Welcome back to Fantasy Firsts! Our program continues with a guest post from Randy Henderson about seeing a familiar town from a new point of view and the inspiration for Finn Fancy Necromancy.
Looking at the World Finn Fancy Style
I’d visited Port Townsend often before writing my book, but this time Finn had offered me a tour of its truly magical side.
Finn’s family home, like a surprising number of the houses in this small seaside town, was a massive Victorian affair that might have belonged to the Addams Family, with a yard of tangled plants and gnarled trees. A child would almost certainly find tunnels and caves in that growth, a secret fort, perhaps even a path to fairy land. And the garden — if I didn’t know better, I’d think a Cthulhu cult had moved in and were trying to breed tomatoes and roses together to create a plant of ultimate chaos, destruction, and evil red yumminess.
How could I not have been inspired by such a place?
Finn stepped out onto the porch, his day’s work in the family necromancy business done, his eyes bloodshot and watery.
“Greetings, program,” I said. “You okay?”
“Imagine the sweetest-smelling perfume,” he replied. “Something candy-like. Now, pour a bottle of that into your eyes. That’s the joy of fairy embalming. Why? Because you wrote it that way, you sadistic nerf herder.”
“I am your father,” I said, and made the Darth Vader wheeze.
“Lucky me,” he replied, and pushed past me.
We hiked toward town, but I was surprised when we turned north and headed uphill rather than down. Down was the way to the main waterfront street lined with funky shops, museums and restaurants, including the best ice cream shop and pizza restaurant this side of Italy, a giant store full of New Age magic supplies, and even a shop specifically dedicated to writers.
“I thought you were going to show me the secret passages,” I said, referring to the Shanghai tunnels rumored to still run hidden beneath the town, remnants of the 1800s when the town was a major shipping port.
“Too dangerous right now,” Finn replied. “They’re used mostly by feyblood creatures, and you did a good job of getting them riled up. It’s almost like you’re trying to build us up to a war or something?”
I avoided his questioning look and quickened my pace, whistling the chorus to “Blasphemous Rumors” by Depeche Mode.
Finn caught up with me, and as we passed the enormous, castle-like fortress of the Jefferson County Courthouse, he described the history of the town. Its many grand Victorian buildings spoke to the dreams of the town’s early builders, that this was going to be one of the biggest port cities in Washington. Unfortunately, the Great Depression, a lack of railroad connections, and a nasty infestation of gremlins killed that dream. But when most mundanes abandoned the town, the area’s rich and important magical history made it a natural home for humans and creatures of a magical nature.
Eventually, mundanes rediscovered the charm of Port Townsend and started to move or retire there, “fixing up” the area and changing it from a small town full of mill-workers, sailors and ex-hippy artists, to a town focused around tourism and the arts.
“In some ways,” Finn said, “I imagine you could compare the clash of cultures and classes in this town to that of us magicals versus the mundanes, or even humans against the feyblood creatures.” He eyed me sideways. “Though again, I hope you aren’t building us toward some kind of culture war?”
“What’d you say?” I asked. “You want some Culture Club?” I began to sing “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.”
Finn sighed and took the lead again as I continued singing. We wandered our way eventually to Fort Worden.
Fort Worden is awesome. I love this place more than a brownie loves brownies, more than a Smurf loves to Smurf.
Fort Worden State Park was once a US Army base protecting access to the Puget Sound from any potential invaders in the Pacific, with enormous canons mounted on concrete bunkers. The bunkers remain, ghostly gray structures with mossy walls and rusting steel doors, and labyrinthine tunnels running beneath—a fantasy playground.
It was easy to imagine that those tiny arched holes throughout the bunkers might be doorways used by gnomes; or that the grass-filled stone circles might be man-made fairy rings; or, if inscribed with glowing runes, that the gun placements might be used for some purpose more devastating than even the thousand-pound guns they once held. It was easy to imagine that walking those narrow passages beneath the bunkers might eventually lead you somewhere other than simply out.
And those bunkers are spaced out along bluffs and hillsides covered in a forest of cedar and madrona, filled with hidey-holes and natural tree forts that just begged me to imagine what magical beings truly lived there.
We ended the visit on a bluff overlooking the rocky coastline and lighthouse far below.
“Thanks for the tour,” I said. “It’s always a good exercise to look at the world like a child might. I’ve gotten some great ideas for the sequels.”
“Ah, bat’s breath,” Finn said. “Look, if you’re really writing sequels, can you please just do me one favor?”
He blushed a bit as he said, “Maybe not make me so awkward with the ladies?”
I turned and walked back toward town, whistling Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.”
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(This is a rerun of a post that originally ran on February 2, 2015.)