It returns. The feature that I had an absolute blast writing before, which saw this little blog chosen as blog of the day by The Write Reads (huge thanks to them for the support). Yes, it’s back, so without further ado, here are five more fictional places I think we can all agree are pretty tough sells!
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Gethen (The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin)
There can be no doubt that The Left Hand of Darkness is a masterpiece. Le Guin’s novel was well ahead of its time with its attitude towards gender, and the prose itself is just wonderful. Gethen sounds beautiful from the way Le Guin writes about it, but there is absolutely no way I would want to visit there. Locked in the middle of an ice age, the planet was named “Winter” by those who performed initial reconnaissance on it, and it’s easy to see (and feel) why. The temperatures are so extreme that your breath freezes in the air. They drink their beer hot too, which is really not a selling point, and even then it comes with a tool to shatter the ice that forms on it between sips.
It sounds lovely, but wow that would be horrible to actually try and exist in. No thank you.
Venus (The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury)
Modern science tells us that, in reality, we wouldn’t survive for long on the surface of Venus. Surface temperatures in excess of 450 °C and an atmospheric pressure 90 times that of Earth mean you’d probably last just long enough to realise you’d made a terrible mistake coming there. But Ray Bradbury wasn’t to know that. Writing in 1952, his short story The Long Rain depicts a version of Venus that sounds thoroughly unpleasant, but ultimately habitable. Well, if you don’t mind rain. Lots and lots of rain. Turned around on the surface of the planet, a team of astronauts dodges cataclysmic lightning storms as the acid rain bleaches their clothes, their hair and even their skin, all while they desperately hunt for one of the planet’s fabled sun domes to finally dry off in. Not one of them thought to bring an umbrella either. Honestly.
Waknuk (The Chrysalids, John Wyndham)
At first, you might take the setting of this John Wyndham classic at face value – its rural location and children playing in the meadows seem positively idyllic. But there’s a lot more going on here than first impressions would have you believe. Wyndham hints at the nuclear conflict that has rendered large parts of the world completely uninhabitable, but it’s the attitudes of the villagers that really make Waknuk unbearable. With religious fervour on their side, they stringently weed out any hint of mutation or deviation from crops, livestock… and people.
It’s that air of chillingly argued intolerance that permeates the novel, making Waknuk a hotbed of persecution and scrutiny as it strives for genetic purity. Me, I kind of think variety is the spice of life (plus I doubt I’d pass muster myself), so I’ll pass thanks.
First Colony (The Passage, Justin Cronin)
There is a lot to like about First Colony. All citizens get an equal share of resources, racism is non-existent and sexual equality is present and correct. Lovely. But it’s more what’s around First Colony that makes it a less attractive place to settle down. Vampires. Lots of them. Really nasty ones, with eyes that glow a lambent green, roaming the country in their search for prey and chasing it down with their enhanced speed and strength. Following the disastrous “Project Noah,” humanity is struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by blood-hungry monsters. First Colony is clinging on, ninety years on from the initial outbreak, its high walls and lights keeping the monsters at bay. But the power is failing and the population is dwindling – the colony is living on borrowed time, and the constant threat of death creates unbearable levels of tension. An oasis? Perhaps – but a fragile one nonetheless.
Commorragh (The Warhammer 40,000 Universe)
I made a mistake in my first instalment of this feature. I listed an entire universe as one location, when I could in fact be storing planets and cities up for use for infinite features. What a fool I was. It’s time to start rectifying that mistake now, with one of the most infamous settings within the Warhammer 40,000 universe – Commorragh, also known as The Dark City. Located within the webway dimension, far from the careless wanderings of the other, lesser races (to those who live there, that would be, well, all races), Commorragh is a nexus of cruelty and excess. Inhabited by the Drukhari, what was once a port city has grown into something far worse over the millennia – just like the fallen and depraved inhabitants who call it home. Spanning dimensions and thumbing its nose at the laws of physics in the process, to call it a city is really to do it a disservice. It is a vast and sprawling hub made up of cruel and jagged spires that tower impossibly, a hub from which cruel piratical rulers launch slave raids into realspace, twisted scientists perform gruesome experiments on unwilling subjects and deathless ancients are revived by the suffering of mortals in the many fighting arenas. It is, essentially, the architectural embodiment of evil. It’s pretty gloomy too, so forget getting a tan while you’re there.
There we go then, five more locations I love reading about but wouldn’t go anywhere near in real life. Do you agree with my choices? Do you think you could hang with the evil murder elves of The Dark City? Fancy your chances braving the freezing conditions of Gethen? Let me know in the comments, and keep an eye out for the next instalment. Bye for now!
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