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Old 12-01-2013, 10:55 AM
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F&SF worlds, the really awesomely creative ones


Not the ones that you want to live in, or where your favorite stories are set, but the really creative ones, where you say: "Whoa, that's awesome" about the world/universe rather than about the story.

Middle-Earth
The Ringworld
The "World of Tiers" universe
The Riverworld

What others?
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Old 12-01-2013, 11:55 AM
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I don't know about awesomely creative, but I've always thought the idea of the Underdark from D&D to be pretty interesting, especially the various fucked-up elven cities worshiping Lolth.

Lord of Light by Zelazny was awesomely imagined, and the conceit of Amber likewise.

I'm sure there are others - one recent one was a microcosm world by Greg Bear - Hull Zero Three - never ever want to visit, but really freaky and imaginative shipboard environment.
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Old 12-01-2013, 12:56 PM
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The world from the Malazan books, the way that magic, multiple realms and godhood/ascension works is incredibly original and creative.
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Old 12-01-2013, 03:19 PM
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Valgarth, the world where Mercedes Lackey sets all her Valdemar novels.
John Varley's Titan series, with living space habitats.
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Old 12-01-2013, 03:34 PM
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The Ringworld wasn't even Niven's most awesomely creative world. That honor would go to the Smoke Ring, from The Integral Trees and its sequel The Smoke Ring.
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Old 12-01-2013, 03:43 PM
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And Niven wrote about a number of awesome ideas in his essay, "Bigger than Worlds".
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Old 12-01-2013, 03:59 PM
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There's an arboreal society in one of Robin Hobb's books, but I don't recall which book. She made it sound quite pleasant.

Last edited by AuntiePam; 12-01-2013 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 12-01-2013, 05:19 PM
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Cordwainer Smith-The Instrumentality of Mankind
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Old 12-01-2013, 05:44 PM
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There's an arboreal society in one of Robin Hobb's books, but I don't recall which book. She made it sound quite pleasant.
That sounds like the Rain Wilds from her Liveship Traders and Dragonkeepers series. They lived in the trees because the ground was flooded or semi-flooded all year round. They also were changed by the environment...they grew wattles and scales and such, which is explained in later books.
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Old 12-02-2013, 06:23 AM
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The Briarpatch metaverse in Tim Pratt's Briarpatch.
What I said elsewhere a couple of years ago:
Quote:
The world is full of secret passageways and openings leading to the Briarpatch, from which other places and other worlds may be accessed - it's a weird place, slowly but continually changing, and guides who know some routes through it are few and far between. The main characters have some ability to see the adits to this phenomenon and to travel through it but they all have different aims in mind, including seeking what might be Heaven.
The characters are all likeable (even the mad and bad ones!) and there's a whimsical sense of adventure to the book.
My favourite read for quite some time and reminiscent of Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place at times... Also maybe James Blaylock.
Or the world of 'the Sundering' in the Western Lights books by Jeffrey Barlough; wonderfully strange Dickensian characters & settings, with prehistoric animals roaming about!
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Old 12-02-2013, 08:30 AM
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Are we talking about physical or social worlds?

For instance, Jasper fforde's Shades of Grey* has a fascinating SF world where society is rigidly structured based upon what colors you can see. It also a weird post-apocalyptic one that has strange rules like a ban on the manufacture of spoons and where Lincoln green (the color itself) is a narcotic.

fforde's Thursday Next novels also have some very strange world building.

*Not to be confused with anything else.
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Old 12-02-2013, 08:42 AM
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Lord of Light by Zelazny was awesomely imagined, and the conceit of Amber likewise.
Indeed.
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:05 AM
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There's always the Dyson Sphere, written about by many authors (such as bob Shaw, in Orbitsville and Orbitsville Departure) -- bigger than Ringworld, but requires artificial gravity. The problem is that it's so damned big, no one can really do it justice. Even after introducing it, most authors then blissfully ignore it.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld, of course


and the O'Neill L-5 Space Colonies (and other such colonies)
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:09 AM
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I am blanking on the title or author but I read a Fantasy book years ago that had worlds based on the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water and one thing I found interesting was rather than making the Fire world a cliched Volcano and Lava filled place, it was an unbearably hot steamy Jungle World. I thought that was a creative take on it.

