Help with project? Please list fictional cities !
May 18, 2013 6:39 AM   Subscribe

For a project I'm currently working on as part of my graduation in Graphic Design, I wanted to compile something like an atlas of fictional cities. These may be from books, legends, stories, video games, advertisements, comics, really whatever... Even "real" cities but alternate versions, imagined or in some way deviate from their real counterpart are valid.

The project started about a year ago, where it was a quick assignment that resulted in a book a of interviews and retellings of these fictional cities (I can post some images later). This one was more conceptually driven and people would tell me of cities on the go, without necessarily knowing the cities they spoke of, driven by the notion that if these cities are imagined, anyone could potentially imagine them again and alter them. Or something :D

This time I want to expand it and figured why not ask metafilter to help me out. I would greatly appreciate the help, and would gladly send a copy to anyone interested (it honestly isn't as boring as it's sounds, it's more of an active book with constantly changing content and layouts, not a novel or anything).

Cities I used for interviews were the City of Ceasars (from a myth), Zora (from Italo Calvino's invisible cities), Los Angeles (from Blade Runner) and an unnamed city from a manga by Tsutomu Nihei. So basically, anything goes. (i.e. your own imagined places are entirely valid, doesn't need to be sourced).

If you have an example, please list it, it doesn't need a name, but a description (if from a book for example) or an image, or both, would be very fantastic.

Thank you
posted by ahtlast93 to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Good place to start. Also, more here.
posted by ttyn at 6:47 AM on May 18, 2013

Empire City is the comic-book counterpart to New York City in Michael Chabon's novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
posted by sophieblue at 6:49 AM on May 18, 2013

Besźel and Ul Qoma from The City & the City, or perhaps the towns described in Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams.
posted by ilicet at 7:07 AM on May 18, 2013

Go mine some paper-based (or internet) role-playing game worlds... Go to a used-bookstore - they will have many at decent prices... RPG's cover fantasy, sci-fi - but even modern-era "worlds"...
posted by jkaczor at 7:07 AM on May 18, 2013

Strangely, the Wikipedia list that turns up most of the fantasy cities that leap to mind isn't fictional cities/towns/villages but rather the list of fictional city-states in literature. A number of those have maps already: Ankh-Morpork, New Crobuzon, Sigil, etc. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction's entry for cities may also be useful.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:12 AM on May 18, 2013

Oh! There is a book of entire encyclopedia late 70s-80s...illustrated?
posted by sexyrobot at 7:12 AM on May 18, 2013

You will want to get a copy of the Dictionary of Imaginary Places, Albert Manguel - first published in 1980, but there's a new revised edition with more/updated entries.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:17 AM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Came to suggest the Dictionary of Imaginary Places. It is incredibly thorough and entertaining, though it doesn't touch more contemporary pop-culture very much.
posted by Think_Long at 7:28 AM on May 18, 2013

The Kushiel's Dart trilogies feature the City of Elua, the capital of Terre d'Ange (which is basically make believe Medieval France.)
posted by DarlingBri at 7:35 AM on May 18, 2013

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities is a whole book of fictional places.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:13 AM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fictional cities — such as West Harrisburg — created as misguided acts of fancy sometimes appear briefly on OpenStreetMap. They're just as quickly deleted.
posted by scruss at 8:22 AM on May 18, 2013

My favorite fictional city is Kitezh (in fact, I did a MeFi post about it once). Alexander Grin is famous for his invented world, known to fans as Grinlandia, with cities like Alambo, Gel-Gyu, Zurbagan, and Liss (and I highly recommend his books to lovers of adventure fantasy).

> Good place to start. Also, more here.

Wow, Wikipedia is really focused on pop culture, and those links are good (by which I mean depressing) examples of that.
posted by languagehat at 8:23 AM on May 18, 2013

So many choices... myth and fantasy...

Gaiman's London in Neverwhere (or anything about London, really)
Asimov's world-city on Trantor (satirized in Bill The Galactic Hero)
Dredd's Mega Cities
Kitezh (languagehat got there first)
Passport to Pimlico
El Dorado
New Jerusalem
The Emerald City

Those still to be built, and those that were attempted... (Mortal Engines)
Hitler's plans for rebuilding Berlin
Arcologies like The Dubai Ziggurat, Moscow's Crystal Island
Treasure Island San Francisco

Then there are lost or unreachable cities... Troy, Carthage, Akhetaten (capital of the heretic Pharaoh), Xanadu, Timbuktu, Sodom and Gomorrah, Dunwich (with its bells), Pompeii (snapshotted by a pyroclastic flow), Heracleion (lost in the Nile delta)...

