Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

There are numerous exceptions, but the landscapes depicted in Secondary-World tales seem generally of two types: a Land, consisting of an assortment of countries which frequently surround a central inland sea; and a world-straddling oceanscape, featuring archipelagos. Archipelagos are also found in Otherworld and Land-of-Fable fantasies and in Planetary Romances, because the islands making up an archipelago tend naturally to differ very widely from one another. Whereas Island stories – like T H White's The Master (1958) – tend to house tyrants and Utopias, archipelagos are useful whenever a range of possible societies is to be contrastingly depicted, as in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), Herman Melville's Mardia and a Voyage Thither (1849), Clark Ashton Smith's "The Voyage of King Euvoran" (1933) – whose protagonist discovers various eccentric domains in "the archipelagos of morning" eastward from Zothique – Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) – in which the great city of Gup, choked with a Wonderland assortment of inhabitants, is built on an archipelago in the Ocean of the Streams of Story – Ursula K Le Guin's Earthsea quartet (1968-1990), or the Efica island group in Peter Carey's The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994); they are also useful, as in William Morris's The Water of the Wondrous Isles (1897), when an author wishes to dramatize the flight from an unwanted circumstance to a longed-for destination. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.