Last weekend at Cleveland Concoction I was fortunate enough to be on panels with some interesting authors. My favorite panel was “Best Fantasy Worlds” — because I find the complexities of worldbuilding endlessly fascinating.
The fantasy worlds that we remember tend to be carefully crafted, with lots of attention paid to how its characters — not just the main character — live, work, and travel in them. Some of the treasured fantasy worlds mentioned in the panel were Middle Earth, Narnia, Hogwarts, Discworld, Camelot, Oz, and Earthsea.
I kept thinking about this after the panel, so here are a few other worlds that are special for me:
- Riverworld. Created by Philip José Farmer, the first book is To Your Scattered Bodies Go. It’s a fictional planet with a long river valley where every human being who ever lived is resurrected, young and healthy again. In the novels, historical figures interact as they travel and try to find out why they’ve been returned to life.
- Amber. From The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny. In the series there are two true worlds, Amber and the Courts of Chaos. Parallel worlds (including Earth), which are only shadows of the two true worlds, lie between them.
- The world of the Silence Leigh trilogy by Melissa Scott, beginning with Five-Twelfths of Heaven. It feels like science fiction but there’s clearly magic, as Silence, who is a pilot, discovers when she attempts to become the first female magus. There’s also a brilliant system of space travel, and an Empire that relegates women to second-class status that Silence must struggle against. This is a multilayered world, beautifully done. I am seeing online that parts of the original series may have been rewritten, so I’ll clarify that I’m referring to the original books.
- The world of the Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde. These are very funny fantasy novels based in an alternate England which is so closely interwoven with literature that characters can jump into and out of books. There’s a bureaucratic entity called “Jurisfiction” that makes sure the plots of all the novels continue operating properly even after multiple readings. This is a very well-done world, filled with literary allusions and a lot of humor.
If I went downstairs and began looking through my books I could come up with many more, but I’d better stop there. I’m pretty sure most of us have our own favorites. In fact, I think that’s half the pleasure of talking to other readers — sharing our favorite fictional worlds.