As you go back into history it's more about kingdoms than cities... Shambhala, Brasil, America in all its forms, Onogoro Island, Lyonesse, Avalon...
posted by Leon at 8:28 AM on May 18, 2013

Response by poster: thanks for all the usefull advice, but one remark tho;

I know where to look, I checked sources and I have plenty o fhtme but more than a list, I would like to just use metafilter for what it is; real people with actual knowledge of these things.

So while I'm grateful, it would be more helpful if you give me an actual examples.

So rather than Invisible Cities, mention a city from the book.

posted by ahtlast93 at 8:33 AM on May 18, 2013

In the back of the second book of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen seres there is an extensive travelogue of all the various fictional places in the world, from Shangra-Lai to Stepford, Connecitcut.
posted by The Whelk at 8:33 AM on May 18, 2013

ahtlast93: are you looking for people's personal experiences of fictional cities? Are you going to quote them?

Not sure what "real people with actual knowledge of [fictional cities]" means...
posted by Leon at 8:39 AM on May 18, 2013

Robertson Davies wrote a trilogy of novels about the fictional city of Deptford, which is a thinly-disguised Thamesville, Ontario.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:47 AM on May 18, 2013

Response by poster: Nope, not quote, but use simply use a specific city.

Just like Multicellular posted above

"Robertson Davies wrote a trilogy of novels about the fictional city of Deptford, which is a thinly-disguised Thamesville, Ontario."

Then again, any advice is useful, and that's what I mean with "real people"; you are bound to have more than wikipedia.
posted by ahtlast93 at 8:58 AM on May 18, 2013

The DCU comics universe has a lot of these: Metropolis, Gotham, and Opal City stand out as particularly well-defined places with their own specific aesthetics and culture.
posted by bettafish at 8:59 AM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Brentford in the 5 books of Rankin's Brentford trilogy.
posted by BenPens at 9:00 AM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really liked the city of "Metropol" in the retro point&click adventure Primordia
posted by Calicatt at 9:13 AM on May 18, 2013

Alastair Reynold's Chasm City

Lovecraft's Unkown Kadeth
posted by Max Power at 9:20 AM on May 18, 2013

Bellona, the fictional city where Samuel Delany's Dhalgren takes place, is still weirdly fresh in my mind even though it's been years since I've read it.
posted by evisceratordeath at 9:22 AM on May 18, 2013

Anarene is the name of the town in The Last Picture Show and Texasville by Larry McMurtry, loosely based on Archer City, Texas, his hometown.
posted by tamitang at 9:36 AM on May 18, 2013

From a mapping point of view, Palimpsest (the city in the novel Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente) is pretty interesting. It's a sexually transmitted fantasy realm - you visit it in dreams after sleeping with someone else has been there, and a map of a fragment of the city will then appear like a tattoo on your skin. Finding partners with new sections marked onto them will bring you to different areas of the city.
posted by unsub at 10:14 AM on May 18, 2013

Rustic Etruscan: "Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities is a whole book of fictional places."

I've always thought it can also be read as the same city, seen differently. But it's been a long time since I read it, maybe I'm mis-remembering.
posted by secretseasons at 10:50 AM on May 18, 2013

Arnold Bennett's five towns in Staffordshire pottery district: (real name=made up name)
Tunstall =Turnhill
Burslem =Bursley
Hanley =Hanbridge
Stoke =Knype
Longton =Longshaw

and of course Gotham City.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:59 AM on May 18, 2013

The home town for most of my YA novels is Broken Tooth, Maine. I placed it off Route 1, on the coast, due south of Milbridge and modeled it on Steuben, ME. My first novel was set in Ondine, Louisiana, in Ascension Parish-- I placed it somewhere between (the real) Sorrento and Gonzales, on Route 61.

If you want the source, Broken Tooth appears in The Vespertine and Mistwalker (Harcourt Children's, 2011, 2014) and Ondine appears in Shadowed Summer (Random House Children's, 2009.)
posted by headspace at 12:13 PM on May 18, 2013

Oh, man. Lots of comic book ones, Gotham, Metropolis, wherever Nightwing works (just checked: Bludhaven). The Gothams in the Christopher Nolan trilogy are all very distinct and each one is filmed in/played by a different decaying Rustbelt town.

Corus is the capital of Tortall in the Tamora Pierce Alanna books. It's briefly but decently described if you were going to do a map- there are references to a few neighborhoods and the geography, but you could more or less make everything else up.

Richard Russo's books have a variety of fictional cities (Mohawk, Empire Falls, some others I can't think of off the top of my head) that are all actually Gloversville, NY. Mohawk especially is focused on the tanneries.

Oh man! Lyra's Oxford in the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials books! That would be super fun, although I think the little sequel "Lyra's Oxford" has a map. That Oxford is explicitly an alternate universe to the real Oxford.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:25 PM on May 18, 2013

Ladore is a river, a city, a county and perhaps a province in French Estoty (which in terrestrian terms is French Canada, that is the province of Québec). It cannot be on any map. It is a realm of fancy inserted in the semblance of a real map.

