Best SF Settings to live in, not to visit

SfSignal is polling readers for their favorite SF&F setting and background. You can see the other answers here:

This is my answer.

TOTAL GEEK ALERT. Don’t tell anyone, but I play role-playing games. I have noticed that in any game where the players can pick their surroundings, such as in an AMBER game, they gravitate toward STAR TREK. In a role-playing game, the players encounter the day-to-day advantages and miseries of the settings. You think about it differently if you are picking a place to settle down with your family.

Why STAR TREK? Because it is user-friendly, and just plain friendlier than other SFF places. Let’s review:

Middle-Earth of LORD OF THE RINGS. No flush toilets. If you are not a scion of Numenor or an Istari from beyond the sea, who are you, like a gardener, maybe? And how is a stranger going to fit in? If you, a Big Person, goes into the Green Dragon for an ale, the hobbits will stare and make comments behind your back.

Mongo from FLASH GORDON. Not friendly to strangers. If you are a girl, you end up in the Imperial harem; a scientist, in the Imperial labs, and maybe getting brain-controlled unless you like the Beatles or something; if you’re a guy, you’re in the Imperial Arena fighting a space-dinosaur. There are winged space-Vikings and tree-swinging space-Merry Men, who seem picturesque, but all these guys are soldiers at war. On the positive side, the emperor’s evil but beautiful daughter might fall madly in love with you.

Dune from DUNE. On the positive side, the Spice extends life and expands consciousness. On the negative side, if you are not a member of the aristocratic houses, the Spacing Guild, or a Bene Gesserit, being addicted to Spice means you will be longer-lived as a serf with an expanded consciousness, so you will notice how your life sucks more.

Tellus from GALACTIC PATROL. Oh my, no. Merely stepping on any planet involved in the Civilization-Boskone war is a risk. Those bad boys throw planets and negaspheres and extra-dimensional suns around like marbles. Since all their space-opera weapons are inconceivably powerful, and unthinkably long-range, your chance of surviving is low, even supposing your solar system is not one of those swept into a hyperspatial tube.

Any planet in the same sidereal universe or nearby fourth-dimensional spaces from SKYLARK OF SPACE. I am not going into no universe with Blackie DuQuense, nossir, no thank you, no way. He would teleport my sun through the fourth dimension with sixth-order rays in order to wipe out a galaxy full of chlorine breathers, and then where would I be?

Earth from Larry Niven’s KNOWN SPACE. Crowded. Weapons illegal, as is knowing martial arts. They license having babies.

STAR WARS. War, and more war. Also, planets get blown up a la GALACTIC PATROL. If you are not a Jedi, fugeddaboutit.

Terminus or Trantor of FOUNDATION. If you like living under Imperial bureaucracy, living in a galactic Dark Ages, or living under the rule of psionic cliocrats (what DO you call rule by means of Psycho-history, anyway?), at least it might be peaceful. If you want your freedom, though, maybe not so nice.

Any world invented by Jack Vance. If you are not eaten by a Dirdir, you will probably end up getting cluthe-poisoned by Howard Alan Treesong the Demon Prince who explains in elegant language that you have caused his nerves an exquisite thrill of displeasure, and therefore the Rule of Equipoise requires your excruciation. And you will never get the girl. No one in a Jack Vance book ever gets the girl. On the other hand, if you want to lean on the taffrail of your ketch and regard the magnificent melancholy sunset of Sirius from the Draschade Ocean, with the rose, cerise and gamboge light playing across the waters, while sipping a Rum Toddy, any world of his would be just the place to do it.

Any world invented by Robert Heinlein. You’ll get a lot of liberated, good-looking women willing to hop in the sack, but most of his planets, come to think of it, are not that nice. RAH was worried about the future, and his worlds are worrisome: STARSHIP TROOPERS, war. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, police-state. TUNNEL IN THE SKY, overpopulation. CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY, slavery. MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, war, overpopulation, police-state and penal servitude.

The Mars of Ray Bradbury. No thanks. Killed by Martians who shoot you with a bee-gun because your brain waves make him look like Jesus Christ or something.

Anarres of Ursula K. LeGuin. At last! A utopia! Unfortunately, it is not a nice place to visit. You can neither buy mementoes nor own them, or even rent a hotel room. And it is not a nice place to raise kids, since you are not allowed to raise children; they are all raised by the non-state in communes. There names are assigned by computer.

Compare that to STAR TREK. First, for you guys, there is Lt. Uhura in a miniskirt. Second, for you gals, Kirk with his shirt ripped off. His shirt is ripped from his manly frame as often as that of Doc Savage, I swear. Third, the universe is so kid-friendly that they let you raise your children aboard a warship, and, if your kid is a supergenius, they let him place with the matter-antimatter warp drive. Fourth, food from any replicator. Fifth, no traffic jams, because you can beam anywhere. Sixth, no racism, no pollution, no starvation, no poverty, and except for occasionally being possessed by the energy-ghost of Jack the Ripper, no crime. While there might be a war in your lifetime, chances are fifty-fifty that the Organians will simply put a stop to it.