Imaginary Lands

I usually set my most outlandish — magical, paranormal, fantasy & otherwise outrageous — stories in concrete and realistic settings. I like to play with the juxtaposition between the real and the fantastic. There’s nothing like a vampire stopping at a corner 24-hour deli to pick up the Sunday New York Times on his way home after a night of hunting type AB positive. The ordinary setting convinces the reader that extraordinary beings and happenings might just be going on all the time — just be low the radar.

I’ve yet to write one I’m willing to share, but I admire writers with fiction set in entirely made up lands. Whether it’s a fictional planet with sentient beings breathing methane gas or a fairyland through the looking glass where everything impossible in the real world is commonplace there, imaginary worlds must have coherence — a totality —that is a huge challenge for a writer.

The shortcuts that come from familiar references are off the table. There’s no Golden Gate Bridge, London Eye or Mt. Everest in the background. Bank ATMs don’t spew out $20 bills (for a processing fee). And there’s no speed limit on the highway. All the easy, scene-setting words have to be replaced and that’s a big job.

Some of my favorite imaginary world builders are in the science fiction genre. Ursula Le Guin and Isaac Asimov are just two of the many science fiction masters of imaginary places. Fantasy has the obvious favorite — J.R.R. Tolkien. His creation is completely realized and spread over the many pages of multiple books in a timeless saga.

What is your favorite imaginary world? Do you like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘Princess of Mars’? It’s dated but… there’s a definite, twisted charm to the imaginary world and its inhabitants. Maybe it’s the research I’ve done for the Candy’s Monsters series, but I enjoy the 19th and early 20th century’s imaginary worlds. H.G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ and Jules Verne’s ‘A Journey to the Center of the Earth’ and the rest — visiting those imaginary worlds is a trip forward to go back in time and see what creative writers thought the future might hold.


  1. Victorian and steampunk type settings are some of my favorites. I have all of the John carter books on my iBooks app.

    I do find when I am creating a world it is a bit more work than working in the world we already know. Depending on the world, it can take as much work to build the world as it does to tell the story.

    • Candy

      I was fascinated a while back simply monitoring the “world building” discussion held by a Linkedin fantasy writer’s group. Found myself a bit awed by the work that goes into it. Truly, it’s a feat when it’s done well!

  2. Ursula LeGuin, Frank Herbert, William Gibson, C.J. Cherryh, to name just four in the sci-fi arena. Then there’s Robin Hobb and Stephen Donaldson in fantasy. All world builders, all amazing storytellers, all role models. 🙂

    • Candy

      I knew that my favorite current “world builder” would reference the master of the craft. YOUR world was so complete. I especially loved the duplicity in the historical/mythological theatrical displays!

  3. Being a writer very much into creating a sense of place, I really envy writers who can build worlds and all that jazz. I’m much more apt to want to pinpoint the pulse of a real place rather than an imaginary one. That’s never really floated my boat. And…. here it comes…. I tried to read the Lord of the Rings years ago and couldn’t get into it (slap me now if you must). I am more drawn to paranormal or off-center characters who need to navigate a realistic world. Not sure why. I do read some fantasy and science fiction, but it never gets me in the way realistic stories can.

    • Candy

      I think we’re in the same boat — the one that writes in realistic/real world settings. I read, sometimes with great pleasure, those imaginary worlds, but I write in the one I know best.

  4. I’m not capable of creating a fictional world but I’ve always been appreciative of those who have that talent. Ursula LeGuin with her Dragons of Pern, Stephen Donaldson with his Thomas Halfhand and the wonderful Middle Earth of Tolkein. Now we even have the new writers like A.C.Flory who can create a world and an alien race with no reference to mankind at all. Geniuses they are who can take me to the place they write of so that I can observe.
    xxx Hugs Kandy, Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda xxx

  5. Hi, Candy …

    I have never been much of a fiction writer, although I often think it would be exciting to do so – but I’m not sure I have the discipline to stay focused for as long as it would take to ensure continuity.

    All of my articles are anchored in very much in reality, in more of a self-actualization or personal development theme … but I admire those who through their stories can create a strong visualization of something as abstract as an alien world and such.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting post.



    • Candy

      As I write both fiction and non-fiction, I’m glad to hear from a non-ficiton writer on this subject.