In this edition on “Inside the Blogosphere” I asked our contributors to reach into the depths of their imagination. I asked:
If you could live in an SF/Fantasy/Horror world, in which one would you live? Why?
And some of the best bloggers in SF came up with some great answers. You can also see part 1 HERE.
Blue Tyson @ Free SF Reader: Picking somewhere else to live from SF or Fantasy? Definitely in a future SF scenario.
The first one that would be coolest is the Legion of Super Heroes 31st century. The problem there is that DC may retcon you out of existence. Utopian underpinnings, at least in the UP, but they seem to manage many alien invasions, supervillain takeovers, etc., to keep things interesting.
Something nearer future would be Julian May’s Galactic Milieu – contact and interaction with alien races, the development of a planetary society, living on other planets, and a little bit of time travel.
David Brin’s Uplift Universe would be similarly interesting for alien contact, plus the opportunity to work with intelligent dolphins, apes and dogs.
Greg Egan’s posthuman future featuring the functional immortality given by the Ndoli device would be great, too, giving you the time to do many, many things if you were lucky enough.
Chad @ Fiction is so Overrated: For me, world-building is the reason to read fantasy; to escape the mundane and discover the extraordinary. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson was a very vivid book with it’s many conflicts and human interest yet still maintaining a grasp on the fantastic that made me want to linger and learn more. The unexplained power and questions that arise by the end would turn me to scholarship if I could live in that world. Oddly enough, most of my favorite fantasy lands tend to be based in the world we all live in.
Micheal Swanwick’s short stories detailing the adventures of Darger and Surplus as found in his collection, The Dog said Bow-Wow and their post-crash-of-utopia adventures are all based in familiar locations with new oddities and twist that keep me wondering long after reading. In the same line of thinking, nothing could be more fun than being a powerful American magician in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and adding some conflicting personality to the wonderful faux academic Victorian England affair. Though I fear I’d have more fun in the fantastic land of Faerie (I mean really, what’s special–or even remotely fantastic–about nineteenth century England?)
Perhaps the greatest of fantasy lands I would like to inhabit would be ancient Greece as depicted by David Gemmell in his Troy trilogy. A land of myth based in reality and godly heroism acted out by mere humans. How can it not be grand fantasy when Achilles is made human and Helen is described as ‘homely?’ While there is always a hint of the mystic, I feel this is how the old stories, and epic fantasy in general should be told: extraordinary deeds being done by regular people. What better way to inspire us all to do something better in our own lives?
Memory @ Stella Matutina: If you’d asked me this question a year or two ago, I’d have been stumped. Sure, there are tons of great fantasy worlds out there, but most of them are a little… well, exclusive. Life’s great if you’re rich and/or male, but the rest of us find ourselves at a disadvantage. Most fantasy worlds would be wonderful to visit but rather less wonderful to live in.
And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure that I can’t say the same for Ysabeau S. Wilce’s Califa, but I love the place so much that I’d be willing to put up with a bit of nastiness if I could make it my home. Califa, which burst onto the scene in Wilce’s short fiction and has since been featured in her Flora books, (Flora Segunda and Flora’s Dare), is an alternate version of nineteenth century San Francisco with magick and a healthy dose of punk rock sensibility. It’s the sort of setting you want to know inside and out. I love it all: the hairstyles, the fashions, (which include kilts for both women and men), the music, the architecture, the seedy ice cream parlours, the literature, the complicated and bizarre magic that has to be handled with such care…
But most of all, I love that women and men are equal. Truly equal; a woman can be a general and her spouse can be a househusband, or vice versa, and no one thinks anything of it. I’ve never come across another fantasy setting like it.
So I’d still have to worry about finances and evil empires and spells that could turn me inside out if I botched my Grammatica. I could live with all that, just as long as I was living with it in Califa.
Charles @ Bibliophile Stalker: Despite what people will have you believe, there is no such thing as an utopia and it’s less so in SF/Fantasy/Horror, where there needs to be conflict in order for the narrative to be interesting. Just look at a media tie-in setting like Dragonlance: the world gets rebooted every decade or so just to keep things interesting. And Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris (City of Saints and Madmen, Shriek: An Afterword, and Finch) is very pictureque but I wouldn’t want to live in it, especially with all the alien fungus and spores that permeate the place. The same goes for China Mieville’s Bas-Lag (you never know what monster you might run into) or Jay Lake’s The City Imperishable (sorry, no boxed dwarves for me).
