May 06

Seeing Things, Part 3: Dream Settings

Dear Blog Friends,

I got a new twitter account, if you want to follow it.  The name is Seabingen.  Seabingen is the name of the city that I set my first novel in, and right now it’s the name of the whole series set in that town. I know that sounds like a strange name, but trust me, there’s a reason for it.

Here, I’ll explain. Go to Google maps and look at the city of Tubingen, in Southern Germany. Oh, okay, here’s the link.  I studied there for a year in college.*Notice something about the names of towns in that region? They all end in –ingen.  Reutlingen, Echterdingen, Mettzingen, Pfullingen.  Kinda weird, huh?  I asked my German linguistics friend what that suffix meant, and he didn’t know. It’s a mystery.

Anyway, what does that have to do with my novel?  Well, when I sleep, the dream architects are lazy.  They tend to reuse the same sets over and over again.  For years, I’d been having dreams in a specific city.  It wasn’t any city I’d been to in real life, but it had similarities with Tubingen. For one, the old town had half-timbered  houses and cobblestone streets like you’d find in any number of cities across Europe. For another, it had a hill that towered over the eastern edge, and it had a river that bisected the city.

This dream city isn’t exactly like Tubingen, however, because it has a university district that resembles closely “the Ave” near the University of Washington in Seattle.  The dream city has awesome coffee shops. It also has a burrito shop with a yellow sign, a shop which I do not recall ever visiting in real life, though there was a similar one in downtown Seattle. See where this is going? Sea+ingen.

I just love the idea that you can pluck something from the sleeping world and use it in the waking one.  It’s especially cool because every time I’ve had THAT AWESOME IDEA THAT WOULD SAVE THE WORLD it turned out to be really dumb when I woke up. ** They say that if you think about a problem before you go to bed, when you wake up, you’ll have the solution.  I usually find that if I think about a problem before I go to bed, I lie awake thinking about it and don’t sleep well.  So, it’s nice that I can use something from my dreams.

I reconfigured the city to suit my needs, of course. I drew a map too.  Here’s what it looks like.

It has an Old Town, which looks a lot like the Alter Stadt in Tubingen.  I explained it away by a fake-Tudor revivalist period in the early 20th century.  It also has a river, and a university, and some nice bridges, and a big park that’s dangerous at night, and pretty much everything else I needed it to have.

Astute observers will note that I have named the river “Nooksack.”  Yes, I know there is no medium-sized city in northern Washington State that’s on the Nooksack, but in my alternate universe, there is.*** I decided that if Charles De Lint can have his Newford, I can have my Seabingen.  Besides, I have been fantasizing about moving back to the Pacific Northwest for about fifteen years now, and if I can’t go physically, I can at least “spend time” there with my characters.  It rains in Seabingen. A lot. They go to Vancouver or Seattle for concerts.  The parking is terrible.  I tried to make it seem like a real place, even if—alas—it is not.  If it were, I’d move there.  I feel like I know it pretty well. I ought to by now. I’ve spent years in that place.

I can’t wait for you to see it.



*It was awesome. I really want to go back again someday.

** For example: “What if we wore socks on the OUTSIDE of our shoes? Then our shoes wouldn’t get dirty and track mud into the house!!!”  I have to do my stupid-thinking in my dreams because I don’t smoke pot like normal people do.

***I use Bellingham for astronomical data, like when the sun rises and sets, etc.


    • Beth on May 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Awesome! I love the map you drew. But the google map you linked goes to Stuttgart.

  1. I read this while it was raining. Coincidence?

    • Kater on May 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks, Beth. I changed it.

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