So in an attempt to impress a chick, I’m reading Ursula Le Guin’s A wizard of Earthsea. Now, you’d think a died-in-the-wool geek like myself would have read Le Guin a long time ago. But reading this, I’m reminded why I never did. I don’t like made-up fantasy worlds. This is why I could never get into Lord of the Rings, either.
The problem is, fantasy writers invent this “place” that isn’t Earth, or even historical Earth, with its own place-names, but there are humans in it, cats, dogs, oak trees, and other Earth species, and people are kings, pirates, peasants and run around saying “Aye!” and the world this writer has “invented” is basically medieval England or Scotland or whatnot except without the actual place-names.
It seems to me that if you’re going to make up a fantasy world of your own, you’d make it a little more “alien,” or stop pretending it isn’t just Earth. Maybe it’s my heavily left-brained nature, but *eesh*, when I read stuff like this or Tolkein, I’m constantly thrown out of willing suspension of disbelief by the question, “Where *is* Middle Earth, anyway?” At least with made-up alien planets in sci-fi, you can walk outside, point up, and say, “OK, the planet in this novel is out there somewhere, now let’s get back to the story.”
I’ve invented make-believe towns and cities in my own stories, because it’s easier to use my imagination than to keep researching a real town to get the details right (I know more about L.A. now because of TD and AtS6 than I ever knew growing up near it). But the thing is, I say explicitly in my story, “this is a fictional small town in California, USA, Earth.” Now let’s get on with the story-telling.
I suppose this is why I prefer fantasy stories like BtVS, Harry Potter, or Dresden Files that take place on Earth. Not because I need to be so “grounded”–gawd knows those stories are pretty “out there” metaphorically–but just ’cause I can’t get past my hang up about “where *is* this?”
That, and I have a kink for stories about a secret supernatural world existing on what is ostensibly our mundane Earth. It makes the mundane world I see outside my window seem just a little bit more magical.