Cozy spaces in SF

Here’s a post by Molly Templeton at tor.com: Finding the Cozy Spaces and Fantastical Architecture of SFF

Great idea for a post! Or at least, I immediately think it might be great. Where does Templeton take this idea? The first cozy space that leaps to mind is Bag End. Sure enough, this post starts here:

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

Yep. Where to next?

For me, it didn’t start with hobbit-holes. It started with The Wind in the Willows—specifically, the edition illustrated by Michael Hague, in which everything is rich and saturated and looks as welcoming and comfortable as a well-worn velvet sofa. I haven’t even seen a copy of this book in years and I can still see Mole and Badger and Rat and the rest; I am still shocked that I have not yet cross-stitched the words “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats” and hung them on the wall. …

Ah, I must admit that first, this is understandable, and second, I never actually liked The Wind in the Willows. Why not? Because as a kid, I preferred my animal characters to be much more realistic than that. I still feel some reluctance to dress little animals up and send them puttering about in boats. That’s just me, of course.

Fantasy is full of homes that a reader may or may not imagine as the author saw them. The house in The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, which I envisioned full of libraries and animals, a mountain house that was isolated but comforting, cozy and stern at once. 

Oh, yes! I’m not sure I thought of this house as cozy. What a lovely story. I mean the prose. The story itself has a dark edge to it, but I will say, it’s also lovely. It’s not as easy a story as some of McKillip’s but it’s beautiful. And the animals do not dress up in waistcoats and mess about in boats, either. They do talk, but they are animals, not English gentry. I linked to the special 50th anniversary illustrated edition, which is not out yet. Soon. February. Even though I prefer ebooks, this is so tempting. A lovely edition of a favorite book? Twist my arm.

Okay, of course you should click through and check out the full post, but also, I haven’t done a post on cozy fantasy based on the panel at World Fantasy Convention. Maybe I won’t get around to that, so let me mention the most memorable line. This was Sarah Beth Durst. Everyone was talking about how to define cozy fantasy, and Durst said — this is a paraphrase — “A cozy fantasy is a gift to the reader. You, as the author, are giving this warm and fuzzy book to the reader as your gift to them, to make them happy.”

And I thought, Okay, we’re done. This panel can stop now. No one is going to top that. [Spoiler: no one did.]

Not all of Durst’s books are cozy fantasy, BUT, given this perfect statement about what cozy fantasy is to the author and what it should be to the reader, I’m not surprised that I thought Journey Across the Hidden Islands was so warm and fuzzy. Others of hers that look like they fall into the same category, but which I haven’t read, include The Shelterlings and Spark — basically any of hers that look like MG.

Looks cozy to me!

While cozy spaces may be found in many kinds of fantasy, I’m hereby going to think of the subgenre of cozy fantasy this way forever: “A cozy fantasy is a gift to the reader. You, as the author, are giving this warm and fuzzy book to the reader as your gift to them, to make them happy.”

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3 thoughts on “Cozy spaces in SF”

  1. My uncle does have the “messing about in boats” quote cross-stitched on his wall. (And indeed it is true: he bought a tiny sailboat kit last fall, and now sails it on the tidal “creek” at his retirement community.
    Alas, I bounced off “Spark.” Durst’s fairy-tale-ish YA-adult novel “Ice” is much better, but I realize I need to reread it as I have forgotten nearly all the details.

  2. Another cozy space is the Abhorsen’s House from the Old Kingdom books. I immediately wanted to live there when I read Sabriel.

  3. C.J. Milbrandt’s Galleries of Stone has the most delightful mountain as a home; the entire mountain, inside and out. There are galleries of statues that come to life to protect or to tease, to light one’s way through the corridors and sometimes, to dance for the sheer joy of dancing. And the kitchen is a place I would definitely enjoy spending time in. The entire series is like a warm hug.
    Robin McKinley’s Beauty has a lovely bedroom in the Beast’s castle with helpful, invisible maids who make the space as comfortable as could be, but I think the library would probably be my first pick for cozy spaces.
    Nevery’s house in The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas always seemed incredibly cozy to me, and the way the protagonist, Conn, immediately installs himself in it confirms that.
    I second Abhorsen’s House. In the midst of a rather dark story, the House is a safe haven for all who can make it to the island on which it stands.

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