The past week or so I had a few brainstorming sessions with Jens, as we are world building and plotting and character building in preparation of what we hope will be a novel of epic proportions. Between that, associating with people like these, and living close to one of the most ridiculous cities in the nation makes me realize how immensely depressing Texas can be. (I am deeply hoping I can get the hell out of town the first weekend of February.)
Primarily, this is brought home as we are world-building. We’re coming up with these vibrant, colorful, interesting cities with skylines full of towers, fantasy hydro-electric plants, airships, trains, canals, slums full of kraken-worshiping mutants, etc.
You know, the usual. And there are places in this real world of ours that are just as interesting.
Texas is not one of them. I can’t walk a block without seeing a slab of concrete full of idiotically huge trucks. Beside these parking lots hunkers a string of donut shops, tanning salons, pizza joints, huge pharmacies, and dental offices. Half a mile down the road, you will find the exact same thing, only there donut is spelled doughnut. Across the street from these stand more of these outlets, only half the stores are empty, and further down there is an identical outlet under construction. If you want, you can jump on the highway and drive ten miles (which will take you at least half an hour in traffic) to reach any number of other areas that look exactly the same, or go downtown, which is full of more parking lots. It’s hard to find a coffee shop that’s open past three or four in the afternoon (that isn’t a Starbucks), and local bookstores are nonexistent. Everything is built to last only as long as it needs to until the next corporate entity comes along to knock it over and build something equally unimpressive. An eon from now archaeologists will snicker at the suckers who get stuck digging up ancient America instead of ancient Europe.
Unless you’re a musician, building a community of artists is difficult; I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found the handful of peers that I have. Even with our close-knit group, finding places to gather can sometimes be a chore. Most would rather live somewhere else. This just isn’t a place conducive to creativity.
I shouldn’t pick on Texas, since this is a widespread phenomenon across the US. It’s just easier because I live here, and because just a year ago I was in a city that was awesome in pretty much every way that things suck here.
And don’t get me started on the politics or the “Texas is awesome just because” mentality, which seems to do nothing but leave people contented to live with what is actually a pretty shitty status quo.
I’ve been picking at this post all morning and now forgotten what my original point was. I guess this is all just a side effect of creating a playground for storytelling. There’s always been an escapist element to reading, and perhaps we shouldn’t go comparing fantasy to reality too much.
Post Script: To end on a happier note, I should say that cooperative world building with a like-minded writer, especially one as talented as Jens, is mind-blowingly awesome. The logistics of it are daunting, but when it comes together the process is extremely fun.