May 3rd, 2006


SF and fantasy set in Belgium

Some of you will have seen my list of sf and fantasy novels set in Ireland. I have been living in Belgium now for over seven years, and it occurred to me that there must be a similar list possible of sf and fantasy set here.

I have two items to start off with:

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell (2004): one of the nested stories is set in Zedelghem.

The Guns of Avalon, by Roger Zelazny (1972):
"From Antwerp we had traveled to Brussels, spending several evenings at a club on the Rue de Char et Pain before the man I wanted found me."
Anything more?

(I'm specifically thinking of written sf and fantasy. If we expand the scope out to comics there are an awful lot more, starting with Tintin.)

Edited to add: sammywol reminds me - as I should have remembered perfectly well - of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke (2004) which features the Battle of Waterloo.

Michael Ross raises the question of Kate Elliot's "Crown of Stars" series. As far as I can tell these are set in a rather distorted Europe, to the point that you couldn't really count it as "set" in France, Belgium, etc. Same goes for the Kushiel trilogy (though as far as I remember they avoid the Low Countries entirely).

Failed States Index

Foreign Policy has just published its annual Failed States Index, ranking 146 countries from Sudan to Norway in order of vulnerability to state failure.

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As with all of these things, it's good to have a basis for argument. I do take issue with some of the rankings. While I don't think many people would dispute that the top eight countries on the list probably are in pretty bad shape (Sudan, DR Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Chad, Somalia and Haiti) I'm a bit surprised to see Pakistan listed next, as being in a worse situation than Afghanistan, Guinea or Liberia. Serbia and Montenegro is very likely to split apart later this month, but is only 55th on the table. (OK, so it's not exactly "state failure", in that there will be little disruption to existing structures.)

Anyhow, food for thought.