Worlds that stand out and stay with you!

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Noor Al-Shanti, Jun 24, 2017.

  1. Noor Al-Shanti

    Noor Al-Shanti Philosophizes with Kellhus

    I did some searching and then decided to just start a new thread anyway! Please feel free point me in the right direction if there's already a thread for this, but some discussions here and elsewhere have made me really want to discuss world-building and I thought I'd start a thread.

    What makes a world stand out to the reader? What makes you want to go back to it an re-read the books just to visit that world again? What makes a world so good you want to discuss it with others and look at the map and read more stories that take place in it?

    There are a lot of pretty decent fantasy worlds built for different novels, games, etc, but many of those will eventually be forgotten. Many of them are just there because they need to be for the plot to happen, which can make for a great read, but I'd argue that it's the stand-out worlds that make you want to re-read and revisit their novels! Those are the ones that make fans willing to write fan-fiction about them or obsessively discuss them over and over again and so on. So what makes them awesome? What, to you, are the key ingredients that make the world click for you and make you into a fan?

    I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction in general, but there are really only a few worlds that stand out enough for me to revisit over and over. Worlds that excite me despite the (sometimes many) flaws!

    Middle Earth
    I had to start with this one, obviously! There are parts of the LOTR that I found super boring and other parts that I found silly or unnecessary or even questionable (even racist - I'm referring to the wood people episode in Rohan which never made it to the movies). I also really disliked Tolkien's overuse of class hierarchies. For example: Elves are better than everyone else, but then there are the more noble elves and the more lowly wood-elves, etc, etc.

    Despite all these flaws I have read both the Hobbit and LOTR several times each and will continue to do so, and of course I've watched the books over and over. So what does Middle Earth have that makes me able to not just look past these flaws, but willingly reimmerse myself in that world over and over.

    I'd say it's the sheer scope of it. The insane amount of detail and background that exists. It makes the world feel real in a sense that's very immersive. With other fantasy stories, even ones that rely on many Tolkien tropes, you don't see that level of detail and background. I don't read the footnotes and hated the Silmarillion, but when you read the Hobbit and LOTR the experience feels like going to a real place because of all that background that exists.

    The Potterverse
    Again, HP has its flaws and I had huge issues with the ending in particular, but this is a world I will revisit again and again. Why? Rowling didn't invent entire languages for her world and her magic system, while it has some basic rules, has definitely had its share of "let's make up something new because we need it now" situations. So what makes this world stand out?

    I'd say that for me, for HP, it's the way Rowling uses humor and ridiculous situations to discuss human nature. There are scenes and turns of phrase in HP that are highly amusing and even hilarious, but not just because they're silly, because they're backed up by characters that feel real and they really say something about people. For example, Fred and George's antics are made even more interesting and awesome by the way they affect people, the way others react to them, etc.

    When I re-read these books I often find myself smiling or laughing at small little sentences here and there that I had previously overlooked or forgotten. So there's a depth to the world that's less like Tolkien's rigorous world-building and more to do with the humans that inhabit that world. If that makes any sense.

    This is one I had much bigger issues with(not even going to go there right now, because I might not be able to stop), but I often find myself going back to the good books of it. Why, when it has so many problems to overcome? I think in this case it's because of the historical depth. You read the books that take place in Lessa's time and they read like straight up generic fantasy, but then when you read the more science fiction books about Pern's colonization and go back to Lessa's time there's all kinds of awesome fun in looking at what was forgotten and what was passed down through the generations and how it got morphed and changed as time went by.

    One example is the flame'throwers they use to flame thread when they don't have dragons handy. It's called "agenothree" which my science geek brain finds awesome, because it's actually HNO3 or nitric acid, but through the generations, even though they forgot all their science and settled into a much less developed lifestyle, they still use it and their word for it developed accordingly. Stuff like that is cool.

