjoy: obsessively mastering a set of authorised texts, declaring their group allegiance through their memory of its most obscure passages, and then lawyering each other furiously wherever the authors leave gaps. We would all be so much better off had fantasy authors followed the example of elderly Tolkien, or even Borges himself, and just written fictional encyclopaedias.


I think this is definitely a danger of comprehensive world building but I imagine, just like a method actor working out constellations of exhaustive details about a character's life, that this level of resolution allows many authors full command of their stories, knowing their universe inside out so as to better move their pieces about it, which could aid significantly in plot development as well as bring a deep sense of realism to both them and their readers.

I to had share this article because Dodds's tone is just so demeaning to nerd culture and boldly declaring The Lord of the Rings is absolute garbage, to the majority of nerdom who look upon those books in the same way religious folks regard their various sacred tomes, is like going to someone's wedding, yelling loudly to gain everyone's attention, and then crapping in the punch bowl with a huge smile on your face.