In many ways, it’s also a trick question. It doesn’t really matter what place you live in unless you can guarantee your social standing in that particular world. In Lauren Beuke’s Moxyland for example, there’s something very dystopic about the place despite the technological innovations–unless you happen to be one of the corporate overlords ruling the place.
If wealth or political stature wasn’t a problem (i.e. I’d be part of the elite, ruling class), I’d probably go for the universe in Walter Jon William’s novel Implied Spaces. For one thing, I’d be guaranteed immortality as my consciousness gets backed up and can be loaded into a new body when I die. For another, the setting also has simulations of other worlds, so it’s the ultimate trick answer to this question–why pick one when I can choose them all? (And since you’re virtually immortal, you’re free to participate in various adventures, even if they are life-threatening.)
SMD @ World in the Satin Bag: I’d probably live in the Harry Potter universe. I’ve always thought it would be cool to go to a school of magic, and what better a place to do so than in the world created by Rowling? Sure, the place is full of dangers and crazy people, but I could see myself with my face in an old book, learning new spells and practicing for my OWLS! And don’t forget the flying. Really, when you think about it, the Harry Potter universe is the perfect place for someone wanting to have as much fun and adventure as possible. But that’s for fantasy. Science fiction is another beast.
The problem with SF worlds is that they always seem to be incredibly screwed up. True, Harry Potter’s world is messed too, but I think I could easily avoid the bad guys in that world, which is not so true of SF worlds. I do know for a fact that I would not want to live in the worlds of David Marusek (Counting Heads and Mind Over Ship), because I value my privacy, and his vision of the future certainly doesn’t allow for that. I wouldn’t want to live in the world of 1984, Brave New World, or any other dystopia (Equilibrium, The Matrix, Children of Men, etc.). Too dangerous and I enjoy freedom. And as much as I love Battlestar Galactica, I could not live in a universe trapped on a ship with a bunch of people who haven’t showered in a month…
So where would I go? Star Wars. Yeah. And no, I won’t get into the argument of genre here, because in this case, I don’t think it matters. In the Star Wars universe I could be a jedi or a fighter pilot or a cool assassin with a rocket pack like Boba Fett. That would be wicked cool, in all honesty. I’d prefer to live in the post-Imperial Empire time, though, because I really don’t want to deal with all the Emperor Palpatine stuff. Then again, maybe a very distance pre-Empire would be better…Either way, Star Wars is like Harry Potter for science fiction geeks. Lots of action, lots of adventure, plenty of cool toys to play with, weird creatures, and a whole cast of interesting characters!
Kat @ Fantasy Literature.com: I’d live in Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood which is located in 20th century England. It’s only 6 miles across, but once you enter (if you can!) it goes on and on in both time and space. After I’ve been there for a while, my mind will start to create mythagos – my personally idealized flesh-and-blood forms of legendary heroes and mythical creatures. I’m thinking I’d like to “create” and meet some form of clever Odysseus (minus the long journey). Because a person’s fears can also create mythagos, my phobia of cockroaches could produce some rather frightening monsters, but My Personal Odysseus will surely be able to handle giant man-eating cockroaches (I hope I meet him before I meet the roaches).
Terry @ Reading the Leaves – I want to go to Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld (To Your Scattered Bodies Go, The Fabulous Riverboat, The Dark Design, The Magic Labyrinth, The Gods of Riverworld). There are so many people I’d like to meet, and Riverworld contains them all! I suppose it might be difficult to track down some of the more interesting folks, though. For instance, wouldn’t Emily Dickinson hide away somewhere and write more poetry, just as she did in life? Would Sylvia Plath still be so depressed, and would Ted Hughes still be such a shit to her? Would Abraham Lincoln be so revered that no normal person like me could get anywhere near him?
