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The Long Valley and Nanowrimo: 09/30/07

The Long Valley

My favorite part of the drive down to Santa Barbara along the 101 is the stretch between Salinas and Kings City, known sometimes as "the long valley." This hour long stretch of road is almost completely straight and is boxed in by mountains that look intimately close even though the valley seems infinitely wide.

For as long as we've lived in the bay area I've had an idea for science fiction story that is set in a much larger version of this valley. The world would be defined by two large cities (Uptown and Downtown), a smaller town in the middle (the Cantina) and would be walled in by impenetrable mountains. A highway and railroad connect these three cities together, running the length of the valley.

What the average valley dweller doesn't know is that there is only one mountain range and one big city. Cutting over the mountains (a rugged and treacherous journey) or going through either massive city will eventually wrap around too. In other words a world that appears flat is of course round but is defined by culture as a linear space.

This summer when I realized I was without ideas for this November's Nanowrimo, I decided to fall back on my Long Valley idea. My first question was: Who would notice that the land was different than what history taught? My answer: a surveyor. To save myself the trouble of last minute cramming, I bought and read two books this summer: The Practical Surveyor and Shooting Polaris.

Among my own collection, I knew I had a copy of The Long Valley by John Steinbeck. While I don't always like his stories for their preachiness, Steinbeck is still the author who has best captured the Salinas area in fiction. Since I will now be trying to do my own version of the valley, I want to read Steinbeck's collection of stories first.

Unfortunately the "book gremlins" have borrowed the book and in three months of looking, I haven't been able to find it. Since I want to read The Long Valley before November, I decided to buy my own personal copy. Rather than get a new paperback probably with those annoying "reader's notes" at the back, I decided to get as old a copy as I could find. Through Alibris I found a well read first edition with a glorious cover and the wonderful aroma of years of reading. At one point my "new copy" was owned by a Mrs. James H. Cullen (1955) and then it became a bookmobile book in Charleston Massachusetts.

So far of what I've read, I've thoroughly enjoyed the book. Regardless of how this year's Nanowrimo turns out, I'll be keeping this book.

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Comment #1: Monday, October, 1, 2007 at 19:32:16


I'm looking forward to your snippets :)
I haven't a clue as to what I will write this year."