Over at the latest CreatureCourtCast I discuss some of the inspiration (and hard work, and occasional cartographical disasters) that went into building the city of Aufleur for my trilogy.
I also talk a little about my love of cities in fiction. I’m a sucker for a well-realised city, and not just because of that whole thing about not being a fan of forests. Historical cities are brilliant. Colleen McCullough made me fall in love with Ancient Rome, but it was Lindsey Davis and Falco that sealed the deal, long before I started in on classical academia and found some non-fictional reasons to love Rome.
But then there’s London with its many brilliant historical periods. Elizabethan London as seen in Shakespeare in Love! Restoration London in the Fidelis Morgan novels! Victorian London, the only good thing about a Charles Dickens novel (okay, I liked A Christmas Carol, shall we move on). Then to top it all off, the whole city gets ravaged by the Blitz! How’s that for drama? (I loved Connie Willis’ Blackout but the movie Hope and Glory is my first Blitz London Love, followed closely by Mary Wesley’s The Camomile Lawn).
I could go on like this for some time, and indeed I probably will. Because that’s just historical cities. Modern cities are just as awesome in fiction – I’m pretty much certain that’s what the crime genre is for. V.I. Warshawski (and her author, Sara Paretsky) introduced me to Chicago long before E.R. sold me on the place as one of great mystery and myth, and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser sold me on Boston. Right here in Australia, Kerry Greenwood does a brilliant job of conveying Melbourne’s past and present.
And then… aha, you were waiting for it, weren’t you? Science fictional and fantasy cities! Some based on those of our world, with some lushly added magic (Anita Blake’s vampire-ridden St Louis, the London underground of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere), extra cities tucked into the world we know (Metropolis, Gotham City) and then there are the cities of completely fictional worlds…
We all have our favourites, right? Whether from movies, TV, comics or good old fashioned books. I have to admit, of all the beautifully realised science fiction and fantasy cities that I love, I really can’t go past Ankh Morpork. I read the early Discworld novels long before I read Fritz Leiber or Robert Howard or any of the other classics that Pratchett was pastiching (that’s a verb, right?) and fell in love with Ankh Morpork as a real, breathing, rather smelly place full of braintwisting architecture and completely bonkers city planning. Later I came to love and appreciate the Lankhmar that was such an inspiration to the original descriptions of the main city of the Discworld, but there is no denying how far Ankh Morpork has come in its own right, even as Pratchett’s novels have themselves developed far beyond parodies of classic fantasy tropes to become themselves powerful works of fantasy that also happen to be beautifully-crafted comedies.
Ankh Morpork is and remains the only city I would ever buy a map of, even though I am pretty sure I would not want to visit.
So what’s your favourite city from fantasy or science fiction? Would you actually like to visit it, or would you rather admire it from a literary distance?
Filed under: Tansy Rayner Roberts |