    Also, with Pern, I love that McCaffrey does different points of view from different social classes or groups of people. I've read things about the dragon rider elite, but also about the runners that send messages and the lowly watchwher's and so on. I guess that kind of thing can only come with time, with dipping back into the same world over and over, not necessarily to write sequels, just to fill out the world more.

    However, I will say once again, that not all Pern stuff is good and even the good books have issues... >.> /disclaimer

    There are a few other examples of interesting worlds I like to revisit, but they're mostly TV based or sci-fi and this post is getting really huge so I will leave it at that for now. Just a last though is that I think, as with all these examples, there has to be something else there other than just the map and the names and places to make a world stand out. It has to be something compelling, other than the "what happens next?" of the plot to make me want to revisit. And it doesn't have to be something huge.

    Thoughts? Other examples?
  2. Khartun

    Khartun Journeyed there and back again

    Erna from CS Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy. Unique worldbuilding. Best explanation as to why technology hasn't progressed in a world with magic. I'm a big fan of this series.
  3. Sneaky Burrito

    Sneaky Burrito Crazy Cat Lady Staff Member

    I always liked the Land from the Thomas Covenant books. Mostly back at the beginning, and less so in subsequent books when everything went to shit and people forgot how it was supposed to be.
  4. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    The ambiguous utopia in The Culture series by I. Banks.
  5. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    I really like the world of a Song and Ice and Fire. It has such a nice diversity in cultures, peoples and races. And the history is just phenomenal. Each culture and even family has an amazing back-story and it all feels so genuine and alive. A lot of it is based on real-world history. I guess that contributes to making it feel so rich and full.
  6. Noor Al-Shanti

    Noor Al-Shanti Philosophizes with Kellhus

    Yes. The detail in the world-building of the Song of Ice and Fire world was a huge pull when I tried reading one of the books and tried watching the series, but I just couldn't get past the constant swearing in the book and the level of gore/unneccessary nudity in the series and I eventually had to give up on it.

    I haven't actually read any of the others you guys mentioned so I will have to get on that! *goes to search for book 1 of the Coldfire trilogy*
  7. kenubrion

    kenubrion Journeyed there and back again

    The desert surface of the planet Arrakis and the desert setting of the Songs of Shattered Sands series (Twelve Kings of Sharakhai). I've always liked settings with remorseless desert on the one hand, and remorseless arctic conditions. The extremes make for very interesting survival tales.
  8. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    Yeah, I agree. I liked the world of Dune too. I also really liked the parts of Malazan that are in these type of arid climates.
  9. TomTB

    TomTB The Master Tweeter Staff Member

    Desert settings actually turn me off in fantasy worlds. I can't put my finger on why, maybe it's due to lack of familiarisation, but I much prefer a medieval northern European kinda setting.
  10. MorteTorment

    MorteTorment Knows Who John Uskglass Is

    Really? Shame. me I like all sorts of fantasy settings. Modern day urban fantasy. Medievil fantasy, Middle Eastern fantasy like the world that I'm exploring in what I'm currently reading with Watergivers, and my personal favorite...

    Cyberpunk fantasy!

    The world that always sticks with me the most is the Shadowrun Universe. Specifically the ones set in WA State since it's where I'm from. Too bad that from what I've seen the writing in the books are fucking terrible. Thankfully there's the Shadowrun Returns Role playing game to fill the void, as well as the UNBELIEVABLY amazing Shadowrun Returns role playing video games. Seriously, if you can handle turn based combat, then PLAY...THIS...SHIT!

    Also, any book written like the PC only Role Playing games Fallout 1 and 2 will really draw me in like there's no tomorrow!
  11. Davis Ashura

    Davis Ashura Is a wondrous friend of modest Kruppe

    They're available on Kindle as ShadowRun Legends (I think they are since they share the same titles), but the early ShadowRun novels by Robert Charrette, the ones originally published in the early 1990s, which is when I read them, were so much fun. The details are vague, but I remember devouring all his books, loving the storyline and characters, and being very angry when some other story line with a different set of characters and author took over.

