In a quest, home can be the start of an adventure – and also the end of one.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot

But along the way, meeting people, seeing how they live- it is all part of the wonder that is travel. But what is reading but travel? We travel to strange new lands, meeting people of other races – other species – and find something both alien and maybe something in common. For the world of a book is to travel inside the head of another, a world that is no less rich because it doesn’t have physical form. Reading a world makes it real. Who has not yearned for a world different from their own?

The genres of fantasy, scifi and historical fiction can have a field day with housing. There have been so many different ways of living in different environments and conditions throughout time that there is no lack of material to adapt. People, that adaptable, often pestilential species, have built a home in every type of climate, using materials at hand to protect them from the elements, the enemy and still manage to produce a building that people feel well, at home in.

Scifi is a fine opportunity to imagine different planets, or living in space, inter-generational spaceships, or a darker more degraded future of crime and climate change. Dark concrete city warrens, or a future of light and airy graceful towers. Bladerunner vs James Blish in his book ‘Welcome to Mars,’ with his ethereal emerald underground city of the long dead martians. Star Trek provides similar variations – colonists scavenging parts from their abandoned spaceship to build a colony, or using the local sand and rock to build adobe like villages. Star Wars and Dune building cultures in desert environments, rich with peoples adapted to the endless winds, sand and predators.

Historical fiction can mine the past and archaeological research for details. From mammoth bone houses, to igloos, caves and every variety of house. From the records, it is interesting what people thought made a place feel like home. Cave paintings of hunts and spirits on the walls. Buried ancestors under the floor in Catal Hyuk.  A house no bigger than a modern loungeroom housing a double-digit family. Communal toilets in Roman cities. Living with domestic animals under the main house for warmth in Winter in snow bound farms in the USA. A sheet of paperbark and a fireplace in Australian summers.

Fantasy is a genre that incorporates both the research of history and the imagination of scifi. Here we find mighty quests into dark forests and over snow covered mountains and into the depths of mines. But always there is somewhere a people called home. Tarzan’s parents, shipwrecked in the African jungle and beset by predators managed a treehouse filled with things that created a home – where an older Tarzan would find material enough to learn he was a M-A-N not an A-P-E.

Tolkien and Stephen Donaldson rank highly in creating worlds of elves or forest dwellers, all at one with their environment. The tree houses were not dead wood but living trees, as much a part of their lives and culture as any person. The very appearance of an elf – lithe and slender matches the grace of tree limbs and leaves. Contrast this to dwarves and other ground dwellers being short and stocky with heavy weapons.

So a house must provide shelter, and be built out of what is available. From the bones, wood, stone of nature, to more sophisticated bricks, mortar, adobe, metal, plastic. A relict of past times, or an attempt to grow a future? An ideal of living with nature, or a warning of future mistakes? But to become a home, a house needs people who feel safe, decorate it with care, accumulate pets, children, a history. From such a simple base, a reader can imagine a rich world of details, smell the woodsmoke, or marvel at a food synthesiser.

And so it is a whole new reality peeps shyly out of the front door, and takes the first step into becoming real.

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World Building: A place to call home
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One thought on “World Building: A place to call home

  • April 23, 2020 at 08:01

    This was a great description of what a fantasy world should be. Thanks, Cindy.


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