The setting of Brave New World was also one of my favorites. A Dystopia that is insidious because plenty of people wouldn't even agree it was a Dystopia.

Piers Anthony is apparently an awful person and the book quality sank very quickly but I always enjoyed the setting of the first three Apprentice Adept books. The Game on Proton was very cool and the way Magic was presented in Phaze was interesting (Each Adept having a Color and Style of Magic).

The Star Trek Novels' take on the Breen is inspired. It is essentially a mini Federation that has taken Equality and Meritocracy to extremes. The member races are all forced to wear those helmeted uniforms even though only one of the races actually requires them so that everyone is the same and on equal footing.

Those are a few that came to mind.

Last edited by Quimby; 12-02-2013 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:13 AM
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Larry Niven's world of Integral Trees.

The world of Arrakis (and the whole stellar empire) in Dune by Frank Herbert and subsequent works.

To a lesser extant, Marian Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series.

and then there's Hogwarts...
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:18 AM
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I liked the deity set-up in the Weiss & Hickman Rose of the Prophet trilogy. Each taking their facet on the jewel and deciding how to assign their immortals and how those decisions affected their mortal followers, etc.
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:21 AM
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I dunno, Hogwarts is fun but I think if I had to live there I'd get pretty stabby in a hurry.

To a similar end, though, the World of Two Moons from Wendy Pini's Elfquest has a lot of good backstory that holds it together.

And Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker features a good twist on 'sort of our world but not quite'.
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:28 AM
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The setting of Brave New World was also one of my favorites. A Dystopia that is insidious because plenty of people wouldn't even agree it was a Dystopia.
There was a 1998 made-for-TV movie version of the book which I thought was pretty good, I even liked the changes they made to make it more cinematic.

As for awesomely creative I'm not sure if The Culture by Iain M Banks would merit that description in an overall sense (its actually fairly standard aliens and spaceships at its core) but as he openly admitted himself he was all about the 'gee-whiz, that's neat!' details and at that he excelled.

In the latest (and last) Culture novel he depicted a heavily fortified moon that had been gradually lowered until it was orbiting in a massive channel below the surface level of the planet.

I thought that was pretty neat.

Last edited by Atomic Alex; 12-02-2013 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:41 AM
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Both Charles Sheffield, in The Web Between the Worlds, and Hal Clement, in Raindrop describe an artificial earth satellite that's basically a sphere of water with a tough retaining skin on the outside.

http://variety-sf.blogspot.com/2011/...a-farming.html
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Old 12-02-2013, 12:20 PM
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Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan novels and James Stoddard's The High House both have a world contained entirely within a building. I like the later better for its imagination: dinosaurs in the attic, tigers and carnivorous furniture in the basement, oceans inside rooms, and so forth.
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Old 12-02-2013, 12:37 PM
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I thought The Land, of Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, was possibly the best thing about those books.
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Old 12-02-2013, 12:37 PM
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Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan novels and James Stoddard's The High House both have a world contained entirely within a building. I like the later better for its imagination: dinosaurs in the attic, tigers and carnivorous furniture in the basement, oceans inside rooms, and so forth.
Somtow Sucharitkul's Mallworld is a shopping mall that occupies an entire world. Kinda like The Mall of America as a cancerous growth.


