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.