From James Davis Nicholl at tor.com: Five Fantasy Worlds That Aren’t Just Magical Versions of Earth
While science fiction worlds are (somewhat) constrained by the laws of physics the same is not necessarily true of fantasy worlds. Despite this, many fantasy worlds are slight variations on Earth as we know it. Sometimes the continents are different, but generally speaking, the working model is “standard Earth plus magic.” Only generally speaking, however—there are exceptions. Here are five.
Well, that certainly caught my eye. Obviously the world of Tuyo is an outstanding candidate for a list of this sort, not that Nicholl will have read it, probably. So what did he pick out?
Well, scanning through this post, I’m very pleased to see Tuyo does appear in the comments! That’s nice to see. Kind of makes my day.
But back to the actual post. I’m assuming Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is here … yes, there it is. What are the other four?
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
The fairy lands of Ng’s novel Under the Pendulum Sun are as unlike Earth as the Fair Folk are unlike humans. Above the flat plain occupied by this world’s inhabitants, a bright sun oscillates on the end of a long string—the pendulum sun of the book’s title.
Glorantha by Greg Stafford
On a small scale, Glorantha looks Earth-like, featuring two large continents separated by a vast sea. Pull back for greater perspective, and this familiar arrangement is revealed as the top of a cube floating in a sea of chaos, surrounded by a great sphere beyond which sensible mortals do not explore.
Tales From the Flat Earth by Tanith Lee
Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth is a world where the haughty gods consign mortals—whom gods see as an embarrassing mistake—to the care of demons and other deliciously malevolent beings. It is also, as many of you may have guessed by this point, as flat as a tabletop. It is interesting that this flatness is a temporary condition (as is signaled by the phrase “for in those days the Earth was flat”). This Earth must be immune to the tendency of gravity to pull worlds into spheres.
Missile Gap by Charles Stross
Technically, this tale of Cold War rivalry complicated by alien intervention is science fiction. However, since it is set on an Alderson disc—a massive platter of solid material millions of kilometres across—and since no known material could prevent such a construct from being immediately reshaped by gravity into a more conventional arrangement, it feels sufficiently fantasy-adjacent to mention here. In this particular case, unknown entities have populated a flat projection of the Earth’s surface with Cold War-era humans. The necessary differences between a flat map and a sphere dramatically alter the balance of power between Americans and Soviets. If only West vs East were the most pressing concern confronting humans…
Wow. Several of those do sound wildly interesting and different. I’m not crazy about Stross in general, but I might try this one. Has anybody read it? What did you think? The Pendulum Sun one sounds really neat too.
I wrote a post a lot like this at Beta Shepherd: The best fantasy novels that sweep you into a very strange world
I also picked Discworld (obviously). Other than that, there’s no overlap. I picked:
I stand by my choices, but I’m really interested in trying some of Nicholl’s picks, that’s for sure.