Disneyland is for suckers. I have my own Magic Kingdom.
It’s in my head. I go there frequently and I try to write down everything I remember from it. I even keep a dream journal for this purpose. For instance in a dream last night, I ran into Abed from Community in my childhood home’s kitchen, and he was dressed in costume and makeup like Tim Curry in Legend. that’s one for the books. But I digress.
I like being in my own head. It informs what I want to write about (though I’d sooner not write Community Fan Fiction). I meet new people there and fish for ideas. But what I almost always come back with are my own little kingdoms. I have a thing for places and histories. I’ve created a couple different settings and worlds in the back of my mind, and I almost always treasure these – more so than the players that move through them.
It should be no surprise that I read stories that present settings almost as their own characters. The Maxx was my first love in this regard. The Outback presented by Sam Kieth inspired me to create an Outback of my own, for which this blog is named. There was also Perdido Street Station’s New Crobuzon, set against the larger backdrop of Bas-Lag. There were the sprawls of Gibson, much like our own but strewn with more random lethality, urban decay, and high-tech low-life. Tolkien of course gave me Middle Earth – even though I didn’t grow up with it. As of late I’ve been introduced to King City as well by Brandon Graham and have fallen in love with it’s off-the wall ethos and integration of puns into its very structure.
I like to dive into those little details in my mind when I read about these places. And when I write I try to do likewise. Ossua is peppered with various races and peoples, it has a mythos all its own, and mysteries and secrets. Jah’bran, city of commerce has a personality, both supplicant and taskmaster, and is filled with teeming thousands expressing the dirty yet opulent city’s avarice and ostentation. I even have my own take on the underworld mapped out from the work I’ve done, taking from Greek mythology and the spiraling dens of madness we know as the modern office place.
Places seem to matter to me just as much as characters. Interesting characters moving through the familiar doesn’t seem to engage me as well. In my mind, for a proper escapist experience to flourish, you need not just your heroes, but a new place, new peoples, to move through.
It’s a lot of work to put in, but it’s satisfying work to be sure.