If you know what good writing is and aren’t a squealing tween or teenage girl with hearts in her eyes, then maybe you may not want to admit you have read all the books of Stephenie Meyer’s breakout hit the Twilight series and have seen all five movies they’re based on. I’m going to make a confession to all you GFN readers––I have read all the books and have seen all the movies. I might feel a little embarrassed, but I was genuinely curious about the series. I’ll also admit I didn’t find the first film and first book all that bad either.
It doesn’t snow in California. I’ve come to accept that, and having lived in places where it does snow, I comfort myself with the firsthand knowledge that as pretty as it is, snow can be a hassle too. But around this time of year, I find myself gravitating towards video games, books, and movies that feature cold winter weather. For some reason, the snowy settings help set the mood for the holidays. That’s why my computer backdrop for the season is this:
It’s Skyrim. And that just happens to be my first choice for my favorite sci-fi and fantasy worlds that make awesome wintry vacation spots, even if it’s just in my imagination.
It might be a dangerous place if you’re on the wrong side of the civil war or facing an unexpected dragon attack, but Skyrim is the most beautiful video game landscape I’ve ever seen and would make an amazing vacation spot. Though parts of it are sunny — a ‘crisp autumn day’ type of sunny, that is — much of it is covered in snow. In fact, Windhelm can look downright bleak with its gray walls and murky skies, but it has an intense atmosphere that draws you in. Personally, I love climbing snow-topped mountains and looking for ruins partially buried under the snow when I play Skyrim. And when I came across a little village along the way, the chilly atmosphere only makes ducking indoors feel cozier.
2. Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia)
The world of Narnia felt so magical when I was a kid, and I still love it. This place is one where animals can talk and magic abounds. There are witches and centaurs and unicorns, and the change of seasons feels important. For instance, there was a time when the White Witch covered Narnia in ice and snow for 100 years, which caused all kinds of hardships for the people. But winter is exactly the time I would want to step through my wardrobe into Narnia, just to experience that thrilling chill of discovery in an atmosphere that so suits it.
3. Pandora (Borderlands)
Pandora is another video game setting that oozes charisma. It’s not always the prettiest of places, but its dingy settlements, psychos, and monsters have a visual appeal that’s part art style, part amazing atmosphere. When I play a Borderlands game, I completely lose myself on the planet of Pandora, and my favorite areas are always the snowy ones. Seeing massive glaciers and tramping through snow with crackling ice nearby is the perfect way to start off a playthrough of Borderlands 2.
4. Hogsmeade (Harry Potter)
Who wouldn’t want to get away from school and drink butterbeer in Hogsmeade? That’s what Harry Potter and his friends do when they get to spend a weekend day in this little all-wizard village of snow-covered cottages and shops. Hogwarts students bundle up in their coats and scarves to make the wintry trek to the village — and then they escape inside where it’s warm. Plus, enchanted candles nestle in the trees during the holiday season to make the place festive. It might be wizards-only, but this town would make a cozy winter getaway for anyone’s imagination.
5. Noveria (Mass Effect)
Noveria is cold — so cold that people stay inside pretty much all the time. When you first visit the planet in the first Mass Effect game, there are severe storm warnings, but of course you brave the weather to complete your mission before it’s too late. While I enjoyed exploring the industrial-looking facilities built on Noveria to shield the people there from the elements, getting into the snow outside and seeing the glaciers up close was even better… even if it did involve driving the Mako.
Science fiction and fantasy have some of the best foods and beverages in fiction. I’m not just talking about Star Trek’s weird obsession with root beet — which is my favorite soda, by the way — but about the array of fictional dishes and drinks. Some days, I feel like the main reason to travel to a sci-fi/fantasy world is the eating. Here are the top five edibles I like to feast my mind upon:
5. Skyrim’s Sweet Roll
The people of Skyrim take their sweet rolls very seriously. Sweet roll theft is running rampant across the land, and everybody knows when somebody’s stolen one of your sweet rolls. That kind of thing just shows on your face, you know? The sweet roll is surprisingly handy in combat situations, because it restores a decent amount of health – at least as far as Skyrim foods go. It’s also decorative, so I like to litter my Skyrim bedrooms with sweet rolls as an alternative to something slightly more romantic, like rose petals.
But my favorite thing about Skyrim’s sweet rolls is that I can imagine exactly what they taste like just by looking at them. They taste like doughnuts with frosting on them. It’s that simple. I want one for breakfast almost every day. In fact, when I’m playing Skyrim, I often like to select a sweet roll in my inventory just so I can spin it in the air and watch it floating perfectly before a terrifying landscape where I could die at any minute. There’s something comforting about sweet rolls, and I love them for it.
4. Lord of the Rings’ Lembas
Also known as Elvish waybread, this is basically a power food. It does something crazy to your system, so just one small bite gives you enough energy and sustenance for an entire day. In Lord of the Rings, this is how Frodo and Sam survive their ridiculously long journey to Mordor. Normally, I would assume this tastes disgusting – sort of like the gruel sailors used to eat, or like the boring rations people always eat in science fiction set in the future, when fruits and vegetables aren’t commonplace anymore. But apparently it’s “more pleasant than cram,” according to one of the elves, so I’m convinced it’s tasty. At least, I was almost convinced, before finding out that cram is kind of like a biscuit, and biscuits are generally gruel. Plus, Frodo and Sam seem really tired of it after a while…
3. Star Trek’s Raktajino
I had to look up how to spell this one, but the name just trips off the tongue. As a fan of caffeine every morning, the idea of ordering a Klingon coffee from the replicator in the AM is extremely appealing. If I lived on Deep Space Nine station, that’s exactly what I would do every day. Raktajino can be served steamed or iced, extra strong or extra sweet, and even with makapa bread that apparently makes a peppermint-flavored froth when dipped in the raktajino. But maybe my favorite thing about this drink is that even though it’s an alien beverage from the future, its name still manages to sound like an Italian coffee, so there’s no confusion as to what this is.
2. Firefly’s Ice-Planet
In “The Message” episode of Firefly, River Tam tries to eat a dessert that basically looks like a ball of swirly ice cream hanging from a string. Sure, it’s problematic, but it looks delicious. I am a huge fan of frozen desserts, so Ice-Planet sounds exactly like the type of food I would enjoy on a summer day or after dinner or pretty much any time. I imagine this one being something like ice pops or popsicles, but I’d be good with straight-up ice cream, too.
1. Harry Potter’s Butterbeer
If I could live inside the pages of Harry Potter for a day, I would spend at least several hours feasting – probably with Ron Weasley, because I think he’s into that, too. And to top off the meal, I would have a keg of butterbeer. The teens at Hogwarts drink it when they go on their field trips into town, but apparently it is slightly alcoholic and makes you feel all warm and tingly inside. It tastes “a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch” and can be served cold or hot. Also, it’s based somewhat on a real medieval/Renaissance drink called “buttered beer,” made from beer, sugar, eggs, butter, and nutmeg — and everything’s better with nutmeg. Mmmm.