‚ÄúFar out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the¬†Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.¬†Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an¬†utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life¬†forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are¬†a pretty neat idea.‚Äù Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
It is on this little green and blue planet that Earthlings have long been¬†fascinated by thoughts of other worlds, other possibilities and other life¬†forms. Inspired by both the magic and tragedies of our own planet¬†Earth, imagination has led to creations of complex societies of creatures both¬†alien and humanoid and the worlds they inhabit. These creations have since inspired passionate subcultures fuelled by fandom. The by-products make for a massive industry reaching far and wide: from conventions to cosplay, fan-zines to¬†gaming and role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons.
Science Fiction and Fantasy South Africa¬†is a small group of dedicated¬†fans passionate about these creations. Their proud history of¬†establishment in 1969 is a testament to the commitment these fans¬†have to the craft. Their committee leader Ian Jamieson explains the¬†appeal of fandom, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs both escapist and entertainment.¬†People want to talk with other people about a specific genre or an¬†author.‚Äù Their club hosts monthly talks and movies, an annual short story competition and publishes a fan-zine.
Take a journey through a list of their favourite imagined worlds:
1. Pern ‚Äì Anne McCaffrey
Pern was colonised by humans as a solution to escaping a polluted and¬†overpopulated planet Earth. Mars, anyone?¬†The name Pern was derived from the¬†acronym for ‘Parallel Earth Resources Negligible’ coined by the first¬†explorers to the planet. Life on Pern holds notes of medieval times, but with some higher technology. The best thing about Pern is that they¬†have giant, flying dragons who help and protect the humans from the biggest¬†threat to their planet, a destructive mycorrhizoid¬†spore that rains¬†down on the planet and consumes everything in its path.
2. Ringworld ‚Äì Larry Niven
Ringworld exists in Larry Nivin’s Known Space universe. It is¬†a planet that has turned into a ring around a sun. It has a surface area¬†a billion times greater than that of Earth. Night time is created by¬†shadow squares joined together with ultra-strong wire. It is discovered¬†by a crew of space explorers who crash into the shadow squares and are¬†stranded on the planet. Their ship, joyfully named the Lying Bastard,¬†is severely damaged and they are left¬†to explore the planet on their flycycles (yes, they have flycycles). They come across Ringworld natives, breeding experiments and all sorts of weird and wonderful¬†encounters.
3. Arrakis, Dune – Frank Herbert
Frank Herbert‚Äôs novel, Dune is one of the most famous and iconic¬†science fiction novels in history. Arrakis is a harsh desert¬†planet far from any other planets and major trade routes. It orbits two¬†moons, one shaped like a fist and one like a kangaroo mouse. It is home¬†to the mile long sandworms, who are responsible for the oxygen and¬†nitrogen atmosphere that make this planet habitable for humans. This¬†led to its capital city, Arakeen‚Äôs establishment in the comfortable¬†climate. The planet is shared with the Fremen, traditional human clans, as¬†well as with the sandtrout and kangaroo mouse.
4. Transylvania, The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Richard O’Brien
When engaged couple Brad and Janet find themselves¬†out in the cold, they seek help from a nearby house. Here they discover¬†the motley crew of Dr. Frank N Furter, Riff Raff, Magenta and Columbia who turn out to be aliens from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania (with its moon drenched shores). After an exhausting night of time warping activities, escapades soon turn more sinister as the aliens reveal their strange¬†human creation and a dead biker for dinner.
5. Vulcan, Star Trek
Home of the super rational, emotionally-suppressed vegetarian Vulcans, the planet¬†Vulcan is made of vast desert landscapes and mountain ranges.¬†It has wilderness reserves and has no moon. It‚Äôs not a hundred percent¬†suitable for humans due to its intense gravitational force which tends to¬†tire Earthlings out.
6. Xanth ‚Äì Piers Anthony
This beautiful, vast world was created by Piers Anthony in 1977. Shaped¬†like Florida, its landmarks resemble some of our Earthly wonders like¬†Mount Everest. Shoes and pies grow on trees. Xanth is close enough to the moon that flying creatures can land on it. Half of the moon tastes of honey, and half like sour curdled cheese. The humans each have a unique magical talent, and they share the¬†world with other magical beings like mer-people, centaurs, goblins and¬†dragons among others.¬†Xanth is connected to Mundania, the normal world whose people are known as Mundanes.
7.¬†Pellucidar ‚Äì Edgar Rice Burroughs
Pellucidar is a world inside our planet¬†Earth. It is discovered by explorers David Innes and Abner Perry as they¬†attempt to burrow to the Earth‚Äôs core. Instead they discover the Earth‚Äôs¬†core is hollow and inhabited. Pellucidar is a prehistoric world of¬†dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers and mammoths. Stone age humans live¬†there as well, along with the sinister reptilian race, the Mahar. With an¬†unsetting sun, it is always¬†daylight in Pellucidar allowing Burroughs to explore the existence of time.
8. Discworld ‚Äì Terry Pratchett
Created by Terry Pratchett, Discworld has become an iconic¬†world in the fantasy genre. The flat disc balanced on the backs¬†of four elephants, which in turn balance on the back of a great turtle is¬†widely recognised and has been artistically interpreted. Its famous city Ankh Morphork is featured regularly and, along with all of Discworld, is home to¬†a myriad of magical and wonderful characters, from its very first¬†protagonist, Rincewind ‚Äì the magician with no skill, to wily witches,¬†talking animals, ancient warriors, a colourful, drinking, City Watch and one of the most forlorn and loved characters, Death. Through this world¬†Pratchett parodied many societal themes.
9.¬†Barrayar ‚Äì Lois McMaster Bujold
Barrayar is one of the planets that appears in Lois McMaster Bujold‚Äôs¬†Vorkosigan saga, a collection of science fiction novels and short stories¬†by the author. Barrayar is an Earth-like planet with one big catch: the¬†vegetation is inedible and in fact largely poisonous to Earth descending¬†inhabitants. This means terraforming is necessary for survival on the¬†planet. The culture is feudal and military driven, it explores themes of¬†war and military cultures.
Image via The Hugo Endurance Project.
10. Krypton, Superman
Krypton is the home planet of Kal-el, later known as Clarke Kent and then of¬†course, Superman. Superman was the sole survivor of the destruction of¬†this planet thanks to his parents who placed him on a ship as the planet crumbled.¬†The planet was originally home to the Kryptons. The destruction of the¬†planet led to the creation of Kryptonite, a radioactive substance deadly¬†to all Kryptons, and Superman‚Äôs infamous Achilles heel. The visual interpretation of the planet is¬†constantly evolving and a number of Kryptons have been created. The¬†planet is said to possess colours that humans couldn‚Äôt even dream of.