This talk by David Simon, the man behind The Wire and Treme, really touches on a sore spot for me. He talks about how The New York Times refused to review his book Homicide because it was “a regional book” — i.e., not set in New York City. I’m surprised he was able to find a publisher at all. When my agent started marketing The Last Three Miles to publishers, we heard the R word over and over again. Here was a book about the transformation of America by the automobile, a book about the first superhighway project in America, starring a political boss with enough clout to intimidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but it happened in New Jersey so it was a “regional” story. If Jesus ever does come back, he better not make his appearance in Hackensack — nobody would cover it.
In part because I’m enjoying the hell out of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, I decided to link back to this very interesting Crooked Timber seminar on Mieville’s Iron Council. I can see what John Holbo is getting at when he says that Mieville wants to give fantasy its first novel with the gritty visual density of Blade Runner, though I might point out that the vividly described, multilayered squalor of Lankhmar made Fritz Leiber’s heroic fantasies stand out as far back as the Sixties and Seventies. Leiber’s obvious relish for city life went against the grain of Tolkien-derived pastoralist fantasies, and even the briefest adventure of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser made Lankhmar seem inhabited in a way Minas Tirith or Edoras never did.
Here’s a place I want to visit next time I’m out California way.
Times like these require a real take-charge kind of hero. In other words, times like these require — Godzilla.