Felix Rambles

Another step to taking back control

Faces of a fictional city

29 June 2020 — Felix Ple┼čoianu

Earlier today, a friend (hi, Maxia!) sent me this quote:

Gotham City: Perpetually twilit urban hellscape that looks like the Art Deco movement had a one-night stand with Soviet Brutalism in a wrought-iron-and-gargoyle factory.

(It's apparently from David J. Prokopetz, though a search of his Tumblr was fruitless; but what can I expect when going from a screenshot posted on Imgur.)

Anyway, if that's supposed to make fun of the worldbuilding in Batman stories, it misses the mark big time. Because, you see, that's very much the description of a living city with an actual history, stretching all the way from Colonial times, through the gaslamp era and the Roaring Twenties, with a dip into the three heady decades between 1950 and 1980, when industrial civilization reached its peak. Well, gargoyles are more European Renaissance than American Colonial, but that's where artistic license comes in.

Chessboard cities built all at once a century ago on a flat plain, now those aren't right. Even if they're very much real.

My own creations are a mixed bag in this regard. The fictional Vryheid from the eponymous novel (no connection to the real-world locality of the same name) exhibits all the architectural exuberance described above and then more. So does the city of the dead from Afterlife By Night. Less so the unnamed burg from Kingdom of the Fire River, though there's enough variety between districts, illustrating how the place is changing. Perhaps the most uniform is Costamata from Little Magic, apart from the wealth disparities between neighborhoods. Goes to show I'm not familiar with the era it belongs to.

I'm still pretty sure Gotham can very well be a city of Art Deco skyscrapers and one of Brutalist factories or apartment buildings, and neither is less concrete (har har) or worthy than the other. It's just how life happens.

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