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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 25 books toward her goal of 175 books.

Where To, Anyone?

So, moving right along, today we’re going to talk about my favorite book worlds/settings.  If you haven’t been following along with the other children, click here and here to catch up – the very short-hand version is that I saw another blogger’s post about her favorite characters and that got me thinking about my own favorite fictional men and women.  In the course of doing that my mind wandered a bit (as my mind is wont to do) and I realized that authors don’t only spend time crafting personalities for their stories, but settings for them as well – and that those settings are usually as critical to the overall story as the personalities that populate them.

I’ve had a guest post or two on this very topic – check them out here and here – perhaps that’s where all this introspection about settings came from.  Or perhaps it originated in the course of my own writings.  I’m working on a number of things (well, “working” is sort of a misnomer at the moment, as I’m not really writing so much fiction lately what with all the packing and moving – have I mentioned we are moving?  Well, we are…) that involve the regular world, in which setting isn’t so very critical, but am also working on a bit of a dual-world story (complete with a talking frog, teehee) in which setting will be a huge component of at least part of the story (the part set in the alterna-world).  And believe me, it’s fun and also a surprising amount of work to develop your own world.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by this.  I created a world when I was a kid.  Of course, I had help then.  Lemme explain.  In yet another burst of short-hand, my two friends and I used to play a game in which we were scientists on a rocket ship (their garage) that crash-landed on a mysterious world (the yard outside the garage) that we named L.I.P. (Live in Peace).  [NB: Teehee, I was a peacenik kid!]  We would pick plants and rocks and pulverize them into “food” that we would analyze to determine if it was edible.  [NB again: we didn’t really try to eat it.]

Now L.I.P. wasn’t all that complex a creation; we didn’t have to develop a landscape or establish language or populate it – it had no creatures, and the land looked like the yard looked.  We did have to decide to follow the natural yard and to have us be the only sentient beings on it, so I guess we did make some decisions, but let’s face it – our purpose was just to establish a setting for our play time, not to explain our world to other people.  That’s the barest of bare minimums required of every author.  And that’s the part that is tough.

So today we’re going to recognize the effort that goes into world development.  Here are a few of my favorite worlds/settings, with a brief explanation as to why.  You’ll notice they are very escapist and (for the most part) utterly un- (or sur-)real; that’s both because of the kind of books I enjoy (sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural things) and because I already live in the real world (most of the time) and there’s not much to call “favorite” about someone else’s particular version of the everyday regular “real” world.  So here goes – and do please weigh in on your own favorites, I’m always looking for new places to visit in my reading!  😉

A Sample of My Favorite “Literary Faux-cations”*

  • The Archipelago of Dreams (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica (Book 1: Here, There Be Dragons) by James A. Owen) – How could this not be my favorite – it is, quite literally, the geography of the imagination…  The Archipelago includes islands from literature (Prydain, Camelot, the Greek Underworld) as well as truly original locations like the Keep of Time, the Nether Lands, and Paralon – and each is more fantastical (and more lovingly imagined) than the one before it.  Populated by unique beings, with their own landscapes and customs, the islands of the Archipelago offer something for everyone – including trouble and conflict aplenty, especially for the Caretakers of this imaginary geography (and if you aren’t familiar with this series, just wait until you see who they turn out to be!).
  • The Clearing (The Clearing by Heather Davis) – One side of the clearing is the contemporary world; the other is the world of 1944.  Henry is stuck on the 1944 side with his mother and grandfather; Amy is able to travel back and forth between contemporary time on Aunt Mae’s farm and Henry’s time.  The clearing is an intriguing place – a location that exists somewhere in the middle of (or perhaps outside of?) space-time – and the story that develops in and around it is equally magical.
  • Harry Dresden’s Chicago (The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher) – I’ve lived in Chicago.  It’s a rocking good time all on its own.  Add in one professional wizard, Bob the Skull, vampires, fairies, D&D playing werewolves, a White Council of supposedly good magicians and a “Black Council” of rogues, and a host of otherworldly beings from fairy tales and nightmares and you have an extra-large heaping plate of big fat fun.  I managed to survive three years in my Chicago (they were law school years – feel free to talk amongst yourselves on how to weight them; personally, I am inclined toward dog-type year calculations).  I’m not sure how long I’d make it in Harry’s.  I’d enjoy the hell out of finding out though – as long as Harry was on my side…
  • The Nightside (Nightside series (Book 1: Something from the Nightside) by Simon R. Green) – Let’s be clear on one thing right up front: I do NOT want to visit the Nightside in any form other than vicariously through Green’s novels.  This is a scary-ass place, full of true nightmares and an utter lack of the type of rules of civility that I require in any destination of choice.  It is also, however, absolutely fascinating and a guarantor of the kind of thrill-a-minute stories that I love to read.  It’s chock-a-block full of baddies and anti-heroes and more violence than even Quentin Tarantino could shake a stick at.  Note to self: if I ever meet QT, give him a copy of the books, he would make devilishly good movies out of them…
  • Jamie and Claire’s Scotland (Outlander series (Book 1: Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon) – I love historical fiction and time travel – and not necessarily in that order.  As I mentioned the other day, I also love James A.M.M. Fraser (or “Jamie” as we, his beloved friends, like to call him), and his Claire is a delight as well (she probably should have made it to my favorite chicks list; please pardon the oversight Ms. Claire).  Their Scotland – the Scotland of the 1740s – is again probably not a place I’d do very well in physically, but mentally I thrive there.  It’s a dangerous, rough-and-tumble world full of Men and Ladies, of dastardly villains and devious lords and more plaid (sorry, tartan) than an entire country club full of golfers.  It’s thrilling and terrifying and entirely populated by “real” people and events – which makes the scares and joys all the more intense for the imagining.  Plus the characters are fabulous, the writing style is utterly engaging, and the storylines (at least in the first few books) take you through a period of history that hasn’t already been written to death.  All recipes for success in my book…

So – there are a few of mine.  Your turn…



* (Lit-er-ār-ē _ Fo-kā-shuns) n. a Jillism for the destination “vacation” one heads to when escaping into a particularly good book


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