9 Fictional Cities You’ll Want to Move To Right Now
Google Maps can’t point you to the cities built by Italo Calvino and Dr. Seuss, but it’s nice to dream…
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Have you ever loved a book so much you wanted to live in it? I know when I was finished reading Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, I yearned to be a resident in the town of Gilead and smell that fresh Iowan air while gazing at the rich gold landscape. Of course, a version of that is possible but now that I live in Brooklyn, that kind of vastness, space, silence, seems so far away from here that it is almost fictional.
What follows are some fictional cities that are truly works of the imagination, and will make you wish you could live in your library.
Isadora, from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
This entire list could be composed of the imagined metropolises of Italo Calvino’s Imaginary Cities. We have 55 to choose from and they are all named after women. For this list, we chose Isadora to represent, a place where, “the buildings have spiral staircases encrusted with spiral seashells, where perfect telescopes and violins are made, where the foreigner hesitating between two women always encounters a third, where cockfights degenerate into bloody brawls among the bettors.” It’s a city of desire and the desire never dies as we grow older. “In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.”
Macondo, from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This town-turned-city is based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s hometown, Aracataca. Initially, the people of Macondo don’t have connection to the outside world, but the village evolves into a thriving landscape and city. Think Garden of Eden but Colombian. I’d like to live in this place before the banana plantation is set up and (spoiler alert) the eventual windstorm destroys the town.
Whoville, from Horton Hears A Who! by Dr. Seuss
The exact location of Whoville is up for interpretation. Sometimes Whoville is on a clover, other times it is has been on a snowflake. Regardless, it is an entire town held together on a speck. Because it is so tiny, Whoville experiences any kind of change at a dramatic level. Any movement or unexpected weather can create quite the turbulence. But this city is great because of the locals! The Whos make great neighbors, the kind of neighbors that help you brave the weather.
Gethen, from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Gethen is technically a whole fictional planet, but very little of it is inhabitable so the regions where people live amount to, roughly we’ll say, a city. Also known as Winter, Gethen is in the middle of an Ice Age in The Left Hand of Darkness. The people are biologically adapted to the cold, which does not mean they are perpetually curling up with their Netflix shows or tucked in with a couple dozen good books until the Ice Age breaks. But that’s what it would mean if I lived in Gethen.
West Egg, from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Living in West Egg is a dream with a condition — we get to live there in Gatsby’s mansion. The place is sheer decadence: “The one on my right (Gatsby’s house) was a colossal affair by any standard — it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.” And the parties! “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue garden men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” West Egg is based on Great Neck, Long Island, but modern-day Great Neck will not do the trick—we want to live in specific Gatsby luxury.
The Flying Okie cities, from the Cities in Flight series by James Blish
Hold onto your fidget spinners—the Spindizzy is about to take you to a whole other level. This machine from James Blish’s “Cities in Flight” series is an anti-gravity device discovered by resident Dr. Corsi that allows entire cities to fly through space. If flying through space isn’t your thing, Dr. Corsi’s second discovery in the course of the books might be: the “anti-agathic” drug, also known as the anti-aging drug. In other words, this drug allows you to fly back through years.
The Emerald City, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
There’s something whimsical yet scary about living in the Emerald City. At the end of the yellow brick road, the people of Oz live in harmony with one thing in common: they all see the city with a green tint. The Wizard figured it was easier to give everyone green-tinted glasses than to actually build a city of emeralds, so the citizens live in a low-key Matrix where what they see isn’t exactly real. In later Oz books, after the humbug wizard is deposed, the city is redone with actual emeralds—so if living in luxury is more up your alley than living in blissful ignorance, the Emerald City still suits. But even if it meant wearing green goggles all the time, we’d be okay with it in exchange for eternal life, magical animals, and lunches that grow on trees.
Ankh-Morpork, from the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett
Ankh-Morpork isn’t a safe city; for one thing, it’s disgusting, and for another, Discworld teems with grumpy wizards, professional assassins, and werewolves (and the werewolves are the good guys—one of them’s on the police force). Plus, the entire planet is floating through space on the backs of four elephants who are themselves on the back of a turtle. But where else can you visit the Dwarf Bread Museum, the Isle of Gods, and the library of the Unseen University all in one day?
Arkham, from “The Thing on the Doorstep” (and more) by H. P. Lovecraft
Arkham, a fictional town in Massachusetts, is a town for people who enjoy giving themselves a good fright. With salacious murders and brutal hauntings, Arkham would be a great place to live for three to five days, at which point the novelty and thrill of living in a horror story would probably wear off. The deceptive sleepiness of the town combined with some very awake afterlife makes this a desirable temporary oasis for finding your inner self and thinking about everyone—and every thing—that has ever back-stabbed you.