Holidays on other worlds

Jaine Fenn talks about her latest novel, Guardians Of Paradise.

When my writing group read through the first draft of my latest novel, Guardians Of Paradise, one of the longest-standing – and most irritatingly perceptive – members said, ‘That’s Fiji, isn’t it?’

(The ‘that’ in question is Kama Nui, a largely Oceanic world whose equatorial zone is peppered with idyllic tropical islands. In my future it’s an exclusive holiday destination for those who can afford it, though the visitors in the book aren’t holidaymakers: they travel to Kama Nui in order to uncover a dark secret that most of those having fun in the sun couldn’t even begin to imagine.)

My fellow writer had been to Fiji, and knew I had, so it was a good guess. And he was right – sort of. Writers eat reality and shit out stories. Everything we see (hear, touch, taste, smell) gets filed away for possible later use. Most of the time this isn’t even a conscious process.

In the case of Kama Nui, I’m guilty as charged: I did use my short stay on Fiji’s Coral Coast to give me a feel for the world I was creating. I hadn’t realised it was so obvious, and though there is some justification for the familiar feel – most of the plant and animal life on Kama Nui’s islands originally came from Earth stock – when I revised the book I made an effort to bring out the world’s alien nature too.

This got me thinking about the relationship between real-world places and fictional locations. In my genre – science fiction – we have a marvellously free rein in our world-building. In theory, the places we write about are only limited by our imagination. But we do live in the real world (believe it or not), and though we might mash them up later, many of our settings start off grounded in reality. I’m sure there must be plenty of SF books are out there which are set on other worlds but where there’s more than a hint of the author’s terrestrial starting point. Annoyingly, though I’m sure I’ve read some, I couldn’t bring any to mind. (Well, other than mine, obviously.)

So, does anyone else think they’ve spotted bits of Planet Earth that have been transported off-world and had their serial numbers filed off? I believe there might be copies of Guardians Of Paradise up for grabs for the most interesting answers.

[isbn=”Guardians Of Paradise”]978-0575083264[/isbn]