A few days ago, there was an interesting post on The Travelling Geek Show that was a travel bucket list, but with the twist of choosing fictional places.
As I usually do when something gets my nerd sense tingling, I planned on commenting. Yet, the more time I spent thinking about my selection (still not sure this is final in all regards), the more I became aware that this made me think about fictional places in a very specific manner. And the longer that comment typing box stared me in the face, the more I came to the conclusion I should type this up here instead. For one, a ten items long list is already a lot for one comment, and with a few words on how I never thought about fictional places exactly that way before, it sure is too much for one comment.
Anyway, let’s get the list out of the way first. I took the same restrictions as in the original post: One location per fandom/universe/franchise. That introduces its own kind of headache, but at least it makes the task of a top 10 list achievable. (list alphabetical)
007: Q Branch Labs
I am a total sucker for the older 007 films, despite their shortcomings. The series didn’t take the end of the Cold War too well, in my opinion, so I usually ignore everything after Timothy Dalton. Anyway, if I could travel to a location particular to the Bond universe (that is, decidedly fictional ones), Stromberg’s Atlantis underwater base sounds really cool, but ultimately, Q Branch takes the cake here. I live for those passing shots with the most hilarious gadgets going off in the background. And Major Boothroyd is the best kind of grumpy genius boss.
I am the first to admit that I am not a city person, but where else to experience the most of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ martian culture than in the great city of Helium, where John Carter rules with Dejah Thoris? I’ll miss out on most of the non-Red-Martians cultures, but they don’t seem to be overly hospitable anyway.
Doctor Who: Wilf’s Stargazing Hill
The obvious answer for Doctor Who is the TARDIS, of course, but I don’t think it would be much of a good place for a visit: It is the best thing to use for visiting other places, but its arbitrarily huge internal expanse makes me feel it’s not the number one place to go for the experience. The TARDIS is the best home base imaginable, but I’d visit Wilfred and his telescope on his stargazing hill instead. Wilf is amazing.
Firefly: A Serenity Cruise
As much as I feel the TARDIS makes for a stellar (hah!) home base, but not for a particularly exciting location, Serenity is the exact opposite. I’d want to travel along for a while on that ship, if only from one fringe backwater planet to the other.
Gaimanworld: Hempstock Farm
Throughout many of Neil Gaiman’s fantastic writing, the Hempstocks turn up here and there. Most notably in Stardust and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, but also in The Graveyard Book. Hempstock Farm may be one of the places I’d love to go to most on this list.
Harry Potter: A General Hogwarts Tour
Again, if we were talking specific places to be, I’d probably mirror Maria’s choice and go for Ravenclaw Tower. (Or the library) But since we’re not discussing going to Hogwarts, but going for a visit, I’d like the general tour, please, instead of where I’d spend most of my time as a Hogwarts student.
Hell in Hellboy is a marvellous, surreal place. It’s dreamlike and dark, combining many old-school, chthonic visions of underworld in one. And all helped by Mignola’s magnificent artwork. Of all the places Hellboy’s gone, Hell sure is the most interesting. Just have to make sure I book my travel tickets from a reliable source.
Middle-Earth: 2nd Age Moria
Moria in its highest glory, neighboured by Noldor in the west and Lórien in the east, that’s just a complete no-brainer.
Miyazaki: Hotel Adriano
My favourite Miyazaki film is Porco Rosso. I love everything about it, but most of all the melancholy that is woven throughout it: It’s the last free summer for air pirates and bounty hunters in the Adriatic, before government takes a firmer hand in things, and everybody is aware of it. The whole film drags you through the pain of feeling time pass, making something beautiful go away and replacing it with something new. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Hotel Adriano in the midst of the Adriatic Ocean, where pirates as well as bounty hunters land their sea planes and listen to Madame Gina’s singing.
Star Wars: Hoth
Ah, Star Wars. Now that is one universe full of memorable places. Of all of them, Echo Base on Hoth holds a special significance to me. For one, I like the starkness of the place, how the place itself requires dedication just to traverse. And I like winter and snow a lot in general. Everybody’s wearing fancy snow camouflage, and the base really feels like a hideout, but also a bit like a bulwark.
I couldn’t not mention a few very dear fictional places, although I am not sure in how far they really qualify for this list.
Because obviously. But just as obviously, going there would be downright insane.
In Neal Asher’s Polity novels, there often is a merciless and hostile fauna on top of his usual, large scale hostility. But nowhere is his dark humour more apparent than on the sea planet Spatterjay, where the entire ecology revolves around being eaten and surviving. This starts with small water animals called boxies that evolved to be ‘harvestable’: you can take a boxy, slip the spindly animal out of the layer of meat it grew, and it will survive to regrow its muscle, while you get a meal. The undisputed kings of Spatterjay fauna are the leeches, though: the leeches make everyone they eat into a harvestable resource by injecting a substance that drastically accelerates healing. There are seafaring humans on Spatterjay that are covered in round, blue scars from leech bites, and are nearly immortal and indestructible. And a bit wacky in the head because of it. I’m not sure it would be a wise idea to travel there, but what a place!
Sandman: The Dreaming
In Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, Dream, the personification of all dreaming, lives in the realm of dreams, where all dreams happen. It has a library of all books never written. Again, what a place! But of course, since it’s a real place we visit every night, it doesn’t qualify for a list of fictional places.
Back to what I mentioned at the outset of this post: the unique way of thinking about location in fiction.
One thing I noticed was that there are a lot of video game places that qualify for this list, yet I am reluctant to put them on it. For some reason, I feel video game places are close enough to places i can visit to not warrant inclusion on a list of places I can never travel to. Film and book locations do.
The other thing is that thinking about loved places in fiction, at least my usual line of thinking is ‘where would I want to live in that universe?’ – thus my dream Hogwarts place is a small guest researcher’s office close to Ravenclaw Tower, where I can dawdle around and think about Magic Theory, and my dream Doctor Who place of course is the TARDIS, and my dream Middle-Earth place is a somewhat solitary dwarvish workshop up in the north, not too far from the Shire.
But this is not what this list is about. This list specifically asks ‘which place in this universe would you want to travel to’ which is an entirely different kind of question. Home is a place that is me to the utmost degree. A travel location is a place I find interesting, but is not home, or else It’d not be travel and I’d not be a tourist there. For some reason, that is an angle I never really considered, or at least, not nearly as in-depth as where and how I’d like to live in any given fictional universe. It made me approach many beloved bodies of fiction from a new perspective.