It inspired the filk song "It's a Mall World after all."


http://www.amazon.com/Mallworld-Somt.../dp/0812555139

Last edited by CalMeacham; 12-02-2013 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 12-02-2013, 12:40 PM
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The community of the London underground in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is highly imaginative.
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Old 12-02-2013, 12:53 PM
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It's not that impressive a concept, especially now, but I was always impressed by the world-building in Asimov's Caves of Steel, on Earth specifically, though Solaria and Aurora (in the other books of the series) are interesting too.
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Old 12-02-2013, 01:53 PM
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Few have topped Hal Clement's Mesklin in Mission of Gravity.
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Old 12-02-2013, 02:02 PM
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Mieville's Bas Lag trilogy is a pretty imaginative world--it's got a kitchen-sink approach that folks feel strongly about. Amphibians that can sculpt water with their hands, beetle-headed women whose male counterparts are unintelligent insects, vicious magical flying hands, sentient mobile cacti, tame aerial jellyfish employed by police as riot control, advanced body-grafting employed as artistic and horrific penalty for crimes, and more and more and more. It has more ideas in each chapter than most have in a whole book.

Also, his latest (?) book, Railsea, is pretty freakish in a good way: a world in which the "ocean" really consists of myriad train tracks across a flat desert beneath which live leviathan creatures like giant moles. It's a riff on Moby Dick, as various trainlike contraptions crisscross the tracks hunting their prey.

The Neverending Story has a similar feel: tons of stuff is happening, and the author conveys a consistent sense that the story being told is only one of many different stories happening in the world.

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Old 12-02-2013, 02:07 PM
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Quote:
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Lord of Light by Zelazny was awesomely imagined, and the conceit of Amber likewise.
Quote:
Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
Indeed.
Yep.

Last edited by Skywatcher; 12-02-2013 at 02:09 PM.
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Old 12-02-2013, 02:20 PM
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Few have topped Hal Clement's Mesklin in Mission of Gravity.
the NESFA press edition of volume III of Clement's works has a cover image of Mesklin as a very oblate spheroid, as you'd expect. Clement himself observes, in one of the supplementary articles to that volume, that he did a more careful computer simulation much later and concluded that the real shape differed from what he had originally expected. I'm more than a little curious about what that shape would be. a freshman-level physics analysis still gives that oblate sphere, and I'm wondering what new details crop up to spoil that simple picture.


http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/images/7/7...NTLHLC2000.jpg

cover of the first edition, which is similar:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mi...ity(1stEd).jpg

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Old 12-02-2013, 02:51 PM
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Yep.
And yet, no one linked to Kirby does Lord of Light?
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Old 12-02-2013, 02:59 PM
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Few have topped Hal Clement's Mesklin in Mission of Gravity.
Or his novel Iceworld, set on a planet of unimaginable cold.
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Old 12-02-2013, 03:00 PM
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And yet, no one linked to Kirby does Lord of Light?
Not what I imagined.
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Old 12-02-2013, 08:56 PM
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Jack Chalker's Well World deserves mention.
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:49 PM
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I rather enjoyed the secret of Lyndon Hardy's sixth magic. Of course, I was only 14 when I read it, but the sixth magic caught me totally by surprise.

Would also like to second Little Nemo's Well World from Mr. Chalker as well as his (Chalker's) flux and anchor.
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Old 12-02-2013, 10:01 PM
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I rather enjoyed the secret of Lyndon Hardy's sixth magic. Of course, I was only 14 when I read it, but the sixth magic caught me totally by surprise.
You just reminded me of this and triggered me throwing some (very small amount of) money at an Amazon independent seller for the whole trilogy.
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Old 12-02-2013, 10:59 PM
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Robert Silverberg's Majipoor from Lord Valentine's Castle and its sequels is an amazingly complex and well-imagined world.
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Old 12-03-2013, 04:41 AM
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I am blanking on the title or author but I read a Fantasy book years ago that had worlds based on the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water and one thing I found interesting was rather than making the Fire world a cliched Volcano and Lava filled place, it was an unbearably hot steamy Jungle World. I thought that was a creative take on it.
Sounds like the Weiss/Hickman Death Gate cycle

Personally, I like Le Guin's worldbuilding, both in fantasy (Earthsea) and SF (The Word for World is Forest)

And I love Cherryh's whole universe, but the non-human parts especially.

