Escaping Into Fantasy and Sci-Fi Settings: My Top 5 Picks

While some people enjoy contemporary settings in their fiction, I’ve always preferred escaping to someplace different. It’s part of why I love fantasy and science fiction so much. Having a video game or fantasy novel whisk me away to some fictional world for a spell is the most exciting sort of adventure. It helps me open my mind to something truly novel and forget the troubles of the real world, and I always appreciate the creativity that goes into dreaming up these settings.

Though I’ve been introduced to dozens of amazing places in fiction, there are a few locations that are especially magical to me. And to truly nerd out about this, I’ll admit that I love these places so much, I wish they were real… because then I could move in for good.

5. Deep Space Nine (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

Deep Space Nine
Deep Space Nine

Ever since Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century aired on the Disney channel when I was about 12, I’ve daydreamed about what life would be like on a space station. (Zenon is actually sort of amazing, by the way.) And of all the fine stations I’ve encountered in fiction, Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine is by far the finest.

Known as Terok Nor when it’s in Cardassian hands, Deep Space Nine is a station run by Starfleet during the DS9 series. A base for trade that sees many visitors, it’s also a cozy home with three areas: a docking ring on the outside, an inner residential ring, and a central area that’s home to the promenade, which is the main thoroughfare. In DS9, Bashir and Garak meet once a week at the Replimat to catch up and discuss books, and Sisko attends old baseball games reconstructed in the holosuites. These are the sorts of details that make the station so memorable. It would be pretty cool to visit Quark’s Bar for a game of Dabo, buy clothes at Garak’s tailor shop, enjoy the view of the wormhole outside, or grab a raktajino on my way to work. In fact, I may have to play Star Trek Online at long last, just to spend a little more time here.

4. Hogwarts (Harry Potter)

Hogwarts
Hogwarts

This is a no-brainer. Even with its three-headed dog and Chamber of Secrets, it would be a thrill to replay part of my childhood and attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Though it’s been years since I read the Harry Potter books, I still remember little details of life at Hogwarts — beyond the moving staircases, talking portraits, and fiendish ghosts, that is.

Sending letters home by owl and studying by the fireplace in Ravenclaw tower (or Slytherin tower, according to sorting hat quizzes I’ve taken) would be a pretty kickass way to live. I’d totally win over Snape with my expert potion-making and cheer on my house at Quidditch matches. Best of all, Hogwarts is a place that kicks you into shape pretty quickly, forcing you to face your fears in class and master spells that could one day save your life. It would be terrifying and empowering… and I’d love to see what my patronus turned out to be.

3. Oxenfurt (Blood of Elves, Witcher Saga)

Oxenfurt on the map
Oxenfurt on the map

Oxenfurt is the quintessential college town — only it’s set in the magical world of witchers, magicians, elves, dwarves, and monsters. I adored college and have always been fascinated by university towns like Cambridge and Oxford in England. Oxenfurt gives off similar vibes — at once academic and unruly — with students who party as hard as they study, street vendors selling all kinds of exotic merchandise in the narrow streets outside the university, and the Academy section with wide walkways and palaces leftover from the elves. It would be pretty magical (and nerdy) to stroll around this town before settling under a tree somewhere with a book. (And did I mention the university has a Department of Alchemy?! It makes my geeky little heart flutter.)

2. The Citadel (Mass Effect)

The Citadel
The Citadel

Some of my favorite Mass Effect memories are set on the Citadel — and as the main location that’s available in all three games, this place feels like home. The sprawling station is the seat of the Citadel Council and has a population exceeding 13 million. Kaidan mentions how peaceful the Presidium is — a plus in my books. As a city person, I wouldn’t mind living in a skyscraper apartment in the Wards, and I could spend a glorious day exploring the shops, restaurants, and embassies on the Presidium, meeting members of many different alien species from across the galaxy.

1. Markarth (Elder Scrolls: Skyrim)

markarth
Markarth

Skyrim  has many cities and towns I would love to visit, but Markarth tops the list. Carved by the now-extinct Dwemer in the mountains of the Reach, Markarth is a city of stone, winding staircases, and waterfalls. Buildings have golden doors and roofs, and wrong turns often lead to welcome views of the city or wilderness stretched out below. Vlindrel Hall is my favorite house in Skyrim, partly due to my love of Dwemer constructions and partly for the view from the entrance. I may be the only one, but this place even beats settings like Lord of the Rings’ Rivendell in beauty for me. Whether slaying giant spiders in the Nchuand-Zel Excavation Site or escaping from Cidhna Mine, I always love having my character spend time in Markarth.

Ashley

13 Comments Add yours

  1. David G. says:

    Very cool Top 5 list! The Citadel probably tops it for me. Mind if I add this as a contributing post on UMDR?

    1. Hi David, thanks! Yeah, you can post this on your site as well, that would be awesome. I hope the Citadel makes a return in the upcoming Mass Effect game — would be great to explore it some more!

      1. David G. says:

        Just posted it up. Thanks again! :)

  2. I love your picks, though I have to ironically point out that the Citadel was designed by the Reapers in order to appeal to people, to have them all settle in it so that they could kill everyone easier when they inevitably showed up. Soooo.. idyllic as it may seem, I feel like I’d be a little bit too disturbed to live there knowing THAT little tidbit of information! ;)

    1. Ahhh that’s such a good point! I hadn’t factored that into my decision at all. If I did live in the Mass Effect world, there would be no escaping that, I suppose… but since I wouldn’t know anything about it for a while, I’d enjoy it for as long as my ignorance lasted! Or maybe it would be a nice fictional vacation spot, if I could escape back to this world afterwards… =)

  3. Tyler Murphy says:

    Markarth surprised me. It is indeed beautiful, but it was completely under-utilized in the game and not quite as epic and huge as I would hope. Still, it’s such an amazing design.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks! That’s true, it is the type of setting that could be very grandiose, based on the architecture and mountainside location with those sweeping views, etc. While some places are quaint enough that a small size suits them, the scale of Markarth could have been amped up quite a bit. Although I have to admit that I spent many levels getting lost in that place as it is!

      1. Tyler Murphy says:

        Yeah. It’s nature alone meant it was a little confusing, which honestly helped making it cooler in my book.

  4. simpleek says:

    Great list! I definitely agree with Hogwarts and the Citadel. Those are worlds I wouldn’t mind living in or maybe spending one day in. I think I got a little emotional seeing both Hogwarts and the Citadel destroyed by the end of those stories.

    1. So true! I love it when a setting becomes a character all its own. It makes it all the more heartbreaking to see the place destroyed… even if it seems inevitable, in retrospect.

  5. Sam Leung says:

    Awesome post! I totally agree with most of these, although I’d have to say anywhere in the ME universe would be fine with me. Even Omega or even the batarian homeworld of Khar’shan or something. Haha, I don’t even care if it was going to be incredibly dangerous! It’s just such an amazing, rich universe, I’d love to be a part of that in some way. The super cool gadgets don’t hurt either. Admittedly I probably would care if it was extremely dangerous… I’d probably care quite a lot :P.
    I’d also add anywhere in the Star Wars universe for me as well, for the same reasons.

    1. I agree, anywhere in the ME universe would be amazing! That would be the fictional world I would want to live in, if I had to choose just one. But yeah, maybe without the danger… a little before that whole Reaper thing would be great.

      I thought about Star Wars too! I suppose for me it would have to be anywhere in the Star Trek universe. =)

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