• James Hewlett

Favourite Worlds


I’m back on a boat again today so I’ve got a bit of time to write something a bit more substantial.

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, it’s pretty nerdy but should be fun. I’m going to talk about my favourite fictional worlds.

Now, obviously, Star Wars is at the top of that and most other lists for me but I’ve talked about that enough so I’ll leave that universe alone.

I’m also going to try and avoid fictional worlds that take place in our universe but at a different time. For example I love The Expanse and how that has grown out from a fairly small world that we see in the first book to wide and, excuse the pun, expansive seven books later. But that is set in our future. Current events could be referenced as history. So I’m not going to go into any more detail about that.

With that said though I’m going to make a small exception and briefly mention the Halo universe, while technically set a few hundred years in our future the ancillary materials away from the video games have done an amazing job of expanding that world. There is a deep and rich history going back long before humanity as we know it existed, there are a bunch of alien species and cultures, most of which have been fleshed out and stand apart from one another but when put together help form the tapestry of the world.

Not bad considering it all originally was inspired by a game about a faceless protagonist shooting blue aliens in the head and pressing occasional buttons.

The next one I want to talk about is an oldy but goody and has potentially just recently had its final entry ever.

Tolkien’s Middle Earth is Sara’s favourite fictional world for sure and I’m a big fan too.

Everyone knows The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and most are at least aware of The Silmarillion even though many fewer have actually read it as it is quite unwieldy. Since then though Christopher Tolkien has finished off and expanded on many of his fathers works, most recently releasing The Fall of Gondolin which concluding a three book series telling some of key stories originally talked about in The Silmarillion.

While I’ve never read any of the Middle Earth books outside of LOTR and The Hobbit I’ve always been fascinated by the expanded world. What might have felt like a through away reference for a bit of world building during the Council of Elrond almost certainly had a full and rich history in Tolkien’s mind. I love that.

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Fellowship having not read it in about a dozen or so years. It is still great and I love picking up on new things despite knowing the main plot fully.

Sara and I have a lot of fun whenever we get the massive War of the Ring board game to the table and will always end up nerding out back and forth and bringing up odd bits of trivia we’ve learnt from falling down a Wikipedia hole while looking up something Middle Earth related.

I think I’m sensing a theme, I think I might really enjoy fictional worlds that have rich histories. Which is kind of interesting as I never had too much interest in history of our own world until the last few years and even then it’s not a particularly interesting topic for me.

I’ve saved the best for last. My favourite world aside from the Star Wars universe. Also the reason I decided to put this post together today as it is somewhat topical.

Nickelodeon’s Avatar. Created by Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko in the early two thousands, Avatar: The Last Airbender ran for three seasons, each known as a Book. It was clear from the pilot that this was the plan all along and there was a consistent story to be told. It is one of the most perfectly plotted trilogies across any media if you ask me.

The show eventually spawned a sequel series set about seventy years later following the next incarnation in the Avatar cycle. The Legend of Korra is a more mature show, while still staying true roots and being totally accessible by all ages.

Since Korra wrapped up its four season run there has been multiple comic book arcs continuing on her story as well as filling in the years between shows with Aang and his friends from TLA.

In this world the four elements; earth, fire, water and air, can be manipulated by certain people know and (insert element)benders. We learn in a fantastic couple of episodes from LOK that these powers were granted to people by entities from the spirit world and, in hopes of maintaining balance between good an evil a chosen one, or Avatar, was selected and given the power to control all the elements.

Over the years the power of the Avatar has cycled through each of the nations that formed around their respective elements. This led to many conflicts over the years and we hear about many of them throughout both series.

Just recently it was announced that a young adult book series would be covering the events of one of the previous Avatars so I’m happy that we are continuing to get new material from this world.

I personally think that Legend Of Korra bought the tv series into enough of a modernistic time setting, it had a lot of nineteen thirties inspirations in its asthmatic, and I wouldn’t want to see a show go beyond that. There are also a lot of thematic reasons why they series is a perfect end cap but they could be considered quite spoilery so I won’t go into detail.

The reason this post is topical though is because just yesterday it was announced that Netflix, in partnership with Nickelodeon are going into production of a live action adaption of The Last Airbender series with the original show creators on board as executive producers and original score composer Jeremy Zuckerman returning to provide the score.

I had a few friends ask me about this news and what I thought; I’m trepidatious, I really don’t think it needs to happen as the animated series is perfect as is. It could be really good, I hope it is, I’ll definitely watch it when it comes out, but I’m not excited about it as I have seen the series countless times and could happily watch it all start to finish again right now.

I would have been much more excited about them announcing a new animated series, using the same studio who did most of LOK and also do the Netflix Voltron series. There are dozens if not hundreds of Avatars you could go back and tell the story of, or better yet, have a series set in that rich world but it NOT focus on the Avatar! Make reference to, even see occasionally perhaps, but focus on other people in the world.

The Last Airbender as a series does such a good job of taking us all over the map and introducing us to so many people and cultures, there is so much potential for stories among those people. Doing that also allows you to keep the time setting of one of the characters we’ve already met if needs be!

I’m just spitballing ideas now. I’ve said it before but I would love a games company, preferably one with high production values like Fantasy Flight Games to produce a tabletop RPG system for this world, I’d love to get together with a group of friends who love it as much as me and geek out for a few hours.

If you’ve not watched Avatar, do it, if you’ve got kids and you’ve not introduced it to them you’re doing parenting wrong! But even if you don’t, watch it anyway, it’ll be worth your time, I promise.

You know what I kind of find interesting about my list of favourite fictional worlds? Even if I'd let in more 'Earth-based' ones, I still don't think I would have put in any from comic books. Ask me this question ten years ago and it probably would have been mostly that!

#fiction #scifi #fantasyfootball #middleearth #halo #avatar #starwars #fandom #nerdy #hobbies #tvshows #videogames #books #comics #movies #netflix #entertainment

©2017 by James Hewlett.