I once read a book in which the author put forth the theory that cities can evolve into conscious beings, that there are certain esoteric combinations of population, history and architecture that will reach a tipping point and awaken their spirit, and that San Francisco achieved this state when the TransAmerica Pyramid was completed. The whimsy of this idea appeals to me; certainly the idea that a city has its own dreams, ideas and agenda feels right to those who move through it.
This city clearly has a personality of it’s own. Although what that is may vary depending on whom you ask. Is it lovely and mysterious, but cold and inhospitable — little cat feet tipped with claws? (To its exes, certainly.) Arrogant and irresponsible — and a little smug?(To those who eye it from afar but are afraid to ask for a dance.) Nah, it’s just young, fun-loving and idealistic — wearing flowers in it’s hair. (To those of us think it’s our BFF who loves us best of all.)
It’s still young, a mere stripling beside comparable cities in Europe or even the EastCoast. We can probably discount its claims of being a reincarnated Atlantis, but it does seem to be an old soul, tempered by fire. Maybe that accounts for those mood swings, all sunshine and roses one minute, dark and brooding the the next.
Like a lot of us who have come into it’s orbit I adore this city while knowing it’ll never love me back quite as fiercely. Oh, it’s friendly enough and always remembers my birthday, but it has so very many other admirers vying for its attention, it’s hard to fault it for being fickle.
So I’m going to try to get to know it better. And like any smitten fool I’ll do so by projecting my ideals onto it. I’ll look at the San Francisco Bay Area through the lens of it’s association with the SF genre. There is a lot of sftnal history here that I am only vaguely aware of and this will be my excuse to delve into it.
Chesley Bonestell helped design our most famous landmark and a few decades later Ray Harryhausen sent a monster to try and tear it down. Philo T. Farnsworth changed the future from his lab at the foot of Telegraph Hill in 1928, and in 1966 a group of fans in a Berkeley backyard changed the past instead.The area is celebrated in books: Jack London, George R. Stewart and Pat Murphy have all set post-apocalyptic tales in the Bay Area. In film Jack Burton kicked ass under Chinatown and H.G. Wells chased Jack the Ripper through our streets. On the small screen: The eighth Doctor made a rare foray onto US soil and Starfleet setup its base of operations in the Presidio.
So much to watch, read and learn. I can’t wait to start digging.
SF/SF Issue 27, August 2006