But if I really could talk to whom I liked when I liked, my afterlife would be a series of fascinating conversations. I could sit at Plato’s feet and hear him talk about his famous cave and the nature of reality. I could discuss the Great Society with Lyndon Baines Johnson. I’d have a lively conversation with Jane Austen, Betty Friedan and Susan B. Anthony about feminism. I’d be able to try to figure out what Derrida and Foucault were talking about by discussing literary criticism directly with them, rather than in translation. And I could tell my grandfather how much I loved him, and how even now, more than 30 years after he died, I still miss him.
I’m also tempted by the worlds in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians precisely because they are so congruent with our world. The only real difference is that magic is real, and is a discipline that can be learned with talent and dedicated study. I like the idea of magic as something that can be studied, because t hen I could be a magician, too: if all it takes is seriousness of mind, hard work and good study habits, well, then, I’m golden.
It perhaps speaks to a personal lack of imagination that the worlds to which I would go are so closely aligned to our own world in so many ways. My husband often offers to take me to, say, the Horse Nebula or Andromeda; I always tell him I’d rather go to Paris or Rome right here on this planet. In other words, Middle Earth (or Ringworld, or Narnia, or even New Crobuzon) might be a nice place to visit, but – well, you know the cliché.
Molly @ Got Schephs: Fun question. If I could live in any fantasy world, I’d pick Valdemar, from Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series. Her world is well-crafted and distinctive, though it’s not quite as detailed as, say, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time; however, I don’t think there is any other world that I so desperately want to experience alongside the people, heroes, villains, and characters that I’ve read about. If Lackey’s culture is more subtly written, her characters make the world vividly real and unique. Even if I couldn’t meet my favorite characters, I’d still enjoy Valdemar!
Alternatively, I’d pick the future world of The Surrogates comic. I know, the point is that the surrogates cheapen the experience of life, but…damn it’d be fun to try for a little while!
Kristen @ Fantasy Cafe: This question was remarkably easy for me – even considering how indecisive I am – since I read a novel last year that made me fervently wish I lived in that world. That novel is The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, which is set in The Culture along with several other books by Banks.
Although the Culture is not quite perfect, it’s about as close to it as any setting I’ve ever read about for the average citizen (from what I’ve seen, the characters Banks chooses to write about are not the ones who are left alone to lead wonderful yet perfectly boring to read about lives but the ones who have to do whatever is necessary to enable others to lead those types of lives). Technology is advanced enough that people do not have to do any work that they do not want to do yet can live a luxurious life wanting for nothing. It’s a very egalitarian place and laws do not exist yet the vast majority of citizens abide by the one major rule of not harming others. Medically, almost anything is possible whether it’s replacing a severed limb or extending a life. Non harmful drugs are readily available that can enhance just about anything – the ability to focus, think through problems, or improve just about anything you can imagine. Death is very rare in the Culture.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a place like that?
Phil @ A Fantasy Reader: When I started thinking about what I would be looking for in another world, I realized that the coolest thing would be able to live a godlike life, get divine powers or something similarly grandiose. The first world that came to my mind was “Opelon” from Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. In this world, if you’re taken randomly by the process known as the “shaod” you can become a living god. But then, being chosen is almost like winning the lottery, too risky.
Then I thought of the Malaz world from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. This world creates so much possibility! Aside from the “real” Malaz world, there’s a whole bunch of “parallel” worlds accessible through warren (magical gateways to explain briefly). Each of these worlds represents a distinct aspect (darkness, light, time, etc.). In every one of them, you can eventually reach ascendency, a state between godhood and mortal life. As written in the second book of the series, Deadhouse Gates, “Sorcery could be the ladder to Ascendancy”. If we add that in this world, through discipline and study, one can become a mage and then maybe access the desired warren, then godhood or divine power becomes a reachable goal! This is a reason to get my vote! Even in death, you access another world, it’s not the end!
Aside from becoming a god, the world in which to exercise divinity has to be something different from our own to appeal to me. The world of Malaz is again a good choice. Being more than 300 000 years old, there ought to be a rich history and culture to discover within the many races and creatures populating this world. The icing on the cake : you can find winged monkeys with astounding intellect!
Christel @ Robots and Vamps: Urban fantasy books are often set in our ordinary world where extraordinary things happen. It is hard to choose a world for its uniqueness because the actual world is quite similar to ours. With that in mind, I would love to live in Sookie Stackhouse’s world from the Southern Vampire Mysteries written by Charlaine Harris. The vampires are “out of the coffin” and trying to live amongst the humans in peace. With supernatural creatures living among us, this world would be quite interesting, to say the least! The political ramifications alone would be intriguing not to mention the opportunity to meet one of these supernatural creatures in the flesh.
