Tor.com’s Top SFF Vacation Spots!

It’s officially summer, which means it’s time to pack our bags and finally decide how we’re going to spend our precious vacation days! Ancient ruins and cruise ships are all well and good, but they’re so… real. So we took a slightly different approach and looked to our favorite science fiction and fantasy books for getaway inspirations. And while we’re of course interested in elf-houses and vast island chains and the distant corners of the universe, it turns out some of us just want to go to London. Just maybe not the London we’re used to…

Probably would just be better to show you, right? Here are Tor.com’s top SFF vacation destinations!

 

Rivendell, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

Since I’ve spent the last few years working on a novel, when you say “vacation,” I hear “writing retreat?” spoken in a hopeful lilt, but my last few retreats have been monkish weekends in spartan pod hotels. So when I was asked for my top SFF vacation destination I immediately thought of Rivendell, because I could, like Bilbo before me, finish my book! The Last Homely House would put Yaddo to shame with its forests and waterfalls. I could hole up in The Hall of Fire all day to work, pop out for Elvish feasts at night, maybe stare at the stars of Elbereth if I was feeling stuck… Do Elves make coffee? —Leah

 

Earthsea, from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea

I’ve always loved islands, and Earthsea is nothing but islands — an archipelago with no large land masses. Give me two weeks on a boat, visiting as many islands as I can, climbing in tide pools, swimming in the surf, hiking up mountains and maybe, just maybe, seeing a dragon. At a safe distance, of course. Vacation is meant to be relaxing, after all. —Molly

 

 

London, from Mike Carey’s Felix Castor Series

devil-you-knowMike Carey is one of my favorite writers. Whatever format he turns his attention to, you can always be certain it’s worth reading, whether it’s his comics (Lucifer, X-Men, Hellblazer, Suicide Risk), short fiction, film (his forthcoming The Girl With All the Gifts) or novels. He started his novel career 10 years ago with The Devil You Know — the story of a wise-ass London-based exorcist-for-hire, Felix Castor. Carey’s London is a dark and foreboding place, but it’s a place I’ve chosen as my vacation destination for this feature. Why? Because no matter how dark and dangerous, no matter how full of zombies and were-creatures, no matter how violent the local mob, it has a charm of its own. Granted, the charm is largely down to Carey’s rendering of the permanently down-on-his-luck Castor, whom disaster always seems to follow, but Castor is a character you’d want to know. You’d want to spend some time in a bar with him and feed him booze all night. And that’s worth risking a bit of time in Carey’s London. —Lee

 

Florin/One Tree Island, from William Goldman’s The Princess Bride

princess-bride-coverIn “Buttercup’s Baby: An Explanation,” Goldman writes about a recent visit to Florin to research a sequel to The Princess Bride. As he describes it, it sounds like a pretty fantastic European vacation, complete with a castle tour (during which you can see where Inigo Montoya finally caught up to the dastardly Count Rugen) and a visit to the Thieves Quarter and Miracle Max’s hut; the Fire Swamp is closed to visitors, but the Cliffs of Insanity are usually swarmed by tourists. But best of all would be a trip to One Tree Island, where Westley, Buttercup, Fezzik, and Inigo go to recover their strength following their escape from Humperdinck. An Edenic paradise surrounded on all sides by rocks, sharks, sucking squid, and a giant whirlpool, One Tree can only be reached by helicopter (or by having Fezzik tow you to shore using his massive strength)—it’s the perfect tropical getaway, whether you’re escaping from work email, deranged princes, or the entire Florinese Armada. —Bridget

 

Orbitals, from Iain M. Bank’s Culture Series

Anarres, from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle novel The Dispossessed, might be a great place to live, but vacationing there kind of defeats the whole point… for vacation I think I want to go to one of the Orbitals from Iain M. Bank’s Culture novels. I’m not sure which one; we get a limited view of the Minds in control of most Orbitals, but I’m sure there’s a demigod-like artificial intelligence somewhere that I’ll get along with just swimmingly. For vacation, the Culture even beats the pleasure planet of Risa. —Mordicai

 

