Who said that monsters couldn't appear in Cardiff?
: Why Canada
? Head Alien
: I figgered "Who'd f***ing notice?" Goddamn
was I right.
Looking for a place to set the disaster of the week/alien invasion/supervillain's base/origin of the bad guys etc? Well, you can use the classics: New York
for the first three and places like Russia
, North Korea or the Middle East for the last. Of course, you may think that's too cliché. Another alternative is having the last three take place in a fictional town in the middle of nowhere
and have the villains come from some equally-fictional Ruritania
Or you may Take a Third Option
. Have the center of the plot be in an actual place, but some relatively harmless semi-known non-exotic location which makes you ask "Why THERE, of all places?"
. That is the basis of the trope. Are aliens landing in UFOs
? They'll land in Johannesburg, South Africa
, or Roswell, New Mexico
. Is there a neighborhood full of world-class martial artists with superhuman powers? It's in Luxembourg. Is there a Hellmouth
opening? It's opening in Cornwall*
. Is there a magical gateway between worlds? It's in Cleveland
. One of them
, anyway. Is there a mysterious gigantic cavern hidden just beneath the earth's surface, wherein aliens once upon a time created all life on earth? It's underneath Sugarloaf Mountain
This is sometimes Played for Laughs
, though in most cases it rather realistically points out events do happen in the world outside its largest cities. The trope namer is Doctor Who
and subsequent spin-off Torchwood
. This is due to the fact
that the revived Doctor Who
was produced by BBC Wales
. Though Cardiff very often found itself Doubling For London
, New York City
, Space, or the Scottish Highlands for that matter. May also happen as a type of Author Appeal
, when the author is a native of that location. Such an author may also prefer to write what he knows
An author writing about their own country and for their own country may be seen as such by foreigners, even if it was not the original intention. For example, an Argentine sci-fi author writes a comic about an alien invasion that lands in Buenos Aires
. Aliens in Buenos Aires? For an Argentine reader, Buenos Aires is the center of the universe
. For a reader from elsewhere, it's an "Aliens In Cardiff" story.
Not to be confused with Aliens of London
(though this doesn't mean they are mutually exclusive), Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here
(where the location is just generically boring). Contrast with Canada Does Not Exist
, where it's forbidden to name the semi-known location, as well as Washington D.C. Invasion
, when the aliens don't feel like faffing around and cut right to the chase.
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Anime and Manga
- In Soul Eater, Death City, the home of The Grim Reaper and his school, is located in Nevada. It's a play of words on the grimly named desert, Death Valley, which spans parts of California and Nevada.
- This lead to anomalies like the world's most powerful ninja setting up base in Nevada.
- Vladivostok, gets to feature not just in one, but in two completely unrelated shows with a supernatural touch. But while Darker Than Black 's representation is completely accurate, Blood+'s was almost unrecognizable.
- Mizuho-sensei of Please Teacher! lands her spacecraft in Lake Kizaki, Nagano Prefecture, presumably for the Scenery Porn. The spinoff, Onegai Twins is set in the same area.
- The Maguar and the aliens fighting them in Figure17 are confined to rural Hokkaido.
- In Code Geass, one would have expected the capital of Britannia to be somewhere on the North American eastern seaboard, perhaps in one of the original thirteen colonies or the other Britannian (British) New World settlements. Instead, it's located in the middle of Arizona, either around where Yuma (as it was located on a map) or Phoenix (going by the surrounding mountains and southwestern desert landscape) would have been.
- Dominion Tank Police takes place in a heavily polluted, killer cyborg infested, futuristic version of Newport, Rhode Island.
- In Aldnoah.Zero, the Vers Empire's invasion of Earth begins with Martian Landing Castle slamming into four key cities. Tokyo and Beijing are megacities you'd expect an extraterrestrial enemy to invade... but New Orleans and Maputo? But those cities makes sense when you consider the map of the Earth as it stands in Aldnoah.Zero's setting: the East and West Coasts of America are gone, and nearly all of the western coast of Africa as well as northern Mozambique is devastated, so it stands to reason that New Orleans and Maputo have become megacities thanks to population explosions from fleeing refugees. Episode 9 shows us a full map of the invasion.
