From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A fictional country is a country that is made up for fictional stories, and does not exist in real life. Fictional lands appear most commonly as settings or subjects of literature, movies, or video games. They may also be used for technical reasons in actual reality for use in the development of specifications, such as the fictional country of Bookland.
Fictional countries appear commonly in stories of early science fiction (or scientific romance). Such countries supposedly form part of the normal Earth landscape although not located in a normal atlas. Later similar tales often took place on fictional planets.
Jonathan Swift's protagonist, Lemuel Gulliver, visited various strange places. Edgar Rice Burroughs placed adventures of Tarzan in areas in Africa that, at the time, remained mostly unknown to the West and to the East. Isolated islands with strange creatures and/or customs enjoyed great popularity in these authors' times. By the 19th century, When Western explorers had surveyed most of the Earth's surface, this option was lost to Western culture. Thereafter fictional utopian and dystopian societies tended to spring up on other planets or in space, whether in human colonies or in alien societies originating elsewhere. Fictional countries can also be used in stories set in a distant future, with other political borders than today.
Writers may create an archetypal fictional "Eastern European", "Middle Eastern", "Asian", "African" or "Latin American" country for the purposes of their story often called a "Foreign Power".
Such countries often embody stereotypes about their regions. For example, inventors of a fictional Eastern European country will typically describe it as a former or current Soviet satellite state, or with a suspense story about a royal family; if pre-20th century, it will likely resemble Ruritania or feature copious vampires and other supernatural phenomena. A fictional Middle Eastern state often lies somewhere on the Arabian peninsula, has substantial oil-wealth and will have a sultan, or features a stereotypically Muslim Extremist culture, widespread terrorism and poverty, and a country name ending in -istan. A fictional Latin American country will typically project images of a banana republic beset by constant revolutions, military dictatorships, and coups d'état. A fictional African state will suffer from poverty, civil war and disease. A fictional Caribbean nation will feature voodoo and poverty.
Modern writers usually do not try to pass off their stories as facts. However, in the early 18th century George Psalmanazar passed himself off as a prince from the island of Formosa (present-day Taiwan) and wrote a fictional description about it to convince his sponsors.
Some larcenous entrepreneurs have also invented fictional countries solely for the purpose of defrauding people. In the 1820s, Gregor MacGregor sold land in the invented country of Poyais. In modern times, the Dominion of Melchizedek and the Kingdom of EnenKio have been accused of this. Many varied financial scams can play out under the aegis of a fictional country, including selling passports and travel documents, and setting up fictional banks and companies with the seeming imprimatur of full government backing.
Fictional countries in survey research
Fictional countries have been created for polling purposes. When polled in April 2004, 10% of British people believed that the fictional country of Luvania would soon join the European Union. In the 1989 General Social Survey, U.S. respondents were asked to rate the social status of people of "Wisian" background, a fictional national heritage. While a majority of respondents said they could not place the Wisians in the U.S. social hierarchy, those who did ranked their status as quite low, just slightly above Mexican-Americans. "Once you let the Wisians in, the neighborhood goes to pot," quipped Time Magazine.
Countries from stories, myths, legends, that some people have believed to actually exist.
- El Dorado
- Mu (continent)
- Shangri-La or Shambhala
- Zembla (See Pale Fire)
- Fictional African countries
- Fictional Asian countries
- Fictional city
- Fictional companies
- Fictional geography
- Jennifer Government: NationStates
- List of fictional counties
- List of fictional countries
- List of fictional European countries
- List of fictional planets
- List of fictional U.S. states
- List of fictional universes
- Proposed country
- Alberto Manguel & Gianni Guadalupi: The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, ISBN 0-15-626054-9
- Brian Stableford: The Dictionary of Science Fiction Places