Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week we’re musing about places in books we would like to live – in my case, strictly fictional.
If I read more books set in the real world, this week could easily be a bit of domestic wish fulfilment. That said, I have had the luck to live (at least briefly) in a number of cities around the world, so I have no qualms about sticking in my lane and daydreaming about places that don’t actually exist. The risk – particularly in fantasy – is having to navigate a lack of mod cons (personal hygiene is important, okay?), terrifying healthcare, regressive gender roles or a sudden apocalyptic event that affords some heroes a chance to prove themselves; so it’s vital to pick your timing and your priorities.
Let’s start with one I recently accused of being idealised, because you know what? Idealised fantasy realms make for good homes. We only really see Terre d’Ange from Phèdre’s privileged POV, but she’s awfully convincing in selling the luxuries and glamour of her open-minded country. Everyone here seems beautiful, happy and – hey, priorities – clean. There’s even magical birth control.
From one idealised fantasy world to another, Schwab’s Red London is all noble erm nobility and happy commonfolk with nary a slum in sight. It doesn’t explicitly have running water – other than the river – but it strikes me that it likely has plumbing as one of its many excellent crafts. Plus pretty much everyone gets at least low-level magic to help the day to day along. And really good coats.
However much I love the Deverry saga, there’s no doubting that life in Deverry is largely dirty, violent and short. Neighbouring Bardek offers luxuries, but is built on the back of slavery. Life amongst the nomadic Westfolk could work: I like horses and while I’m not big on tents, Kerr makes theirs convincingly comfy. ‘As clean as an Elf’ is an actual saying (well, Jill says it), although I think I’d have to brace myself for cold stream baths…
Speaking of Elves, they get the best options in Middle-Earth for my money (although statistics indicate that advertised immortality is just a marketing gimmick). Who wouldn’t want to live in Gondolin, Nargothrond, Rivendell, Lothlorien or Menegroth at the height of their power? Of course, you have to put up with the Elves, who can be insufferable. Stick with Galadriel and you should be okay.
Back to fantasy France – specifically, the south of France – with the lovely climate, great food and fine wine that implies. Arbonne is probably short on mod cons (those castles sound draughty), but it has an excellent live music scene and a fine line in festivals. One for the connoisseurs; be sure to avoid invasions by the toxic patriarchy next door.
Mod cons typically get thicker on the ground when you look at scifi rather than fantasy worlds – but there are plenty of drawbacks like dystopian governments, alien invasions and killer robots to navigate.
I know there’s lot of reasons not to admire Orthe, but I retain a great deal of affection for the telestres of the Hundred Thousand. This is an alien planet that feels like a fantasy realm: low-tech and stabby, but for all it’s basic it’s comfortable. It’s real drawback is its poor healthcare, but I love its many-layered democracy and its focus on community and environment.
The Galactic Milieu
Before the Galactic Commons, there was the Galactic Milieu: a single multi-species society spanning the stars, bound by telepathic Unity. If you get past the fear of losing your individuality (it’s clear you don’t), this offers all the mod cons you could need, plus jelly vat sexcapades and possible psychic powers. Sure, human dissidents may be chronologically exported to a Pleistocene penal colony, but only if they try really hard.
Speaking of the Galactic Commons, my heart is given to the Exodan fleet. If you’re happy to give up cutting edge technology and luxurious excess – and are comfortable with communal living and shared services – then these could be the spaceships for you. If I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure I am happy with any of that (living in other people’s pockets is a tricky sell to this introvert) – but I’d be happy to try.
Yes, I know – Teixcalaan is a colonial empire with a repressive military and absolutely not aspirational. What can I say, I have a weakness for symbolism and I’m really curious about the cloud hooks. If you’re not on the wrong end of an invasion, life looks pretty good. Plus you get the most intriguing naming conventions…
This feels like a cheat, because what’s not to like about an egalitarian post-scarcity society that is fierce in its determination that you should just get on and enjoy yourself doing whatever it is you enjoy doing, and puts precisely no barriers in your way to you doing just that? Sure, the hedonistic whirlwind may pall eventually, but if you need purpose and perspective, there’s always Contact… Easy winner. Send a GSV my way, I’m good to go.
What worlds would you like to live in?