- One of the Landing Castles settled in Dushanbe, the capital of the tiny and dirt poor Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, which is so awkwardly placed in the corner of the very inaccessible mountainous area of Pamir that it's literally nothing to see and do there: the mountains effectively preclude any meaningful economic development. Unless Martians are interested in meager amounts of cotton and aluminum ore, or prodigious amounts of unskilled laborers that are chief exports of Tajikistan, it's hard to imagine the reason for them to land there.
- Meanwhile, United Earth Headquarters is located in central southern Russia near the Mongolian border. Talk about way out in the boonies. On the other hand, HQ is actually a hardened bunker 600 meters underground that can survive a nuclear strike, so that's not exactly the kind of building that should be found in a major metropolitan area.
- In Halo: Uprising, when a captured UNSC Soldier is tortured by the Covenant, he tells them the "Key of Osanalan" is in Cleveland. It was a ruse to keep them from glassing the city where his brother was living.
- In Gold Digger, the Diggers family lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Consequently, all the supernatural and superscientific friends, enemies, and acquaintances they make during the course of their globe-trotting and multiverse-hopping adventures inevitably end up finding their way there.
- The Jaime Reyes runs of Blue Beetle deviated from the standard "stick the hero in a counterpart of a real-world city" DC formula by having Jaime patrol El Paso, Texas.
- In the 4-issue Great Lakes Avengers series, Maelstrom manages to create his universe-ending device successfully, and has only the titular D-List team to face him. He notes that he succeeded in creating his doomsday device because he didn't go to a major city like Los Angeles, London, or New York, but instead went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin!
- Alpha Flight are superheroes in Canada.
- Pretty much the whole point of The 50 State Initiative. A super Hero team for every state, even Iowa. And of course, our friends The Great Lakes Avengers patrol Wisconsin as The Great Lakes Initiative.
- In Alan Moore's first Swamp Thing story line the Justice League is caught completely off guard when the Floronic Man makes his move.
Green Arrow: Man, I don't believe this! We were watching out for New York, Metropolis, for Atlantis... But who was watching out for Lacroix, Louisiana?
- Howard the Duck was based in Cleveland.
- ROM: Spaceknight: a major center of the Dire Wraith invasion is Clairton, West Virginia.
- Eduardo Risso's (with scripts by Barreiro) "Parque Chas" turns this into a joke, setting a detectivesque comic writer in the very quiet, middle-class, small and residential neighbourhood of Parque Chas, in Buenos Aires, where a lot of crazy paranormal stuff is going on due to a dimensional gate. The craziest part is that there are indeed urban legends about Parque Chas, due to its weird circular streets.
- An escape pod carrying the infant survivor of an otherwise extinct alien species crash lands in Smallville, Kansas. Of course.
- Empowered has a ninja clan in New Jersey.
- The Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run into all kinds of supernatural crap. It's easy to overlook when they're in New York, but it feels jarring when they're constantly running into aliens and eldritch abominations in Northampton, Massachusetts.
- In the Post-Civil War Marvel Comics world Asgard - the home of the gods of Norse legend - is floating over Broxton, Oklahoma.
- Secret Avengers: The secret empire has built their underground teleporting city beneath Toledo, Ohio for two reasons: It has no subway systems and there is very little chance of any government or media attention.
- The new Ms Marvel is Jersey City's very own (well, only) superhero.
- In Worldwar: War of Equals, the aliens do land near or outside capitol cities such as Sao Paulo, Cairo, Kiev, Beijing, and Mumbai, they also choose to land in some place that aren't so popular such as Belleville, Bari, Al Basrah, and Bendigo.
- Cleveland is where Howard the Duck took place, complete with aliens trying to take over the world.
- The MST3K B-Movie The Giant Spider Invasion takes place in Merrill, Wisconsin.
- From Dead Men Dont Wear Plaid: 'At least we managed to get... Terre Haute... Indian-uhh...'
- In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the aliens are first spotted in the town of Muncie, Indiana. They land at Devil's Tower, Wyoming (the mountain Roy keeps trying to sculpt.)