    If you like books written like a role playing game, there's an entire subgenre that seems to have exploded in the past 2 years about just that. LitRPG.
  12. MorteTorment

    MorteTorment Knows Who John Uskglass Is

    Back when I read some of em in the early 2000's, they were fun ofr me too, but my standard have been raised tremendously since this.

    Oh, and can you please tell me more about LitRPG?
  13. Davis Ashura

    Davis Ashura Is a wondrous friend of modest Kruppe

    I know what you mean. I mostly avoid going back and reading the books I loved when I was younger. Too often, the shine is gone.

    I haven't actually read any, so I can't really give you much info. However, I do know that it's a subgenre built and driven almost entirely by self-published authors. I don't know if that'll turn you off or not, but one of the one's that seems to be getting higher acclaim is Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe. It's available on Amazon and as an audiobook with Nick Podehl narrating.
  14. MorteTorment

    MorteTorment Knows Who John Uskglass Is

    The shine is sadly non existant. When I think of what I loved the most in my childhood, I think of the young adult horror series Fear Street. This stuff was the fucking shit when I was 13-16. then I checked some out a few months ago. There's like no fucking paragraphs in it.

    First of all, I demand to know why someone would actually care if something is self published. :p

    Seriously though, what?!!! And I'll look for the digital book of Andrew Rowe, so thanks.
  15. Cyphon

    Cyphon Journeyed there and back again

    My top has probably got to be the Potterverse and most specifically and obviously would be Hogwarts. Even going to what they have in Universal Studios in Florida is awesome. Outside of that there isn't one that really jumps out at me. For whatever reason I always liked Wheel of Times world. There is a certain draw about a setting in those simpler times while having an element of magic and what not. I guess you could say similar for a lot of fantasy like that though.
  16. Alucard

    Alucard In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge! Staff Member

    The world that stayed with me and that offen pops into my head unprovoked, like I find myself thinking about it for no reason is the world of Perdido Street Station. For some reason that grimey, dirty, world with all it's weird chimaera-like residents made a huge impact on me and still does very often.
  17. rudyjuly2

    rudyjuly2 Ran bridges next to Kaladin

    After reading nothing but Wheel of Time for the past year I found myself cursing the other day by saying "Light!" Heaven help me that nobody else heard.
  18. TomTB

    TomTB The Master Tweeter Staff Member

    I've pulled my imaginary braid many times!

    Actually, no. That sounds wrong ...
  19. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again


    Every time this conversation comes up I immediately think of Morrowind.

    And yes, it is unfair to compare game worlds to literature worlds, or at least so I think. In fact, really, all of my favourite fantasy settings come from games. I think its a lot easier to portray all the little details and "COOL!" about a world in game form than it is story form.

    But in any case, I think Morrowind is king for the depth of detail, the variety of culture, and the level of cool. Vivec - god and city - are both super cool. The Telvanni are just fun in a glass full of crazy. Caius Cosades is a nice guy. And on and on.

    Book wise... The Wheel of Time I guess, that's got a lot of depth and cool. I liked the Deverry cycle, it did a great job of exploring all its history and was similarly connectable with and alien. I do really like books where people aren't just living by today's moral codes but I can still maintain an empathy for them.

    Hrm. Kinda struggling to actually think of stand outs from here on.
  20. Tanniel

    Tanniel Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    I like the world of Earthsea a great deal for two reasons. One is how language and magic is intervowen and tied into the philosophy of the wizards, only using power when strictly necessary. Ogion the Silent is a great character for this reason, I think; a wizard who is silent is someone refusing to use his power, yet he is famous for "silencing" an earthquake, revealing the power hidden in his wisdom (kind of a Yoda character, I guess). The other reason is how the world building was always very subtle, and on a pretty small scale, but that only made it more effective than most others. "As long ago and as far away as Selidor" evokes so much, I feel, even without knowing anything else - this immediately feels genuine. Other such tokens sprinkled through the text, such as the tragedy of Erreth-Akbe, never explained in detail but simply mentioned where appropriate, also creates this effect for me.

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