Sense of place

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Wed Sep 1 13:42:06 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)

Definitely!  I agree heartily.  Most fantasy writers take one of two options:

1) Take a place you know and set it there, possibly with one or two changes

2) Invent a place in a lot of detail, and put a map at the front of the book.
This map will have a lot of features that an elementary knowledge of geography
will tell you are so unusual as to be regarded as "never happen", which will bug
many readers really badly.

DWJ doesn'd usually do either of these - BTW, has anyone on this list _not_
rotated the map in Tough Guide through 180 degrees? - but creates a place in
detail, and _doesn't tell you_ the detail.  This place can then become very
realistic but never-quite-sure where it is.


Jamie's home city (homeward bounders) - a north Midlands city, but none quite

Wantchester.  (My family now has a tradition that this is Winchester.  But I
didn't manage to get to Wincon last month :-( :-( :-( )

The moor (Power of Three).  I claim it is definitely based on the Somerset
Levels (but see below), but transplanted a bit closer to London so it could be
the setting for a scaled up Chew Valley Lake project... (FWIW Chew Valley Lake
is a reservoir close to Bristol that was made in the 1950s, obliterating the
village of Denny in the process).  The Levels are covered with little mounds -
outliers of the Mendip hills - that always make me think of Power of Three.

Time City.  Well, actually Vivian got off the train in Glastonbury, if you read
the signs carefully.  But if any of you ever go to Glastonbury, you'll agree
that it isn't a Real Place :-)

Dalemark.  The geography of Dalemark is similar to England, but only on a very
macroscopic scale.  Uplands in the North, lowlands in the south.  The eastern
route North goes through the marshes (fens).  In the south there is the Flate
(Somerset Levels again).  I have always assumed Holand to be on the West coast,
BTW - anybody got a different picture?


Philip.  (Who was born in Bristolia and grew up on the Flate)

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