- Alien vs. Predator: Requiem takes place in the small college town of Gunnison, Colorado, about as far out in the sticks as possible. The movie exaggerates, however, making the town several times larger than it really is, and giving it a power station and other such accoutrements (it was actually filmed on Vancouver Island, Canada).
- In Star Trek: First Contact the Vulcans first land in Montana, though they had a pretty good reason as they were looking for the people who managed to create spaceship with warp technology in their basement. This is a case of Author Appeal: Brannon Braga is from Bozeman; he even named a USS starship after it.
- Except for the big battle in San Francisco, the President's War Room and the undisclosed location of the monster prison, most of the action in Monsters vs. Aliens takes place in Modesto, California. This is lampshaded in the TV Halloween Special Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space: "Why is it always Modesto?"
- Starship Troopers: The first city attacked by the aliens in Buenos Aires, which happens to be our hero's hometown.
- Discussed in The Faculty. When one character points out the absurdity of aliens secretly invading via a High School in small town Ohio, another Genre Savvy character points out that it'd be easier to secretly invade in somewhere out of the way than try to blow up The White House, which the whole world will notice.
- Lampshaded in the first ten minutes of District 9, where the sick, malnourished aliens had the misfortune to make first contact with Johannesburg, and notes when the ship first appears over the city that it wasn't some place like New York, London, or Chicago. Cue thinly-veiled apartheid parallels.
- The remake of The Stepford Wives lampshades this during the antagonist's speech near the end:
"I asked myself, where would people never notice a town full of robots? *mocking gasp* Connecticut!
- In this short film Ataque de Pánico! (Panic Attack!), aliens destroy Montevideo. Where? Why it's the capital of Uruguay of course!
- Thor: upon being stripped of his powers, Thor lands in a small town in New Mexico; and his hammer, Mjolnir, in another location 50 miles away from his. Dr. Jane Foster and her colleagues seem to take this in stride as Thor has trouble adjusting to Earth customs.
- Attack the Block has aliens landing in London, but it's not exactly the postcard version.
Dimples: "What kind of alien, out of all the places in the whole wide world, would invade some shitty council estate in south London?"
Dennis: "One that's lookin' for a fight!"
- Looper is a hardboiled, time-traveling hitman tale set in... Kansas.
- In Incident At Raven's Gate, aliens invade a small town in South Australia.
- In Bruges, which takes place in "fuckin' Bruges," was chosen because the protagonists are laying low and it naturally makes sense as a result. However, since Bruges is relatively unknown in real life too, the characters frequently question where it actually is.
- Dude, Where's My Car?: "We will now use the power of the Continuum Transfunctioner to banish you to Hoboken, New Jersey!"
- In The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Ford Prefect explains why aliens always seem to land in the middle of nowhere.
Ford: Teasers are usually rich kids with nothing to do. They cruise around looking for planets that haven't made interstellar contact and buzz them . . . They find some isolated spot with very few people around, then land right by some poor unsuspecting soul whom no one's ever going to believe and then strut up and down in front of him wearing silly antennas on their heads and making beep beep noises. Rather childish really.
- The first Martian ship to reach Earth in The War of the Worlds lands in Horsell Common in Woking, Surrey. Orson Welles' radio production, and many subsequent adaptations, move it to Grover's Mill, New Jersey.
- The small town of Illium, NY, is where the world-destroying substance Ice-9 is developed in Kurt Vonnegut's classic Cats Cradle. It's also where Billy Pilgrim is abducted by aliens in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.
- In The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein, aliens invade Grinnell, Iowa (changed for very little good reason to Ambrose, Iowa, in The Movie).
- This trope is openly discussed by Stan and Pete in How To Build A Skydeck, set in the small town of Columbus, Georgia.
- Daniel Pinkwater likes setting the weirdness in his books in odd places like Hoboken (The Hoboken Chicken Emergency) or other obscure towns (Yobgorble: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario). And that's when the weirdness isn't happening in Hogboro.
