Word Watch: Paracosm

Last May, Wired Magazine’s Clive Thompson filed an interesting piece about the utility of fan fiction and its relationship to the concept of paracosms — imaginary realms replete with their own well-imagined geographies, flora and fauna, which often belie certain psychological dispositions on the part of their inventors.

As Thompson writes:

“Paracosms are the fantasy worlds that many dreamy, imaginative kids like to invent when they’re young. Some of history’s most creative adults had engaged in ‘worldplay’ as children. The Bronté siblings, in one famous example, concocted paracosms so elaborate that they documented them with meticulous maps, drawings, and hundreds of pages of encyclopedic writing.”

Thompson’s piece suggests that the worldplay demonstrated in fan fiction is a form of “practical creativity” that can have positive application in one’s work life. As Thompson points out:

Fleshing out a universe demands not just imagination but an attention to detail, consistency, rule sets, and logic. You have to grapple with constraints — just as when you’re problem-solving at work.

And sometimes, it can lead to book deal as in the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, which began its bestselling life as a Twilight fan fiction and then evolved into its own world (thank goodness for “find and replace” eh?).

Read Clive Thompson’s piece.