Today’s blog is written by my friend and fellow writer, Mercurio D. Rivera (aka Evil David) who is currently in Seattle for Cascadia Con – Matt
Although the Cascadia Con begins on Thursday, September 1, I decided to come to Seattle a few days early to try to get a real flavor for the Pacific Northwest. The short story that I sold to Northwest Passages: A Cascadian Odyssey, an anthology debuting at the Con this Friday, is set both in Oregon and the San Juan Islands off of Seattleâ€”both places which I must confess Iâ€™ve never been to before. In fact, Iâ€™m a bit embarrassed to say that even though the anthology has been described as containing stories that â€œtruly evoke the essence of the Pacific Northwest,â€ Iâ€™ve never visited this region of the country before. The â€œessenceâ€ that I evoked was more the product of what I imagined the Pacific Northwest felt like, aided, of course, by Internet research.
When I originally wrote â€œRewind Replay,â€ the story that appears in the anthology, the setting was off the coast of Kusadasi, Turkey, a place Iâ€™d visited with some friends a few years earlier. Weâ€™d chartered a sailboat that took us across the Aegean and, at one point, the captain stopped the ship and let us swim in the impossibly azure waters. I found the vistas so gorgeous, the experience so moving, that I resolved to tell a story about characters who felt the same way I felt at that moment. Iâ€™d like to think that itâ€™s that experience that rings truest in the story, even though I ultimately decided to shift the setting from the Aegean to the Pacific Northwest.
And what about setting stories in places weâ€™ve never been to before? Is this legit? Should we only write about specific places weâ€™ve visited? Nah. At least I donâ€™t think so. Writers use their imaginations and research skills all the time to write about unfamiliar settings. I recall that a few years ago Terry Bisson wrote a terrific sci-fi short story, titled â€œCharlieâ€™s Angelsâ€ set in New Orleans. When a former student commented on the vividness of his setting, he said, â€œReally? Thatâ€™s great, since Iâ€™ve never been there before.â€
I guess Iâ€™ll have a better sense tomorrow of whether I did in fact succeed in evoking â€œthe essenceâ€ of a place I never visited before. Yes, tomorrow Iâ€™m planning to sail off the San Juan Islands.
In the meantime, Iâ€™ve spent the last couple of days doing the typical â€œtourist-yâ€ Seattle activities such as: soaking in Pikeâ€™s Place Market and the Waterfront; attending a Mariners-Yankees game; and taking the fascinating historical â€œUnderground Tourâ€ of Seattleâ€™s subterranean city blocks buried in the 1800â€™s. (Did you know that 80% of Seattleâ€™s economy in the late 1890â€™s was funded by a special â€œsewing taxâ€ imposed on their â€œseamstresses of the nightâ€?). Tonight I had dinner at the revolving restaurant atop the Space Needle where I took the following photo, which provides an eerie view of the cloud-enshrouded city.
More on the San Juan Islands and the Cascadia Con to follow. Thanks for giving me a forum to report on these activities, Matt.
PS: So far, I’ve observed one notable difference between East Coast and West Coast Cons. As you can see from the atached photo, in Seattle, they don’t Ride the Naugy. Instead, they Ride the Duckie (see photo above).