- In Roger Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand, the rogue terrorist threatening the world (or at least threatening the world's good relations with its new alien friends) does indeed turn out to be Australian.
- The Captain Underpants series takes place in Piqua, Ohio, a real city with a population of a little over 20,000.
- Good Omens has Lower Tadfield, an unremarkable village somewhere in rural (probably) Oxfordshire, as the location of Anti Christ and start of the Apocalypse.
- The short story "On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy" by Desmond Warzel is a literal case of Aliens in Cleveland; well, actually, aliens in the upscale suburbs of Gates Mills and Lyndhurst (apparently even extraterrestrials have standards).
- The first scouting sortie of the alien collective in Alan Dean Foster's A Call to Arms encounters as its first human contact a musician in a fishing boat off the coast of Belize.
- The events of Scott Westerfeld's Midnighters trilogy takes place in Bixby, population: 13,000. Though the location is important to the plot.
- The Chrysalids portrays a surviving enclave of civilsation after an implied nuclear holocaust. Naturally it's in Newfoundland (although New Zealand seems to be doing pretty well too.)
- Twilight is set in Forks, Washington, a place the residents have barely heard of. Another vampire clan lives in Denali, Alaska. Considering they've been there for a while and how rural, scenic and insular these places are, this may also overlap with Lovecraft Country.
- In the novels of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the largest vampire population—and the headquarters of the eponymous secret society—is in Caldwell, NY. Yep.
- The Mercy Thompson series of books, sure people know OF the Tri-Cities in Washington, but few can name all three, and remember this is three cities that take up the same amount of mileage as the ONE city that Washington is known for.
- An entry for the Bulwer-Lytton worst-first-sentence contest discards the Big City and sets the putative action in a more unlikely venue:
"It had been three days since Torfongu had eaten Los Angeles, and now he sat staring down at Bakersfield... a tasty little morsel, indeed."
- In John Dies at the End, the extradimensional shenanigans take place in an unnamed town in the American midwest. In early drafts of the story, the town was identified as Rockville, Indiana.
- The Mediochre Q Seth Series is primarily set in Scotland, due to Creator Provincialism. The title character notes at one point that the highlands of Scotland are "good dragon country".
- Robert J Saywer’s Calculating God: The aliens want to take a good look at Earth fossils, so they go to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
- His Neanderthal Parallax books have a Neanderthal from a parallel universe appear in...Sudbury, Ontario. Sort of justified, since the device that sent him there was built in the same cavern as the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. You may have guessed by now that Robert J. Sawyer is from Ontario.
- In The Kane Chronicles, Set initiates his plan to take over the world, obviously starting in New York, right? I mean, that's where the heroes are based and that's where the last group of evil gods started their attack. But no, he starts with Phoenix, Arizona.
- Apparently Maine is haunted as crap. Between the Eldritch Abomination sleeping under Derry, the Wendigo doing his thing in an Indian Burial Ground just outside Ludlow, the ancient alien spacecraft buried in the woods outside Haven, and all the crap that goes down in Castle Rock....
- Richard III in the 21st Century comes to call Portland, Oregon home after his initial trip through time there. Other important scenes take place in Rochester, New York, and the Big Applesauce shows up as a location only because of the justified use of New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Hospital as the site of some very specific medical research.
- S. Andrew Swann's Dragons of the Cuyahoga duology has a portal to a magical world open in Cleveland, and dragons, elves, dwarves and such come through, along with magic (limited only to the greater Cleveland region).
- The Raven Cycle takes place in small town Henrietta, Virginia, which is apparently (due to being on a ley line) a hub of psychic energy, ghosts, and magic in general. Oh, and the burial ground of an ancient magic Welsh king that may or may not grant wishes. The second book The Dream Thieves adds Dream Walkers to the list.
- While vampyres in the The House of Night series exist all over the world, most of the action takes place in a House of Night in... Tulsa, Oklahoma. A comment by Aphrodite's parents, in Betrayed, actually suggests that going to the school in Tulsa was more notable and prestigious than going to a "no-name House of Night" in Europe.
Live Action TV
- Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." Although it is mentioned that he was "way behind" and getting desperate.
