It is easy to imagine the castle nestled against the green mountainside, banners snapping in the wind. The mouldering ruins seated at the foot of a glass smooth lake, or the station slowly losing its orbit framed by the vast accretion disc of a black hole. The fantastical is something we can sink into, get lost in, and it is easier to do that when the locations are just as ambitious as the story.
It makes wonderful stories much easier to believe, if the location matches the magical creatures, alien setting, then it just might be possible. It is something that has translated to the silver screen with book adaptations. The Shire is, unsurprisingly, a favourite. On screen it held the sense of home and comfort I always associated with it from reading. They did well to capture that. More outlandish locations such as Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal or Hogwarts are equally fantastical or alien. The weird and wonderful are bound to be found within such places, they belong in such places. It helps with the sense of escapism, it keeps us absorbed in the story. It’s easy to visualise.
I find it equally important however that magic and wonderment be found outside your door, without the need for you to live in such locations. Why shouldn’t we find creatures in our own gardens, in the fields in which we played as children, the abandoned buildings we explored as teenagers. The fantastical should be found closer to home. Sure a canal is not as picturesque as the rolling hills and meadows of New Zealand, but that is no reason that merfolk should not swim them. Trolls beneath motorway bridges and goblin circuses trundling the alleys between houses.
I would much rather take the seemingly mundane scenes about us and tease out the weird and wonderful stories they hold. The dilapidated mill in my town has just as much character as any castle and to me would make for a far more interesting setting of a story. I should note that down, it has merit for later ideas.
There are stories all about us, magic seeping into our everyday lives. We simply need to look, pick up the thread and have the courage to follow it a little. I think we look to far and too hard to find magic and wonderment when it can be found at the end of our nose.