I can now answer my own question as I have just been to a seriously weird place while on holiday. As you can imagine, authors travel looking for inspirational locations but sometimes what they see is just so strange that you can only imagine a fantasy novel being set there.
My family and I went to Iceland this month – wonderful country about which I had very little idea. It’s full of the oddest landscapes thanks to the recent and continuing volcanic activity. This is the homeland of Eyjafjallajökull that shut down international flights in 2010. Well, the not-so-good news, folks, is that Eyjafjallajökull is relatively small for Iceland and the big daddy of a volcano, Hekla, right next door is ready to blow. The only good news is that we will all be able to say its name. I’m glad I only read this article in the Telegraph after my return as we stayed pretty much at the foot of it…
(On the other hand, geological time is one of those things that you can’t worry too much about. The window of danger lasts years.)
The strangest place, though, wasn’t Hekla but a lagoon a little further east. These volcanoes I’m describing are all under a huge glacier. One spur of that is melting quite rapidly, possibly thanks in part to climate change. Large bits break off and float into a lagoon, get swept out to sea, and are then washed back on to a black sand beach. Because this is ancient ice, it has a wonderful diamond bright quality. Walking along the shore, seeing seals and birds fishing among the ice fragments, has become one of my top ten life experiences.
But setting a story there? Now that’s a challenge. The James Bond franchise has used it as a set (they refroze the lagoon especially in order to stage a car chase on it – as one guide said, what did the wildlife make of that?) I’m going to have to think for a long time how it could possibly fit.
In the meantime, perhaps you’d like to tell me about your strangest place you’ve visited?