As I’m sure you all have noticed, as a rule, fantasy novels are set on planets.
If you had time and money and perhaps some tough friends and possibly a boat, you could travel around the planet, which is, like any other planet, roughly spherical. If you did, you would encounter normal planetary stuff in roughly ordinary locations: it’s cold at the poles and (if the author is basing their planet on earth) deserts exist at roughly 30 degrees latitude. Tropical forests exist toward the equator. Presumably if you took off and headed for space, you would find space. Granted, sometimes the stars are not exactly stars; sometimes they’re personified, as in Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones, for example. Or the sky is obviously not just space with stars and stuff, as in Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy, where the sky changes dramatically depending on which polity rules a region at the moment.
Anyway, obviously Tuyo is not set on a planet. Plainly the world is flat. Or if it’s not flat, it certainly isn’t spherical. It might be Escheresque or something, I’m not sure. But definitely not a planet.
What are some other fantasy worlds that aren’t set on planets? I can come up with handful that aren’t, or that might not be. I can’t come up with enough to do a Top Ten list — I’m not sure I can come up with enough to do a Top Five, but I’m going to try.
1) Tuyo. World is flat, or something; climactic zones are jammed together according to — maybe — the whim of the gods. Certainly climates are not created by ordinary planetary phenomena.
2) Robin McKinley, Chalice. This world seems to exist as small regions — demesnes — embedded in a matrix of chaos, or something. Each demesne is bounded in some important way to protect the area from bad stuff. Demesnes are very self-contained. That weird thing with priests of fire and so on is obviously very different from anything we normally think of as priests, with no evident religious connotation, but a sort of progressive separation from normal humanity.
These are the only two that I know for sure are not at all planets. But here are a few that seem iffy in various ways:
3) Andrea K Host’s Pyramids of London. This world is incredibly baroque. Although I think the world is pretty much a planet, so I’m not sure this counts as well as the two above, it sure doesn’t seem like the sun is the sun.
4) Victoria Goddard, The Hands of the Emperor. Sort of a planet? But that thing with time? And the personified Moon, and, and, I’m not sure.
5) Patricia McKillip, Song for the Basilisk. It occurred to me, while thinking about this, that it’s not clear what’s going on in stories like this. We see so little of the world that we can’t tell whether it’s a planet. But we do know that one can travel to Faerie (basically) where all normal truths about distance and time dissolves.
That one reminds me of:
6) The City in the Lake. I actually think this is a very reasonable choice for this list, better than several of the above. The forest plays exactly the same role as the faerie country in Song for the Basilisk, and we also get this oddly layered world, where different aspects of reality are stacked up. AND the country where the story takes place seems to be set apart from other regions, such as wherever Lilienne is from — not in the same way as the different demesnes in Chalice, but in some way.
Can anybody think of other examples of fantasy worlds that are definitely or possibly not set on planets? With or without ordinary space and stars and so on surrounding the world.