Top Three Fictional Worlds I’d Live In

Today is a bad brain day, courtesy of my old friend Seasonally Activated Depression. It would be easy to give in to it, and who knows? The day is young and I might yet. But for now I’m going to push back the SAD with a bit of silly speculation.

When I read fantasy and sci-fi literature as a boy I would often get drawn into the worlds of the stories. I spent many an hour daydreaming of a life in those worlds. I have fished in the Shire, attended concerts at the Harper Hall and drank the night away with my fellow cut-throats at The Vulgar Unicorn (granted, I only had a vague idea of what alcohol tasted like at the time. I assumed wine tasted something like Tahiti Treat. Talk about disappointment.)

I’ve never really stopped thinking about these sorts of things, of course. I’ve always had the “what if” program running quietly in the back of my mind, checking in every once in a while to see how it was running. So when a recent conversation with a pal on Twitter got me thinking about fantasy worlds I have known and loved, it seemed the perfect time to look at the front-runners for my fantasy home. I present to you my top three fantasy worlds I would live in if the TARDIS* ever offered me a lift:

#3 – Thieves’ World:  If you are familiar with the shared world of Sanctuary, created by Lynn Abbey et al in 1978, this may seem an odd choice of locales for setting up a fantasy home (if you aren’t familiar, follow the link).  But Thieves’ World makes the list in large part because of the people.  Don’t get me wrong, I would be excited to live in the city of Sanctuary at the arse-end of the Rankan Empire.  The setting has a gritty, down-trodden feel which, to me, signals the opportunity for success.  After all, if everyone is at rock bottom, there is no where to go but up, right?  And that’s what makes me love the characters.  Jubal of the Hawkmasks, Hanse “Shadowspawn”, Cappen Verra the minstrel, Tempus, Prince-Governor Kadikithis, Hakiem…oh, Hakiem!  I would spend days plying the irascible old story-teller with wine and listening to his tales!  But Sanctuary is filled with so many interesting characters, I honestly don’t see how I would ever be bored.  Given the cut-throat and criminal nature of many of them, my life might not be terribly long.  But boring?  Not possible.

#2 – PernMy love of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern is not a secret. So is it any surprise that Pern makes my top three fantasy homes? The harder choice is when would I want to live on Pern? Do I want to arrive with the original colonists, live sometime during the “interregnum”, or live in a Hold or Weyr during the Pernian “renaissance”? Yeah, trick question. I want to ride a dragon! As a kid it never occurred to me that I would not be a dragonrider. With the wisdom of age I have softened from that stance, I would also happily settle for bonding with a fire lizard or three (I’m not greedy). But beyond considerations of dragons, there is something very appealing about the society of late-period Pern. It has a simple, pastoral quality in which I could immerse myself. Would I like to work out of a weyr or Harper Hall? Sure. But anywhere in Pern would be an adventure I’d be happy to live. And imagine if I was the one to bring TTRPGs to Pern? I could start up a whole new crafting guild! Trading d20 marks for bubbly pies and mead…retirement never looked so good.

#1 – The Shire:  This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one who knows me. While I find the stories rife with problems, the setting of Middle Earth has always appealed to me.  Now that the Ring has been dealt with and things have settled down, The Shire would make a fine forever home. I’d get myself a nice little hobbit-hole on the border near Bree and spend time in The Prancing Pony (are you sensing a drinking theme?). When I needed a bit of adventure I’d go camping on Weathertop or journey to The Last Homely House (yes, I know the elves would be gone, but it would still be a wonderful place to visit). For a change of pace I’d visit Gondor and poke around on the other side of the river, maybe go spider hunting with friends. And similar to Pern, introducing TTRPGs to The Shire would set me up for life. All the hobbits who crave a bit of adventure, but aren’t ready to explore the big, bad world, would eat up something like Tunnels & Trolls. But even better? Board Games. Hobbits would take to board games like a third breakfast. Yes, retiring to The Shire and becoming the weird, old board game maker at the edge of town is my number one fantasy retirement plan.

Sometime down the line I’ll post the top three RPG settings in which I’d like to live.  Bonus points if you can guess which ones they are ahead of time.

So what are your top fantasy worlds?  Drop me a line in the comments…

*One could argue that if I had access to a TARDIS, any of my three choices would just be settling. It could also be argued that Pern shouldn’t be on a list of fantasy worlds. I say, if you’re that keen to argue go hit up 8chan, we’re just having a bit of fun here.

On Dragonwing

If you follow the SF world at all, you know author Anne McCaffrey passed away yesterday at the age of 85.  And the world has a little less wonder in it for her passing.

Like most, my introduction to her work was through the Pern novels.  I discovered The White Dragon while perusing the shelves at my school’s library.  Having just moved to a new city, and feeling a bit strange in my new school I felt a connection with the characters of Ruth and Jaxom as they tried to find a place for themselves.  Once I finished I quickly checked to see if she had written anything else, and behold!  There were five other books already set in this new world of Pern.

Thus began my love affair with telepathic dragons, brave dragonriders and talented harpers.  For years I eagerly devoured every new Pern book that came out.  Eventually this led me into Anne McCaffrey’s other worlds; The Ship Who Sang, Acorna, the Catteni Sequence, The Crystal Universe.  But through it all I always came back to Pern, with its soaring dragons flaming thread from the sky.

Pern and Anne McCaffrey were the first to introduce me to the idea of expressing my fandom, with a book entitled A Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern.  Up to that point I was content to read SF, and that was about it.  But Dragonlover’s, a sort of atlas/encyclopedia of Pern, included things like recipes for dishes from Pern.  I could actually make bubbly pies and drink klah!  It seems a small thing now, what with all the interactive content, geeky t-shirts, fan videos and so on that can be found related to every SF subject imaginable.  But back then it blew my mind; I could actually bring some of what I loved from these books into my own life and share them with other Pern fans.  If I had to trace it back, that point was where I made the switch from someone who enjoyed SF, to an SF fanboy.

Her work also broadened my interpretations of what is sci-fi and what is fantasy.  Naturally, at the time I started reading The White Dragon and Dragonriders, I thought of them as fantasy.  After all, there were dragons, right?  And any D&D player worth his salt will tell you that dragons=fantasy.  But as I read more and varied works, every time I revisited Pern I had to let that narrow interpretation go a bit more.  With ever-changing eyes I started to see the science that was always there, obscured by my youthful ignorance.  It is certainly possible I would have come to these broader ideas on my own at some point, but Anne McCaffrey was responsible for the relative ease with which the ideas came.

I could delve into all the little nuances of how her work affected me or helped me.  But at the end of the day all that matters is this:  Anne McCaffrey told great stories.  They were stories of love and honour, stories of bravery and strength.  They were and still are just the stories we need to remind us of those qualities inside ourselves.  That she has written so many that I can return to gives me hope; that she will write no more saddens me beyond reckoning.

I’ll leave you with this, Song for Petiron, from one of my favourite Pern books, Dragonsinger:

The tears I feel today
I’ll wait to shed tomorrow.
Though I’ll not sleep this night
Nor find surcease from sorrow.
My eyes must keep their sight;
I dare not be tear-blinded.
I must be free to talk
Not choked with grief, clear-minded.
My mouth cannot betray
The anguish that I know.
Yes, I’ll keep my tears till later:
But my grief will never go.