Posted by: captainfalcon | July 6, 2011

Best Escapism?

What are the best fictional universes for escapist purposes, i.e. universes it is satisfying to imagine being in (not necessarily universes that are the best described or used by their creators)? My top-ten:

  1. Holmes
  2. Jeeves and Wooster
  3. Hercule Poirot
  4. Star Trek
  5. Inspector Morse
  6. The Guild [weird…]
  7. The Day of the Jackal
  8. MASH
  9. Lonesome Dove
  10. Arrested Development

The list changes a little bit when I put a different kind of escapism to myself, viz. for which universe would I be most willing to permanently leave this one? Then, taking the set above (which I think is basically the same set I’d have gotten), it becomes:

  1. Holmes
  2. Star Trek
  3. Morse
  4. The Guild
  5. Arrested Development
  6. MASH
  7. Poirot
  8. Lonesome Dove
  9. The Day of the Jackal
  10. Jeeves and Wooster

Idiosyncratic gaps that I notice = No fantasy worlds, no superheros, no nuclear families, no period-pieces [at least the aspects of the historically-situated universes that appeal to me aren’t their time-bounded characteristics], and no people in positions of institutional power. No doubt there are also commonalities one could gin up. Also, from my point of view, The Day of the Jackal is the obvious outlier.

Ooo, and while we’re making lists, what about the top-ten anti-escapist universes, i.e. dystopias you imagine yourself in just to see how you would escape from (or eventually capitulate to) their threats; not in order to escape to their rewards? List isn’t as long for me, basically just A Brave New World [not 1984 for some reason] and The Trial = I’m more interested in escape from mind control, not from e.g. zombies and other physical threats. Though this one was pretty half-assed.



  1. The presense of the Guild is quite dubious…

    Or perhaps my opinion is colored by an unfortunate season 4. Also, befuddled by AD. Do you mean you wish you were a Bluth?

    Anyway, mine would be slightly different, I suspect largely due to the differences in the books we read as middle-schoolers.

    1. Dune (the plot got so-so in subsequent books, but that world is a fucking mindworm (lol))
    2. Star Wars
    3. Windwaker
    4. Hatchet
    5. Mass Effect
    6. Xmen/Heroes (same premise, both sort of devolve from there)
    7. Le Petit Prince (but just the bits with the planetoids, not the dying in the Sahara part)
    8. Earthsea
    9. Tolkien
    10. Day of the Jackal

    I am not sure which category the list falls into (temporary or permanent escapism). Take it for either I guess. The big takeaway: the one of saddest days of my childhood was when I realized I would die before interplanetary travel was feasible. Plus, I love me a good archipelago. I should note 1 and 2 came instantly when I saw the question. The rest required some thought, so big chasm between 2 and 3.

  2. 1. Dune (Frank Herbert)
    2. Elantris (Brandon Sanderson)
    3. Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
    4. Mass Effect (Bioware)
    5. Amber (Roger Zelazny)
    6. Star Trek (Gene Roddenberry)
    7. Aubrey-Maturin series (Patrick O’Brien) – but only the officer’s life! The crew’s life would fit on my dystopia list.
    8. The Wormhole Nexus – Vorkosigan Saga (Lois McMaster Bujold)
    9. Alera – Codex Alera series (Jim Butcher)
    10. Doc Sidhe (Aaron Allston)

    None of these really jumped out at me except maybe Dune.

    Currently reading Boneshaker… the protagonist slides down a chute from a zeppelin into an air purification plant run by Chinese immigrants in a walled-off zombie-infested 19th-century downtown-Seattle become ghost town. It may not be my favorite setting ever, but it is the most unusual one I can recall.

  3. I am extremely perplexed by your desires to live on Dune. I’ll grant you that the planet warrants an interesting lifestyle, but something about the tribal warfare, disregard for the value of human life and the attempt at manipulation by all parties unto others made that reality an extremely unpleasant stay for me.

    I’m having a really hard time coming up with these, so if you’ll permit me, I’ll only list two of each.

    1. The Long Goodbye (Raymond Chandler)
    2. Asimov’s robot stories

    Places I do not want to be:
    1. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)
    2. The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)

    Ironically, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is an extremely pleasant read for me and I often chuckle at the witty dialogue and the protagonist’s description of prisoners – they’re often described as sheep, cattle or other herding animals. At the same time I really appreciate the seriousness of the strife those people are forced to live through, and I never want to witness it firsthand, let alone experience it myself.

  4. Maybe not Dune itself (though there did seem to be pleasant spots on the planet), but the world of the Dune series is quite compelling. Its just like saying Star Wars makes for great escapism doesn’t mean necessarily I would want to live on Tatooine.

    • That’s a good point. I misinterpreted the question then. I definitely answered it in terms of wanting to go there and never return.

      • Nah, its CF’s fault really. He asked two questions and we answered different ones. Plus, it’s always better to blame the person too busy tromping off under the socialist midnight sun to defend himself.

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