Friday, October 12, 2012

Thinking About Cities

There are all sorts of gateways into a
city. Do each of them lead to the center or heart?

I'm diving into research for the next novel (which I'll begin November 1st just like every year for the last four) and I'm thinking about cities. Specifically mine, which is really more of an overgrown town. At least in my mind. This is going to be a bit of a ramble, some stream of consciousness and perhaps an insight into my thought processes. Feel free to call me out on any points that might conflict with your own. 

So what's a city? How does one determine what the heart of a city is? Is it different for each person?

Ah, definitions need to be set. It seems that a city can be a town but that a town isn't necessarily a city. It's based on population, establishment of government and the subsequent size of said government, and generally what the inhabitants think. We'll have to talk about villages, too, eventually. Then there's hamlets and encampments.

Damn, interchangeable terminology can get confusing.

For now, let's call them population centers, shall we? Because the novel will concern itself with population centers throughout time. 

And their hearts. And brains.

I should say at this point that hearts and brains are important to cities and often they seem lacking, especially when things change without any seeming regard for the inhabitants of a population center. 

Which leads me to wonder, can any discussion of cities not concern itself with the residents? Are they the heart of any city? It seems that's possible. What about the people who aren't there any more? The ones who moved away - are they still connected to their hometown, or the place where they came of age? Can they be called back? Will they come?

For the novel I'm preparing, all of these questions will have to be answered. Some to greater degrees than others.

So if we establish that cities are the largest population centers, then we have to wonder a lot about how it got that way and then - not just as a corollary - why do some population centers die? 

Over the next couple of weeks I'll drop some notes here about city-states, Atlantis, ghost towns and centers built specifically for industry. The novel is going to be a science fiction story with fantasy elements and it's going to be about cities. And the people in them. 

Can you tell I'm excited?