Okay, so technically there is no such thing. But stay with me a moment and let me explain.
So I totally missed the ball yesterday for Earth Day. I’m sorry, Earth. It’s nothing personal. It’s not like I was dumping garbage around my back yard and leaking batteries into the soil. No, I took a nice walk. I marveled in the beauty of Mother Earth, and got some good old fashioned Vitamin D from the sun. And during that walk I started to think about other Earths, alternate Earths.
You know what I mean—Earths from fiction or film that are just so slightly different from our own that they act like a mirror, distorted just enough to feel foreign while retaining that same sense of familiarity. Like Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, or the Marvel Universe (comic books make particular use of this concept in the “what-if” Earth scenario).
All throughout my life, I’ve wanted to dwell in alternate Earths. So, in lieu of writing a post about our Earth, I thought I’d share two of my favorite alternate Earths in hopes that you’ll share some of yours (from comics, books, movies, whatever.)
Jacqueline Carey’s Terre D’Ange: If you open up Carey’s books you’ll find that the map looks like our own world, but upon reading the first few pages it’s quite clear that history took a huge turn at some point. She creates cultures which mirror many of those we’re familiar with, including kingdoms in France, the British Isles, and as far away as the Middle East. She even bases the religion of Terre D’Ange (the French-based kingdom) loosely on Judeo-Christian mythology—but turning it from monotheistic to polytheistic in practice. The result is that Carey’s world becomes as much of an exploration for the reader as the characters. With each new journey, there’s a sense of deja-vu amidst the discovery, and a thrill to see what she’s done with the culture. A highly recommended series of books, especially if you like a little sauciness and sexiness with your world building.
Cherie Priest’s Seattle & United States – Steampunk literature, in my opinion, sometimes suffers from a little too much in the way of alternate history without good alternate world building. The result ends up feeling like name dropping, with authors working to include Tesla, Babbage, and Lovelace in everything they write without really exploring the what-ifs of the world itself. But in Boneshaker, Priest’s much lauded book, the world building is top notch and decidedly different. In fact, her Blight-infected Seattle—while rooted in historical detail (down to the street names and buildings)—is a truly new world. You can almost feel the city breathe and wheeze through the pages, and it becomes as much a character as anyone in the book. In Priest’s world, the Civil War has not ended, and we get hints throughout the book of its impact on the West Coast—but those little details are just so tantalizing. Not to mention it’s downright gritty, as opposed to much of the gaslight romance stuff out there. Part of her Clockwork Century books, Boneshaker will be followed up by Clementine and Dreadnought.
So how about you? What are your favorite alternate Earths? Any you wish you lived in? Any you have nightmares about?