When Theme Parks Transcend Make Believe



USGS Survey Map of Anaheim circa 1963, via io9

At least, that’s according to the United States Geological Survey, which back in 1963 treated the Matterhorn in Disneyland as an actual mountain in a map of Anaheim, CA.

Okay, so maybe even geologists can have a bit of fun. After all, in Anaheim the Matterhorn is a pretty big thing in the skyline. But I like to think of it as something that is absolutely not a mountain that has become, in our cultural consciousness, a real mountain. The boundary between fantasy and reality is a funny thing, and one I’ll be taking a look at in future posts.

Read the whole story over at io9.

Be The Master of Your Own Universe


Elder Scrolls Online has become a recent fixture in my home. I am currently typing this out on a third, less used, computer, because my other two computers are being used to play ESO by Erin and her younger siblings.


I, too, have been playing quite a bit of Elder Scrolls Online. I’m not a very high level at the moment,, but a lot of that is because I am taking my time exploring the Elder Scrolls universe. It is a universe that has been meticulously created by Zenimax and Bethesda in a form that, in my opinion, has been well presented.

Elder Scrolls Online

For me, the ins and outs of universe creation are incredibly important.

And, again, for me, no one is better at universe creation than Bethesda with their Elder Scrolls series. The amount of time they have taken for every detail is somewhere along the lines of Tolkienian in it’s application.

What Elder Scrolls offers up is a universe that is fully formed, enjoyable to get immersed in, and one that the creators have taken a great deal of time to construct. When you are writing something, or painting something, or filming something, or programming a video game, what your universe looks like and how your characters interact with that universe is one of the first things that you should think about. With Elder Scrolls it is pretty obvious that universe creation was foremost in the creators’ minds.

Universe creation on these scales is pretty epic. The universes that have been created with all the Elder Scrolls games spans entire worlds and entire histories of those worlds. There are family names, lineage, histories of entire civilizations that once existed but have now fallen. The scale upon which this universe has been created is enormous.

When I’m creating a universe, there are a few items that are important for me to look at.


I want a universe that doesn’t expect people to suspend their disbelief too much. If I make rules in a universe, even though those rules may be different than the ones that exist in reality, they have to make sense in the universe that I am creating. And they have to be applicable across the board. If dogs walk cats in my universe, then it has to be that way across the entire universe.

A good example of a rule that is not properly applied in a universe is the doors having handles in the universe of Cars. Why do the cars have handles if there are no humans? If all the cars are anthropomorphic, why, then, do they need to have handles for humans to get inside? It’s a small detail, but it is a detail that completely throws me out of the Cars universe.


When I look at a universe like the Elder Scrolls universe, it is incredibly engrossing. That is something that often happens in fantasy universes. Look at examples like Lord of the Rings and Song of Ice and Fire. Both of these series have huge backstories and volumes of works on histories and family lineages. However, even if a universe isn’t epic in scope, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it engrossing.

If you look at movies like 500 Days of Summer the universe really only revolves around the main character. But the world in which he lives is still incredibly engrossing because of the way that it has been put together: quality characters, non-linear progression, cultural references, interesting settings, interjected song and dance. Although some of these may fall under different story telling categories, but they are all still important in how the universe has been built and how it is enjoyed.


Making a story enjoyable should be easy when you have put the top two items together properly. However, I often find myself building a universe, trying to make it as engrossing as possible (or as engrossing as I think it can be), and then find that the story really isn’t all that enjoyable. Maybe I’ve made a crappy character, maybe I’m spending too much time on exposition. The reasons are infinite. However, if you have spent a great deal of time working on building your universe, you should be able to fix any issues that may make your story a little less than enjoyable.

Those are the three things that I find make a universe worthwhile.

What universes do you find meet all three of these conditions? What universes do you think don’t meet one or more of these conditions? We’d love to hear below.

Beware: The Nerds are Coming!


What’s more amusing than the offhand dismissal of genre as a serious form of fiction? The fear of genre and its fans! Back in 1975, that’s exactly how Newsweek critic Peter S. Prescott came off in an article called “Science Fiction: The Great Escape”.

It’s an article that decries the New Wave of science fiction as work that is edging into territory it shouldn’t belong. My favorite bit is this:

An argument can be made that the ghetto is precisely where science fiction belongs, that it has enough to offer without succumbing to the literary pretensions of the New Wave.

The ghetto! Delightful.

There’s a lot more over at io9, including a very angry response from Kurt Vonnegut.