Red London, from V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic

I would love to go to Red London from V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. Unlike Grey London (our London), which is dull and full of muggles, and White London, which has corrupted magic with its quest for power, Red London sounds utterly enchanting. I want to walk over the Isle, the river that glows crimson with magic, and admire the delicate, crystalline architecture of Soner Rast, the palace. I want to party on mulled wine in the Night Markets, while watching water dancers and magical street performers. I want to breathe in the flower-scented air and feel a city that hums with magic. Now if I can only find myself an Antari to get me there. —Christine

 

Terre d’Ange, from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart

Who wouldn’t want to visit the country that fallen angels chose as their earthly home? Sure, the locals are intimidatingly beautiful, and you probably don’t want to let your significant other wander the Night Court alone (unless you’re into that sort of thing), but if you’re looking for a lush, beautiful land filled with open-minded and artistic citizens, you can’t do much better than Terre d’Ange. I would time my visit to the City of Elua to raise a glass of joie at the Longest Night; take day trips to the vineyards of Namarre and the libraries of Siovale; or make a whole journey out of it and sail on over to La Serenissima in Caerdicca Unitas. I’d just have to avoid pissing off Asherat-of-the-Sea, or the Master of the Straits, or really any god associated with the water. —Natalie

 

My own State, from Brandon Sanderson’s Perfect State

If I had to pick a spot for the perfect vacation, how could I not pick a world designed specifically for me? In Brandon Sanderson’s Perfect State each person has their own world, or State, created based upon their personality. For example, I might have a medieval fantasy world where I become god king, a futuristic science fiction world filled with robots and lasers, or even a world were I unite the world through politics (hopefully not!). Sure, I might have to deal with nosy and bored neighbors trying to fight me in the borderland states or living around people I know are NPCs from a video game, no matter how real they appear. Despite these problems you are given sudo pseudo-immortality and goals designed to keep you entertained for the rest of your substantially prolonged life. Living 300 years there, or even just a short vacation, would be pretty amazing. Can we just skip the part where my brain gets put in a jar for it? I’m rather attached to my body. —Cameron

 

London Below, from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere

I’m a big fan of going off the beaten path for vacation and I love exploring new cities, so I’d like to spend two weeks in London Below. I know there’s a slight chance of murder (okay, maybe more than “slight”), but the chance to shop at the Floating Market and explore the labyrinthine terrain of this city-beneath-a-city would be too good to pass up. Also, if you survived it, think of the stories and tchotchkes you’d come back with! Way more exciting than your typical beach vacation. —Katharine

 

The Universe and Everything, from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series

hitchhikers-guideI’m a pretty big fan of road trip-style vacations, with lots of pitstops and detours on the way from Point A to Point B. So naturally ping-ponging around the universe with the Hitchhiker’s Guide in my pocket and a Babel Fish in my ear sounds like my idea of a good time—so long as I steer clear of any Vogons. First a stop at Port Brasta to stock up on duty free supplies, then it’s off to sightsee through Sirius Tau (you should really see Tau before you’re dead, you know) before touring the planet factory at Magrathea, dropping some Altarian dollars at the naturally-occurring luxury casinos of Han Wavel, and grabbing a particularly excellent sandwich on Lamuella. But of course the real highlight of the trip is a stop at Milliways—the famed and slightly impossible restaurant at the end of the universe—to take in the Gnab Gib (that’s a Big Bang in reverse, of course) while carefully sipping a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. –Sarah

 

Rovinacailand, found in Rovina Cai’s Artwork

rovinacai_iceland

From the “Iceland Sketches” series

I would love to spend a few weeks hiking through Rovinacailand. Beauty on the edge of creepy… landscapes that feel internal and deeply personal. I picture all her creatures being not-quite-tame. If the peahound and I can’t be friends, at least I can follow them at a safe distance. And I want to walk into a literal wolf forest. Like a day on the moors, you can’t really describe it, you gotta feel. —Irene

 

Real Places in California, from Kage Baker’s Company Series

I’m actually considering a (sort of) SF-themed vacation for this summer, but rather than going to a fictional location, I’m planning to visit some of the real places Kage Baker frequently used in her Company series, which I’m currently rereading for Tor.com. If I can talk my family into it, we may drive up the coast of California to follow in the footsteps of Mendoza, Joseph, and company (no pun intended) and visit some places that feature heavily in the archives of Dr. Zeus: Catalina Island, the Hearst mansion, the Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park, and so on. —Stefan

 

So there you have it: three votes for London, with several other excellent vacation options as well. But where would you go?

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