A Tourist’s Guide to the Best (and Worst) Cities in Science-Fiction and Fantasy

Cover highres- iron ghostWe are delighted to welcome Jen Williams back to the Gollancz Blog to share a very special guest post with you. Looking for the perfect SFF location to while away the last weekend in February? Jen Williams has provided a handy guide for the best (and worst) places to stay while on an SFF vacation.

If a traveller should be in possession of an adventurous heart, a pocketful of coin and a decent pair of boots, my own books contain a wealth of interesting holiday options. Place a few bets on the fighting pits in the Marrow Market, hike through the breath-taking and holy mountains of Ynnsmouth, or spend a week in the Blackwood avoiding getting eaten by a bear. But what if you’d rather not run the risk of incineration by a particularly unforgiving dragon? Here are a few other options for the courageous tourist:


“There’s a saying that all roads lead to Ankh-Morpork. And it’s wrong. All roads lead away from Ankh-Morpork, but sometimes people walk along them the wrong way”

Ankh-Morpork is a thousand cities in one; possibly the most city city to ever exist – almost an anthropomorphic city of a city, if you see what we mean. There’s so much to do here it practically invented tourism – have a good stamp around on the Ankh River (don’t wear any boots you would be sorry to lose though) before reviving your senses with a few pints at the Mended Drum, or if you’re of the Undead persuasion, a Bloody Mary at Biers. When you’ve recovered – or perhaps when you’ve beaten your bodily organs into submission – you’ll be ready for a visit to the Dwarf Bread Museum, or perhaps an eventful stroll around the Shades; both of which will require a strong constitution.

Don’t go to Ankh-Morpork if you are looking to start a career in Mime, as this will have you hanging over the scorpion pit faster than you can say “ – ”

Do visit the city if you’ve a hankering for some sort of meat-based product on a stick, or if you have a problem that might require the application of magic – the wizards at the Unseen University will be too busy eating breakfast, lunch, elevenses, dinner, tea, or supper to actually help, but you can be sure that your difficulties will provide them with much needed faculty banter.

King’s Landing

“Smoke, sweat, and shit. King’s Landing, in short. If you have a good nose you can smell the treachery too.”

King’s Landing features many fine places of interest for the curious traveler, and if you can keep your head and have a few coins spate to bribe the gold cloaks, you’re bound to have a wonderful stay. Be sure to get a look at the Iron Throne – the kingdom’s least comfortable chair and surely crying out for a scale model in the gift shop, and the view over Blackwater Bay is spectacular with or without ships burning with wildfire. Don’t miss the fine selection of severed heads on permanent display at the Red Keep, and of course no visit to King’s Landing would be complete without a visit to Flea Bottom for a taste of local colour – in this case the colour is brown, and it comes in bowls.

Don’t go to King’s Landing if you have a mysterious plot to uncover, an impeccable sense of honour, or a particular liking for especially large pies – all have been known to be fatal within the confines of the Westerosi royal capital city. We would also advise against making yourself known to Queen Cersei in any sense, going hunting with King Robert, or feeling overcome with honesty when asked your opinions on Good Prince Joffrey.

Do go to King’s Landing if you have a severe personal body odour problem – the city smells so bad no one will notice. If anything, you will be considered unusually fragrant.

The Citadel

“I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favourite store on the Citadel!”

Centre of Galactic civilisation, the Citadel doesn’t just have plenty of room for your bad ass Turian-designed space cruiser, it also boasts some of Commander Shepard’s most treasured shops and dodgy nightclubs. There’s no better place to buy fish for your randomly enormous fish tank, or perhaps wind down your evening dancing awkwardly in Flux whilst avoiding drinking any Turian alcohol. Built by supposedly extinct ancient space geniuses, the Citadel is light and airy, with many astounding views, and only gets attacked by indoctrinated special agents once every few years or so.

Don’t go to the Citadel if you’re alarmed by green, many-legged creatures just calmly going about their business. The Keepers don’t speak, but we’re fairly sure they’re just maintaining the smooth running of the Citadel and not up to anything creepy. Even though we know that if the space station happens to get partially blown up in some sort of galactic war and the Wards are filled with the dead, the Keepers will still be there, merrily poking away at computer screens. Staring at nothing with their dead eyes. Also, it is worth noting that the Citadel is not the place to test drive your Mako.

Do visit the space station if you would like to experience a full range of exciting activities, such as retrieving apparently useless items, or persuading random strangers to do random favours – the Citadel is full of citizens just waiting to tell you all about their problems, possibly at great length, and they will be happy to fill your holiday with innocuous yet strangely rewarding tasks.


“Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for turbulence: you’re flying into . . . the Roland Zone!”

Want to go to New York but can’t afford it? Why not try Lud, twinner to the Big Apple and perfect for budget breaks. Take in the resplendently post-apocalyptic atmosphere of a world that has moved on, whilst marvelling at the enthusiastically violent clashes between quaint local street gangs, the Grays and the Pubes. No visit to Lud is complete without a ride on Blaine the Mono of course, where if you’re lucky and he doesn’t kill you outright you might get to glimpse Topeka and The Falls of the Hounds. Just be sure to pack a lunch, a joke book, and a cyanide capsule for when you inevitably cease to amuse the monorail. Please note, the timetable may be disrupted by nerve gas and unstable computers.

Don’t go to Lud if you have a negative opinion of ritualised sacrifice as this is unlikely to be popular with the locals, and any overly large men with clock-fixations are best to be avoided.

Do go to Lud if you’re a fan of ZZTop and 19 is your lucky number.

Mega-City One

“It’s all the deep end.”

Well citizen, given that it’s a choice between the mutants and misery of the Cursed Earth or the delights of Mega-City One, we can already tell you’re going to enjoy your stay. Spectacularly overcrowded and cheerily dangerous, Mega-City One boasts many unique diversions, such as Apetown, the fiercely competitive Block-Wars, and the world’s finest range of narcotics. Be sure to avail yourself of whatever fad is currently entertaining the young citizens (synchronized leaping, anyone?) but be sure to avoid Future Shock Syndrome – this is the exact opposite of the relaxed atmosphere you should be experiencing on holiday, after all. Of course if you’re after complete isolation and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the hectic future-world, you could always break the law and a Judge will be along in short order to escort you to your new accommodation in the Iso-Blocks.

Don’t visit the City if you have the urge to be in wide open spaces. The Cursed Earth can provide that, but be sure to take some weapon’s grade sun lotion.

Do go if you’ve a particular liking for helmets, big shoulder armour and bad ass motorcycles.


We want to know what SFF cities you’d love to visit on an SFF book holiday. Leave your suggested city in the comments below by 23.59pm on the  8th March 2015 and we’ll enter you into a draw to win a copy of The Iron Ghost. For full T&Cs visit: http://bit.ly/18tNWjB


Jen WilliamsJen Williams lives in London with her partner and her cat. Jen is an Xbox obsessive who spends much of her time frowning at notebooks in cafes and fiddling with maps of imaginary places. She started writing about pirates and dragons as a young girl and has never stopped. Her short stories have featured in numerous anthologies. THE COPPER PROMISE was her first novel and THE IRON GHOST is out now. Follow Jen on twitter @sennydreadful