Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Top Ten Invented Worlds

I've always been a fan of invented worlds - Here's my top ten of those created by science-fiction and fantasy authors:

Middle-Earth, created by JRR Tolkein in the well-known trilogy which I don't need to name since anyone that doesn't know it won't be reading this! There's little I can add that hasn't already been said by many others.

Yrth, created by Gene Wolfe in the tetrology "The Book of the New Sun", a richly-detailed and evocatively-described decayed far-future version of Earth, so far in the future that our own history is just dimly-remembered myths and legends.

The Culture, created by Iain M Banks over the course of several novels. A vision of a really advanced civilisation, described as 8000 years ahead of own, a utopia where 'no-one can dominate others through control of limited resources', filled with 40-mile long spacecraft and artificial 'orbitals' giving almost unlimited amounts of living space.

Glorantha, created by Greg Stafford and others. I felt I had to include one gaming universe, this is that. Forget the formulaic cliched faux-medieval DnD worlds churned out by various d20 publishers and hack novelists, Glorantha, with it's deep mythological background and richly detailed cultures is simply the best gaming fantasy world ever. Originally published as the world to go with the RuneQuest system, it's now being republished with the new Hero Wars game, more suited for epic narratives.

Discworld, created by Terry Pratchett. He's written more than twenty books in the Discworld comic fantasy series now, which are far better than the twenty-plusth book in a series has any right to be. The Disc itself has evolved from a simple parody of fantasy cliches into a richly detailed world which is more and more a reflection of our own world seen through a fantasy lens.

Helliconia, created by Brian Aldiss. The planet Helliconia lies in a system with two suns, and orbits the larger sun in a thousand-year elliptical orbit, giving alternating ice ages and ages when the equator burns. Civilisations rise and fall with the long season, with the two rival races, humanity and the chilly alien phagors alternating in dominance. I find the fauna of the world particularly fascinating, with some creatures hibernating for hundreds of years.

Dune, created by Frank Herbert. Herbert's classic novel with it's variable-quality sequels not only gives us the complex ecology and culture of the planet Dune itself, but also sets it against a backdrop of a quasi-medieval galactic empire with feuding guilds and religious sects.

The Many Coloured Land, created by Julian May. Strongly influenced by Celtic mythology, May's Pleistocene Exiles saga is set a north-western Europe of six million years ago and tells of a world filled with struggles between aliens and time travellers from our own future, both exiles from their own civilisations.

Eden, created by Harry Harrison. What if the comet missed, and dinosaurs hadn't died out? Here we have a world where an intelligent lizard species evolved, using fascinating bio-technology derived from centuries of genetic engineering. They're seen from the viewpoint of their rivals, stone-age humanity.

Pavane, created by Keith Roberts. One of the classics of the alternate history genre, in which Elizabeth I of England was assassinated, the Spanish conquered England, the reformation failed, and the industrial revolution was stifled. We're shown an alternate England of 1968, with communication by a nationwide network of semaphore towers, travel mostly by road steam engine since the internal combustion engine is outlawed by the Church.



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