Harry @ Temple Library Reviews: This is not as easy a question as I thought it would initially be. The hardest part in it was that I had to name a novel and to be frank my undying love was pledged to the X-Men right around my 12th birthday. There’s something unexplainably charismatic about having super powers given to you by your own genes rather than lurking inside a medieval fantasy world. This caused a certain block in my memory as the obvious answer to this question X-Men popped every time, but I think I made a compromise with my mind.
I’d love to live in the Wild Cards world. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading anything in this world due to my geographic disposition, but I have read enough to know that as far as super hero mythos goes, I can’t get better than this series and world. There have been plenty of authors working on these books from George R.R. Martin to Zelazny. What predominantly excites me about the world is the chance to receive fantastical powers. This desire got inspired by mixed reading sessions of Western comics as well as Japanese manga, where as we all no supernatural powers have no breaks and defy physics.
In the Wild Cards we have the beautiful super hero type called Aces, who all possess a unique and active ability in a different range of usefulness. There are the Jokers, who are more or less the unfortunate and mutilated by the alien virus human population and last but not least there is a third community called the Deuces, who have a special power, but utterly ridiculous like smoke out bubbles for instance. The world itself is more or less post apocalyptic as in after an alien virus wipes out 90% of the human race, which means more grittiness and an accent on violence, sex and foul play. To be honest I am pretty tame, but the idea of being a super powered bad boy is exotic and inviting. Plus card lingo is so awesome.
Daya @ The Road Not Taken: This is a tough question. Every fantasy series that I loved reading isn’t also necessarily one that I would live in. The worlds that exist in these books have the ability to make a prince a pauper, to witness the senseless murder of an entire village, to be bullied and domineered by those more powerful. In fact, they are downright scary. But, they are also magical places, where a pauper can become a prince, where a village can be saved in the nick of time, and where revenge can be savored, even when served cold.
But down to an actual answer: I’m in a nostalgic mood, so I’m going to go with Valdemar, by Mercedes Lackey. Approximately 30 books take place in this particular universe, my favorite being The Last Herald Mage Trilogy (Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, Magic’s Price). There is something about this series that always kept me coming back. Of course, I read Ms. Lackey for the first time in my early teens, and there were TALKING HORSES!!! Well, the allure has worn off a bit since then, but I admire Ms. Lackey’s worldbuilding. First, the world is a classic fantasy: medieval in nature, with taverns (complete with meat pies) and clothing to rival any Renaissance Fair.
Also, being “Chosen” by therapeutic Companions (pure white, blue eyed horses) who allow mages to delve more deeply into their spiritual selves and find abilities and inner strength that they could not on their own is transcendent. Further, the idea of mages who devote their abilities to help others is beautiful in its simplicity. And honestly, what could be better than being able to telepathically communicate with another being?
Scott @ SF Safari: As a reader, I enjoy reading about the exploits of daring warriors battling terrible beasts and enemies with lots of excitement, danger, and derring-do. Thus, reading (and watching) the adventures of Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker, Ender Wiggins, the Consul [Hyperion] or the Roland the Gunslinger is fun and entertaining. In practice, however, I’d prefer the more mundane, safe life. Since I’m a Muggle, I already live in Potter’s world although the temptation to select the magical world of Potter (with his magic-at-no-cost lifestyle) is tempting. Ditto for Middle-Earth although I like technology too much to go agrarian. I prefer my world as it is to one that’s “moved on” so Roland’s universe is out. And I’m not too keen on knowing that there are alien bugs who can send invasion forces to Earth while our sole hope rests with the young. Thus, if I had to choose, I’d select the Star Wars universe. Sure, we’ve never seen the suburbs on Coruscant or the office parks on Naboo so they may be cesspools of scum to make even our most boring life here seem like a dream. But the sheer opportunity of being able to scour the galaxy and see all the wonders would be thrilling, even if you had to save up for three years just to visit DisneyWorld-Tatoonie over a long weekend.
See Part 1 HERE.