Friday, July 1, 2011

Visions on Victoria Street, 93101

 With increasing regularity from a number of disparate points of origin, you are hammered with the vision of all fiction being a combination of alternate universe and mystery.  Both genera have serious readers, individuals who by habit are not content to stop with any one particular title.  In the bargain, there are any number of writers who persist in writing yet newer projects in these categories.

You came up in the era where science fiction was in its heyday; for a time when you were an undergraduate, your Christmas vacation was spent working at the post office, where you invariably were delivering mail to one Ray Douglas Bradbury.  Knowing who he was and having already had some minor experiences with your own publication, you knew what was in some of those thicker envelopes from magazines such as Thrilling Wonder Stories,because you were already a subscriber to them, worked at the post office in order to continue your subscriptions and, indeed, give subscriptions as Christmas gifts to such worthies as your sister and friends who were devotees of fantasy and science fiction.  Alternate universe stories were a regular feature, so much so that you'd long since surrendered any sense of the alternate universe being a philosophical conceit, an impossibility beyond the pages of pulp magazines.

In similar fashion, you devoured Hammett and Chandler and as well other mystery writers you'd one day edit, Bill S. Ballinger, Frank Gruber, and Steve Fisher, finding in their quests for information and for justice a mythic pathway to unraveling your own ongoing quest for solving the mystery of who you were and what the real identities were of those you loved and cared for.

Much of these elements appear to haunt you on your nightly walk.  You seem drawn to Victoria Street, which is actually one block away from the street on which you live, Sola Street.  For the longest time, a building on the west side of Victoria Street, between Santa Barbara and Anacapa Streets, has drawn your attention.

It has finally come to you that every novel is an alternate universe novel, including the mystery novels you have underway with a Santa Barbara setting.  In fact, in your alternate universe,this building is owned by your protagonist, who has turned it into a notional used book store, which he enjoys owning but, like your late father, does not enjoy being tied down to.  How pleased he was when Arlene came into his life, being referred to him by the owner of a hotel for transients, one block north, also on Victoria Street.  Arlene is on the run from an abusive boyfriend, who has told your protagonist that a bookstore is one of the last places in the world the abusive boyfriend would think to look for anything.  The novel, Santa Barbara Dreams,begins in Arlene's room at the hotel for transients, with the corpse of the abusive boyfriend sprawled over Arlene's bed and the jowly countenance of a police detective thrusting itself in your protagonist's face.  Not to worry; things get worse.  They get better for you as you prowl these evocative streets, where motives and conversations from the alternate universe of your own point of view conflate in the mysterious process you have come to accept as writing.

It was a long time coming,not made any easier by your mistaken conviction that it made sense to write about the universe of others rather than the universe of your own vision.

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