And David Brin's Uplift Univers, love that.
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Old 12-03-2013, 06:03 AM
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Robert Silverberg's Majipoor from Lord Valentine's Castle and its sequels is an amazingly complex and well-imagined world.
As is Brian Aldiss' Helliconia trilogy, where whole civilisations rise and fall within the space of a single Great Year as the planet takes 3,000 Earth years to complete one of its own.
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Old 12-03-2013, 07:43 AM
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Somtow Sucharitkul's Mallworld is a shopping mall that occupies an entire world. Kinda like The Mall of America as a cancerous growth.
More obscure, but also more grandoise: Sucharitkul's Chronicles of the High Inquest. Very baroque, post-scarcity, high scifi that explores the concept of utopias.
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Old 12-03-2013, 08:03 AM
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the NESFA press edition of volume III of Clement's works has a cover image of Mesklin as a very oblate spheroid, as you'd expect. Clement himself observes, in one of the supplementary articles to that volume, that he did a more careful computer simulation much later and concluded that the real shape differed from what he had originally expected. I'm more than a little curious about what that shape would be. a freshman-level physics analysis still gives that oblate sphere, and I'm wondering what new details crop up to spoil that simple picture.


http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/images/7/7...NTLHLC2000.jpg

cover of the first edition, which is similar:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mi...ity(1stEd).jpg
IIRC, Hal's new calculations still came up with an oblate spheroid, but he had miscalculated just how oblate it had to be.
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Old 12-03-2013, 09:17 AM
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Considering it was began in 1910, Edgar Rice Burroughs did a great job in his Martian series. The world and its culture was pretty vividly portrayed and very consistent.
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Old 12-03-2013, 09:44 AM
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[B]Patra-Bannk[/B in Tony Rothman's the World is Round. I don't want to explain it, because that would ruin the story. suffice it to say that the world seems unreasonably big for its density

http://www.amazon.com/THE-WORLD-ROUN.../dp/0345272137


Rocheworld, the setting for several of Robert L. Forward's novels. It consists of two close-together worlds filling the Roche limit with weird and interesting effects (including an intra-planet waterfall

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocheworld

Forward's Dragon's egg -- a neutron star with intelligent life on it, the setting for two of his books.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon's_Egg






I see that I am one of the few who took the OP's request as referring to physically interesting worlds. There are plenty of societally interesting ones.
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Old 12-03-2013, 10:49 AM
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George Gamow's Mr. Thompkins in Wonderland has several versions of Earth that demonstrate relativity and quantum effects as if they existed in the real world. There's the view of a quantum pool table (the balls stretch out into multiple probabilities as they are struck). The most memorable is a world where the speed of light is 10 mph: from the street, people become narrow as they ride a bicycle, while on the bicycle the telephone poles move together. There's also the old woman who comes up to a young man coming off a train and saying, "Grandfather!."

John E. Stith also played with the speed of light on Redshift Rendezvous, set on a spaceship where different levels have different speeds of light.

There's also David I. Masson's short story "Traveller's Rest," which has a world where time moves faster the nearer you get to the poles.
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Old 12-03-2013, 03:05 PM
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Sounds like the Weiss/Hickman Death Gate cycle
That was indeed it! Thank you.
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Old 12-03-2013, 11:16 PM
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Cordwainer Smith-The Instrumentality of Mankind
This.
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Old 12-03-2013, 11:46 PM
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The Earth and solar system of the Clockwork Trilogy, in which the solar system is a vast orrery. The Earth and all the planets move about the central lamp of the Sun guided not by gravity but by planetary-scale gears and wheels and springs.
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Old 12-03-2013, 11:51 PM
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Lewis Carrol's Wonderland.
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