The Worlds of Fantasy


A reviewer questioned why I chose to put the Rogue Mage universe, the alterniverse of the Enclaves, in an ice-age instead of in a hot-house of global warming. To me it was so obvious that I thought it was a trick. I mean, why would I put a story about angels and demons in a place that is exactly like our world today? But then I realized that there were lots of answers to the reviewer’s question hovering around in my brain, so I thought I’d toss a few ideas out, things relating to the question of the ice-age in the Enclave world, and things about why a writer chooses the world he/she does.

First, I was trying to get as far away from the *reality* of our world as I could get. Cold and ice, glaciers, mountainous hellholes full of demons seemed to work. As the world grew on paper, so did my feelings abut the characters, the hardships they faced, etc. The setting became almost a character itself, evolving and affecting the storyline and adding conflict as much as the actions of a character did.

Second it was winter when I started this conceptual journey. We were not too far distant from a 22 inch snowfall, the deepest ever recorded in our area. Reality can drive a writer’s thoughts. Duh.

Third, there are great sites online about ice-ages. This one is pretty cool. (Pardon the pun.)

As to why a writer chooses the climate, cityscape, time period, urban, sea, or forest settings we do? Well, a lot of it is the simple thing I thought about when the reviewer asked the question in her critique. I think it has a lot to do with what we want out of the book we are writing, the logical part of the answer to the question. It’s hard to do a highly sexually charged book set in a cold place, but easy to do it on a hot seashore. Hard to write an epic about magic set in modern times. Impossible to set pirate book in a desert. (Sorry Misty. I couldn’t resist.)

But a lot of the reasons are deeper, more from the subconscious. I am now writing a book about a shape changer—a skinshifter or skinwalker—and set it in New Orleans, in a world similar to ours but with witches and vampires and other things that do magic and go bump in the night. And that city, of course, is where the concept of modern urban fantasy originated, at least in my opinion. Anne Rice and her Interview With a Vampire. OMG! I was a kid when it came out, I guess. And even then I *very* seldom would reread a book. But I guess I read that novel three or four times. It hit me on a level that brought my must to life as much as lightning did Frankenstein. It was part of what drove me to write.

I wasn’t thinking about that when I chose the city, not logically, anyway. But New Orleans has always called to me, the scents, tastes (food,) sounds, textures of that place. I love it. And when I set Jane Yellowrock in that city, in the French Quarter, the rest just seemed to fall into place.

 So. Maybe our other writers (David, Misty, Catie, and all you other guys and gals out there) will share how your alterniverse(s) affect you and your writing.Faith Hunter      


4 comments to The Worlds of Fantasy

  • For me it’s still a subconscious process of how the world is built and I mean the utterly and totally new one, where there is no resemblence of Eath. Good thing is that it all falls into place once it’s done.

    However with contemporary UF worlds I have to think of what goes where and how and whether it makes sense, so that I can layer my world on top of ours and make it coherent. Yup, that’s me!

    As for how they affect me, it’s mostly in the style. When writing UF I get all super spunky and can’t help it if I wise crack with references of movies and music. In a bit more standard fantasy I get all purple prose at times, because I let description roam a bit more since I am introducing the world. It’s very different.

  • “Impossible to set pirate book in a desert. (Sorry Misty. I couldn’t resist.)”

    Oh my, now you’ve got me thinking of a ship sailing through sand… don’t be surprised if it turns up in some future story!

    Seriously, you’re right – in my case, I had no real choice but to set Kestrel’s story near and on the ocean. Luckily the ocean is my favorite place in the world to be, so writing about it was a joy. The other novel I’m still working on is set at faire, which is my other favorite place to be. So placing my novel somewhere I like to be is almost like taking a vacation myself.

  • Hrm. 3 of the 4 series I’ve written/have published are contemporary. Two are urban fantasy, one is a spy series, and the other, non-contemporary one is set in a Reformation-era alternate Europe.

    I chose Seattle for the Walker Papers ’cause when I started writing that series, the urban fantasy published was Anita Blake (St. Louis) and Harry Dresden (Chicago). I figured Seattle was a nice long way away from either of those places, and also, as an Alaskan, I’m possessive of Seattle because it’s the only big city we think of as our own. 🙂

    I chose New York for the Negotiator Trilogy because it’s one of the oldest cities in the States, and because the architecture was particularly appealing to me for having a gargoyle lurk around in. Plus, it’s a darker city emotionally (to me, anyway) than Seattle, and the Negotiator books have a darker edge (quite literally, since 75% of them take place at night), so it seemed appropriate.


  • First, on the desert pirates: I recently saw the movie “Stardust” (haven’t read the book yet) and I loved the idea of the air pirates. Desert pirates sound totally cool to me.

    As for the rest, I don’t have any great insights to add. For me, the choice of a book or series setting is part of a much larger organic process. It’s not so much that I decide where to set a project, as that the project presents itself to me in a certain setting. My as-of-yet-unpublished urban fantasy is set in Phoenix. I just knew when I conceived of the project that it HAD to be there. It was a story that seemed to be tied to the desert Southwest. The alternate world fantasy I’ll be writing after the Southlands series is set in a world of islands. Partly this was because I’m sick of dealing with horses and wanted to play with ships instead. 🙂 But I’ve known from the start that I wanted my main character to be a former sailor living on an island.

    As I say, these aren’t conscious decisions. The story presents itself to me, and so do many of its core elements, including the setting.