When Nathan Bransford asked his reader’s this week which fictional world they would like to live in, the responses were, I thought, a bit dull. The question, I suppose, was weighted towards realms of fantasy, rather than geographic or historical location and so maybe it’s no surprise that Hogwart’s and various bits of Middle Earth came out easy winners, although a few brave souls plumped for Jane Austen’s England, with the picky proviso that they should get to be in the upper classes. Personally I’m not so sure. I’m all for a bit of square dancing, but can you actually iron muslin?
Going back to fantasy, I’m surprised no one mentioned Philip Pullman’s world of Northern Lights, which I would choose over Tolkien’s world. There’s a sense in which Middle Earth is all mapped out, whereas Pullman constantly stretches his version of reality and our own imagination. And how fascinating to be in Oxford and then to discover it’s not quite the one that you know.
Some worlds are compelling, but not in the least tempting. I spent many years at Malory Towers but would probably not want to be there. The Chalet School, on the other hand, would be a possibility (if you have to be at boarding school, you might as well have a nice view) and I know some adults who live out that particular dream by keeping the Chalet School alive.
In my Malory Towers phase I was a fan of the Lone Pine series by Malcolm Saville and also joined the Lone Pine Club, I suppose a kind of author loyalty scheme that existed before TV tie-ins and brand management. The club is of course now alive and kicking on Facebook, which reminds me that still haven’t ever visited Romney marsh or the town of Rye, a ‘world’ which fascinated me then and now.
All fiction is of course about creating a world, fantastic or otherwise, and no matter how bleak we might have made it, one of the pleasures of writing is to enter and be part of it, the challenge being to build it so that others will want to enter too. Last night Sarah Duncan reminded us at her launch party that that as writers we are asking a reader not just to enter but to linger there for many hours.
So it had better be good.
(Addendum. Looks like Pullman has now mapped out his world after all.)