- Subverted-by-Real Life example: The designers of Shadowrun originally picked Seattle for their game's home base, because as large North American cities went, it was relatively obscure in pre-90s pop culture. Little did they suspect that movies, TV shows, grunge and Starbucks would conspire to elevate Seattle's cultural prominence in the years to follow.
- White Wolf's website had a Java-based RPG chat room for their New World of Darkness also set in Atlanta, Georgia; the Old World of Darkness chat had the fictional city of "New Bremen" instead.
- In an It's Walky! storyline, Head Alien experiments with his new time freezing technology in a small town in Canada, leading to the exchange in the page quote. It's also an excuse for a Cross Over with another webcomic, Avalon, set in small-town Canada, which was in the middle of a long hiatus.
- In the flash series 21 (a parody of 24), plumber Al Johnstone has 21 minutes to save Norwich from a nuclear explosion.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja takes place in a heavily fictionalized version of Cumberland, Maryland. Nobody in the comic thinks anything of it.
- Although a very populous place, there are not many superhero stories that take place place in Germany's Ruhr Area, a fact that was one of the motivations of Ruhr Area native Arne Schulenberg for creating Union of Heroes.
- Spinnerette features superhero action in Columbus, Ohio.
- Fairville, the town where The FAN takes place is actually the author's hometown, a real Transylvanian city called Marosvasarhely.
- The main setting of At Arm's Length and seemingly main magical entrance portal to Earth Houston. Apparently monsters like to target Hermann Park.
- The PPC's main base in the real world (or "World One") is a city in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory. Nobody is quite sure why, though there are other doors to HQ scattered about Earth and the multiverse in general.
- Brental Floss' Civilization song includes the line "learn to write before you can read and build the Taj Mahal right in Cleveland".
- The events of Roswell, New Mexico come to mind. Aside from the odd military base, the closest notable landmark are the Carlsbad Caverns, and even that is a bit of a stretch.
- Of course, Roswell is now a landmark, but that's because of the UFO crash more than anything else.
- Following WWII (and at the time of the Incident) Roswell was the home base for the 509th Bombardment Wing, the world's only nuclear strike force. Which almost certainly has nothing to do with the Incident, but it makes great conspiracy theory fuel.
- It is also worth noting that Roswell is where Robert H. Goddard, a founding father of modern rocketry developed and tested rockets in the 1930s. A local high school is named in his honor.
- Given that it was a facility for rocket testing, locating it as far away as possible from anything was most probably intentional.
- Bonnybridge in Scotland has an average of three-hundred U.F.O. sightings per annum, earning it the nickname "U.F.O. Capital of the World" despite the fact it's a fairly obscure town (even in Scotland).
- The Flatwoods monster/alien that was seen in Flatwoods, West Virginia, in 1952. The town has a population of 348.
- The stereotypical monster/alien sighting is the redneck who lives out in the middle of nowhere.
- A non-alien example, but when the Live 8 concert locations were announced back in 2005, with concerts in places like London, Paris and Berlin, Canada's concert venue was held in Barrie, a cottage town about 60 miles north of Toronto. This was much to the bemusement of many, particularly residents of Barrie.
- For that matter, the original Woodstock concert took place on a dairy farm in the Catskills near Bethel, New York. Most of the area's few thousand residents felt the same way about its attendees and performers as they would have about alien invaders.
- Wacken Open Air is probably THE largest Heavy Metal festival in the world, held in the small German village of Wacken, pop. 1,819. With about 80,000 visitors, "alien invasion in a small town" sounds about right.
- The Tunguska Event, largest asteroid/comet impact in recorded history, was in the middle of nowhere - fortunate, given had it hit a city it would have leveled it. Of course, conspiracy and fringe theories about the cause abound.
- The Niihau Incident, during World War II. One of the Pearl Harbor bombers crash-landed on the Hawaiian island of Niihau, believing it to be uninhabited. The island is privately owned and access is restricted, but a tiny community who still speak the native Hawaiian language are allowed to live there. The Niihauns, who could not communicate with the outside world, were left to deal with the Japanese pilot all by themselves.