Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Science Fiction Set In Your Home Town

If you grew up in New York or Los Angeles, you'll find no dearth of science fiction set in your home town, with familiar locales and landmarks. The same thing applies if you were born in Trantor, Diaspar, or Coruscant. But if, like me, you come from the Midwest, you won't see a lot of local color in the science fiction you read.

I grew up in St. Louis, so I was delighted to encounter The Jericho Iteration, by Allen Steele. Steele's novel is a science fiction conspiracy thriller set in a St. Louis devastated by an earthquake on the New Madrid fault. I enjoyed recognizing the numerous local landmarks in the novel, although I didn't actually like the story itself. But that's beside the point -- the important thing is that St. Louis has a science fiction novel to call its own.

I should also mention that the near-future dystopian film Escape from New York was filmed in St. Louis, despite being set in New York. Apparently New York was insufficiently run down to serve the filmmakers, so they came to St. Louis instead. Now that's something for a native St. Louisan like me to be proud of.

What about my adopted home of Nashville?

I think the most interesting work of science fiction set in Nashville is "The Voluntary State," by Christopher Rowe. In this short story, a key role is played by the 40-foot-tall statue of Athena that graces our full-size replica of the Parthenon. (The real statue itself is bizarre enough to inspire nightmares in children). As far as the Parthenon itself is concerned, I can only quote the plaintive question that my friends from England asked me after they had visited here and saw the Nashville Parthenon for the first time: "Why, Bob, why?"

Update: I forgot that my own short story, "Extra Innings," is set in St. Louis, and "Descartes's Stepchildren" takes place in Nashville. It's set at Vanderbilt, actually, although I never mention the university by name. But writing your own stories doesn't give you the thrill of recognizing familiar places in someone else's work.


TheOFloinn said...

The Rift by Walter Jon WIlliams is also set at least partly in the region (and involves the New Madrid fault.

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt begins in a region where near Memphis far in a depopulated future.

Kathy said...

I'm drawing a blank on Diaspar, aside from Clarke's "The City and The Stars" (his best novel, IMO, after "The Fountains of Paradise.")

I wonder what Alderaanians think of their turn at science fiction stardom...

Robert Scherrer said...

Yes, that was the reference.