Sense of place

Nat Case hedberg at vermontel.net
Tue Aug 31 14:49:04 EDT 1999


One of the things I've noticed about DWJ is how she manages to avoid
specificity in her sense of place. Even when it sounds like she's using a
real setting, she usually finds a way to make it a place that doesn't really
exist. I don't think Jamie's home town in Homeward Bounders is actually a
real city, though there are elements of a number of Midlands cities in it.
Likewise Stow-on-Water in Fire and Hemlock. And most of her books have "real
world" settings in really anonymous places: Power of Three, 8 Days of Luke,
Wilkins' Tooth, and so forth, are never identifiably placed. The two
exceptions I can recall are Bristol and London (both in Fire and Hemlock and
Deep Secret, and London in a number of books)

This is quite different from most fantasy writers, who use real settings
they know of to ground the fantastic in their stories, and make it more
real. I've been to all three of Susan Cooper's settings in Dark is Rising,
and they all do have much of the atmosphere she gives them, even though they
are written mostly from her memories of barely-post-war Britain, 40-50 years
ago. 

In the US, Peni Griffith seems to always be using the inherent "place-magic"
of San Antonio. Likewise Diane Duane and Long Island/New York. There are a
number of other examples that come to mind: Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, Charles
de Lint, Ruth Stevermer's RIVER RATS, Megan Lindholm's WIZARD OF THE
PIGEONS. In some cases, the delicious sense of a familiar landscape magicked
up is a large part of the appeal ( I think here of Bull's WAR FOR THE OAKS
and Dean's TAM LIN.

I think perhaps a key to what Jones is about comes in Homeward Bounders,
where He (Prometheus) makes his home "real" by his mere presence. Not sure
how, but I think a similar process of an author living in the the setting
does make a big difference, even when (as in Jones' case) the setting is
almost never real.

Any comments?


Nat Case
Hedberg Maps, Inc.
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