Scary, mortality-crisis inducing confession: I turned 30 last week!
I’ve frankly no time for the aforementioned crisis (the world is hard enough without dwelling on the ageing process; it’s just a number; I’m so old; where does the spiral begin; where does it end?), and it’s been a difficult enough year without being morbid about something (else) I have no control over. So instead, if I have to get older, I might as well do it with as much fanfare as possible–like three Fangirl Fridays on characters, fictional worlds, and books that made me the reader/writer/person I am today!
[Read Part One, my 10 most beloved fictional characters, here!]
10 Fictional Worlds That Have Had a Meaningful Impact on Me
1. Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree
A tree with an infinite multitude of lands at its top? The Land of Topsy Turvy, The Land of Birthdays, The Land of Goodies, or risking it with The Land of Dame Slap… The Faraway Tree was so much fun to read, but what really strikes me some twenty-odd years on is how much it made me want to write. Writing is like reading about those lands–never knowing where you’re going to end up, finding yourself in places that make you full of light or make you sob uncontrollably, and that constant thrill of curiosity and excitement… I see it through very clear eyes, now, the influence this series had on the person–writer–I’d become.
2. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Aside from the whole I-wish-I-was-a-witch thing, the sheer detail of Harry’s world is what had such an impact on me. Not just for Hogwarts, or Accio, or Apparition, but the little things, like nose-biting teacups, and singing suits of armour, and moving photographs–there’s a reason we all want to live there, and it’s in those brilliant details. They bring me comfort and joy every single time, and have me falling in love with the world, and reading, all over again.
3. Ally Carter’s Gallagher Academy
I don’t know if it’s the genre gender subversions, the idea of a school full of sisterhood, or how much sheer fun it is, but every time I read about the Gallagher Academy, I understand all over again why I want to write female-centric YA. Say what you like about YA being an easy road, or ‘just’ for girls–you’re missing the point of an entire genre where everything can happen and it’ll be more beloved than any ‘serious’ literary fiction. I know where my heart is.
4. Jeri Smith-Ready’s WVMP Station
This world, man! It’s some of the best vampire lore I’ve ever read: challenging the religious iconography behind the myths, zoning in on vampiric idiosyncrasies rather than making them gorgeous action stars, and providing an entirely new take on the genre by tying it to music. It’s a blast to read, and it inspires the writer in me every time.
5. Charlaine Harris’s Bon Temps
Another vampire book–brace yourself; we’re barely halfway through them–and one that delivers a brilliant take on how the real world would react to the reveal of the supernatural. There would for sure be discrimination and violence, on both sides; there would be other supernatural factions battling to maintain their secrecy; there would be bars like Fangtasia and brooding idiots like Beeeeyyyll Compton to fill them. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and after two writing degrees taught by people who took every piece of literature too seriously, it was so freeing to reread all those Sookie Stackhouse books and revel in the fun of them. These books remind me that reading–and writing–can just be for joy.
6. Holly Black’s Coldtown
Another vampire book! (I did warn you.) I guess I really like vampires? Whatever, this is another unique take on an exhausted myth–this time with that signature Holly Black brooding decadence. Tana’s a mess and Gavriel’s mad, Midnight is deluded and Aiden’s an anchor in all the worst ways, but something about this world is like drinking liquid chocolate. It draws out the dramatic, nocturnal soul in me–and if reading about a world subconsciously has you acting and dressing like its inhabitants, that’s proof of a big old impact right there. (Velvet dresses and drinking in shitholes from fancy glasses, anyone? Not every impact needs to be ~soulful~!)
7. Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter universe
Heaven knows Cassie’s bibliography is living proof that if you build a fictional world interesting enough, they will keep coming–and if that’s not writerly inspiration, I don’t know what is. But I love that it’s so enveloping and inviting for fans: I love the magic of being able to walk around real landmarks like Blackfriars Bridge and imagining fictional characters there, I love dreaming up where Institutes would be hidden in cities, and I love that fans draw runes on themselves to give themselves a portable comfort of a world they love. (From experience: can recommend.)
8. The short story universes in My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins
I don’t think I appreciated it the first time I read the anthology, but after doing a module on short stories for my degree, I realised just how hard it is to create an entire universe in such a tiny pocket. If you can make such a vivid world that a reader is captivated in about a tenth of the normal page count, how does that not deserve admiration?
9. Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse
Yes, the whole Grishaverse. The waffles of Ketterdam and the religion of commerce, the horses and palaces of Ravka, the ash trees and the unforgiving ice of Fjerda; and then the magic system, and the currencies, and the different styles of dress… The Grishaverse gave me the same excitement as an adult reader that I’d had when first reading Harry Potter as a kid–a lovely reminder that age is just a number, not an expiration date on imagination and enjoyment!
10. Holly Black’s Faerieland, but specifically Elfhame of The Folk of the Air series
I think I fell in love with this world because it’s the total opposite of what you’d expect of a fairy tale. I love the desolate palaces, the idea of sending secret messages in acorns, that eating the wrong berry could have you dancing until you died… Every detail feels like taking a double-glance in a fun fair mirror, or stepping right through it. It harks right back to that feel of being turned upside down in Enid Blyton’s Land of Topsy Turvy at the top of the Faraway Tree–I guess some things never change!
What fictional worlds had the biggest impact on you? Tune in next Fangirl Friday for the grand series finale: ten books that made me who I am!