Ladore is only one of many fictional places in North America on Antiterra in Nabokov's Ada. (Scroll down for the " Antiterra Gazetteer".)

To list a few others:

Kaluga, New Cheshire
Ladoga, Mayne
Aardvark, Massa
Los (Angeles)
posted by trip and a half at 12:45 PM on May 18, 2013

Loramendi (caged city, capital of the chimaera) and Astrae (capital of the seraphim)--Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Cittagazze--The Subtle Knife

Since someone mentioned Tamora Pierce above, Summersea, Zakdin, Hajra, and Ninver are some cities that show up in her Circle of Magic books.
posted by tan_coul at 2:25 PM on May 18, 2013

posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:32 PM on May 18, 2013

The depscrption of Unthank, a nightmare version of Glasgow in " Lanark" are really visual and striking.
posted by The Whelk at 2:44 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Atropia is the made up country located somewhere in the Caucuses where Army ROTC cadets pretend to fight.
*Edit: this was the hypothetical country in 2010 at least, and is still used by smaller field training events.
posted by Grandysaur at 3:27 PM on May 18, 2013

I'm surprised nobody upthread has mentioned any of the numerous times Tokyo has been remade. I'm partial to the versions in Akira, Ghost in the Shell [compared in this article] and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
posted by thatdawnperson at 3:51 PM on May 18, 2013

Pawnee, Indiana from the TV show Parks & Recreation, and also ritzy Eagleton, Indiana. Apparently people have figured out where in Indiana Pawnee is located.
posted by AppleTurnover at 5:13 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Orqwith, a cancerous city-dimension that invades the Earth in Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:21 PM on May 18, 2013

A few of my favorites...
King's Landing, Westros (Game of Thrones)
London Below (Neverwhere)
Halloween Town (Nightmare Before Christmas)
New New York (Doctor Who)
posted by fireandthud at 10:45 PM on May 18, 2013

Oh, also Neptune, from Veronica Mars: "A town with no middle class." Fictional Southern Californian town.
posted by tan_coul at 11:24 PM on May 18, 2013

Mentioned because it's all visuals - Toon Town, the animated L.A neighborhood that operates on cartoon logic from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 AM on May 19, 2013

You've been given many great examples, and there are hundreds more, to the point that you might have a hard time narrowing down your choices.

I'll get to the narrowing-down recommendation in a moment, but for now, this list from Wikipedia, (different and more comprehensive than the one listed above, hopefully to languagehat's relief):

Fictional populated places, which confusingly has another list of Fictional city-states as well as the sub-category Lists of fictional cities and towns. List upon list to explore just in those three links.

Now to narrowing down. If I'm understanding you correctly, you're looking for people's personal experiences of these fictional places. To that end, you might start looking at places where various groups of people have spent some time. Some examples:

Gotham City: From the comics, to TV (both live action and animated), to the movies of Burton, Nolan, et al., and extending into video games, fans of Batman have seen a great deal of Gotham, and had a chance to experience it as a "real" place. The interesting part is how different generations and different fandoms will have experienced it as wholly different entities.

Dicken's London: Could also be Victorian London, Gaslight London, Sherlockian London. It's almost a fantasy setting in itself because of the romance of the various fictions that nest there. Like Gotham, different fandoms will have different takes on the setting.

Any Fantasy City that has been sufficiently fleshed out: The two that leap to mind most readily are Lankhmar and Ankh-Morpork, just because of the sheer wealth of information provided in the source material and in fan materials. Other choices would be the cities of video games like GTA, Fallout 3 (DC)/Fallout: New Vegas, or the Baldur's Gate games. I mention these in particular because they contain cities where your story (you the player) plays out. You have agency in a way that you don't in the cities in some other games.

And yeah, post this up somewhere (Projects?) when it's done so we can have a look. Have fun.
posted by zueod at 7:16 PM on May 19, 2013

Ummm Springfield.
posted by Youremyworld at 8:13 PM on May 19, 2013

Scumble River, IL - setting for Denise Swanson's Scumble River mystery series.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:21 PM on May 19, 2013

I'm going to assume all the obvious China Mieville cities have been mentioned, so check out Anor Londo from the videogame Dark Souls, The Divide and New Vegas from Fallout: New Vegas, and all the cities from the game Nier. My favorite is Facade, a desert town where everyone wears masks.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:39 PM on May 19, 2013

Sigil: City of Doors from the Planescape campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons. Brought to life in the videogame Planescape: Torment.

Al Marja, the William S Burroughsesque city from the RPG Over The Edge.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:41 PM on May 19, 2013

The city of Bellona, from Samuel Delaney's Dhalgren, has already been mentioned, but it's so good that I can't resist seconding that recommendation.
posted by dizziest at 9:36 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

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