So we decided to go out west this summer (2013), on a long vacation. Trekking from Missouri out to Seattle, Washington by car (actually, a Jeep Liberty). While the trip served many purposes, it also was an interesting journey into Babylon for myself and opened up all sorts of new possibilities for my Babylonian chronicles.
You see, for years I’ve been writing stories in or around Babylon, a fictional city I created that is sort of in another reality/universe, but not all that different from our own. I’ve always been a little hazy on the details with my readers, not daring say exactly where Babylon was located in the United States, but still building up details as I go.
The fact of the matter is that the location of Babylon grew out of a host of different elements. Let me run you down the gauntlet, and then I’ll finally spill the beans a bit more about my city Babylon. You’ll be able to pinpoint it on a map by the time I’m done.
In the beginning, there was noir…
My first excursion into Babylon, purely by accident I assure you, was in 2005 when our little production troupe filmed our first independent production. It was a 45 minute homage to film noir and was intended to be the first of three films in the story. Yes, a trilogy. It was a mobster drama, comedy, action flick with overtones of noir and it managed to have a less urban appeal. I filmed it claustrophobic is how I like to call it, because we were filming in Rolla and St. James, Missouri and neither are all too urban. But the story sort of demanded an urban element, so I filmed with a lack of external and establishing shots, choosing to fade to black and up from black within the scene instead of outside of it. I did enjoy the idea of having some rural, or wooded areas present, and in one particular scene let some woods creep up into visibility, and that’s sort of what drove me when I came around to setting the story in Babylon and choosing the location of it. For your viewing pleasure you can view this short film, Kings: Hit & Run, embedded below.
After the afore mentioned film project, I ventured back into writing some short stories once more, which was something I hadn’t done in years. Almost immediately I decided to create the fictional city of Babylon, and connect my short stories to my film noir project. It was at this time that I decided to pick a location that would make sense for having both a heavily wooded feel, and urban all at once. I did some searching and looking at imagery of different cities, and eventually decided that I was going to take a number from Seattle, Washington.
I had never been to Seattle, Washington, but based on my knowledge of it, I was able to determine the setting best represented my concepts I had brewing for the city. You could one minute be in a very urban setting, and the other be surrounded by nature.
From Canyon City to Babylon
After a few years of writing in Babylon, I decided to dig my heels into the history of Babylon. I conjured up that the origins of Babylon began in the 1840s, during the gold rush, as a group of families left the east in hope of a better life. They had heard wild stories of a canyons that ripped through the west with gold running through the streams of them. So their intent was to find one of these canyons, filled with golden streams, and setup a township around it. They would call it Canyon City. But in their trek out west, they were met with all sorts of turmoil and eventually found themselves north of California (and the gold rush), lost, confused and tired. They eventually settled down and established Canyon City where Seattle, Washington would have been established. As I noted, it’s sort of an alternate universe I write in. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the name was changed from Canyon City to Babylon, as the politicians wanted to lose the old stigma of their forefathers being lost in the wilderness of Washington, looking for canyons of gold.
This element was a pivotal moment in my timeline for Babylon. Now that I knew how it came into existence, the rest could follow a lot easier. It was simply connecting the dots.
Driving through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and eventually into Washington has been like taking the path the forefathers of Babylon would have taken and it’s made me realize there’s so much more untapped struggles and stories I’ve not written. I knew Babylon was a huge undertaking back in the day, but it was something I was very interested in. The idea of writing lots and lots of stories that were all somehow interconnected. Mainly, by location.
It’s been an interesting journey developing Babylon. I’ve greatly enjoyed doing so, and I’m far from finished. Along with Babylon, other cities and towns have sprung up as a result of necessity.
Riverside is a small fishing community south west of Babylon by only two hours. Tipton is a small town south east of Babylon, which I’ve hardly developed at this point. It’s only been mentioned in passing as a stop The Rolling Stone made in his travels. Olympic is another small town, it is located north east of Babylon and will likely only be featured in the short story Jonah of Olympic starring my female detective Mercedes Masterson. Salem is a rival city, about 5 hours south east of Babylon. Like Reno is to Las Vegas, Salem is to Babylon.
The Conclusion of Babylon: How will it end?
I have no desire to dump spoilers here, but years ago I started work on a piece titled The Fall of Babylon. Within it, I was roping in a lot of my favorite characters and working towards a final chapter in the Babylon series. I haven’t finished that story, and likely won’t until I feel I’ve written all I need to be able to write such a tale of woe. But when I do write that story, and bring it all to a head, trust me when I say… it’s gonna be one wild ride.