Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Chronicles of Southwatch: An Article from The Daily Star on Transportation, Architecture, and History


An Invited Editorial by Tarek Al-Baz

Being a Criticism of the Hasty Revision of Our City’s Physical Heritage, a Celebration of its Unique and Invaluable Present Character, and a Statement of Support Regarding the Establishment of its Glorious Future Potential.

You pluck a thorn from the lion’s paw, you watch it grow from strength to strength.

In the year 2776, Baron Raoul Amberville burned the original city of Thorn from the world. In the years to follow, the great marvel we now know as Southwatch flourished in its place, increasing in a splendid style until she rivalled any other city of the empire, and far exceeding those outside it. Yet, for all her grandeur, this was not some divine gift bestowed from above, and Southwatch is no vision of a perfect creation.

The truer comparison is to the power and beauty of untamed nature: the sunken ship that becomes the foundation for a great reef, vibrant colour and darting, flashing life disguising the rotten timber within; or the jungle, conquering the ancient temples of some forgotten tribe with towering trunks and constricting vines, the crumbling remains hidden forever beneath the distant canopy above. And just as the wreck or the temple leave their traces on what comes to take their place, so too does the reef or jungle consume and build upon itself in ways that a foresightful creator might think of as unlovely, detracting from the whole.

In this way, the inhabitants of each—the fish, the jungle beasts, the citizens of Southwatch—live alongside their own history, even if they do not appreciate it as they should. I hear it often said of the old—for example, of Downtown’s Three Ring Circus—that the best course is to erase these now clumsy-seeming remnants and replace them with exemplars of the new, but I disagree. There is value in preserving our awareness of the past, that we do not repeat its mistakes; but what seems a mistake now was perhaps not one then, and this too is a lesson worth learning, and remembering.

In its heyday, the Three Ring Circus was the beating heart of Southwatch. All six arterial roads came together in these linked roundabouts—where, within each of which respectively, canal boats, trains and trams also disgorged their passengers—the traffic of the day swirling and mixing and issuing forth to their destinations, very much the life’s blood of our youthful city. However, as she rose in stature so she rose above the earth to reach for the sky; what lay below was built upon by what followed; the nature of the surface changed, became the foundation, not the core. Yes, the city’s vitality lies elsewhere today, the Three Ring Circus is a tangled snarl at the feet of grand towers, the old arteries clogged and shrunk and, to briefly abandon metaphor for fact, overhung with walkways and bridges and skyways—but that older heart still pumps on, even if our more pampered citizens are to high above to hear it.

Does the rarefied reader never travel down to the surface from his ivory tower? Perhaps not. Perhaps, failing to visit the past we reside upon—or never deigning to set foot beyond home, club, and whatever private vehicle is used to convey him between the two—he also forgoes appreciation of the modern city’s unique means of public transportation. Take the Mandorean Pylon—not as an example; I charge you, travel upon it!—and the traveller sees Southwatch presented before him in all its challenging glory, and as it can not be otherwise be seen.

The Mandorean is the oldest of Southwatch’s vertical railways and, in the opinion of those who trouble themselves to learn about their home, the best. From the roof of the departure hall at Downtown’s eastern border, six pairs of saw-toothed tracks rise clear to the Aerie, connecting with twelve major promenades along the way. Between pairs of pairs of tracks crawl three unique vehicles, with passenger carriages mounted one atop the other and, to each side, modified locomotive engines set on end, dragging them upward on toothed wheels.

At each aerial promenade awaits an elegantly off-set station, reminiscent in design of the head of the traditional instrument that lends the pylon its name. And where the strings, you say? They are arrayed around the pylon itself, twenty-four cables that hum in the breeze—and with the vibrating movement of the gyrocabs, which race up and down them with all the speed the upright locomotives lack. These grant the means to reach the utmost heights of the city—or to descend and rediscover her old secrets, should one be inclined—in less time than it takes to stroll along South Beach, and in all the comfort of one’s own private carriage.

We citizens should take equal pride in all the aspects of our city, her diamonds, her rough, her functionality as well. There is an importance to Southwatch, a significance to her past and a vigour to her present, an unrivalled brightness to her future. And it is for all these reasons that we should embrace the grand project even now being considered at the highest levels of civic governance, and discussed in both cries and whispers seemingly everywhere else.

Miss Jocelyn Duville’s astounding proposal promises to change the face of Southwatch as it has never been before. Should it receive the baron’s blessing, we should not merely welcome it, but rejoice.

Published in the Daily Mail,
12th Day, Tenth Month, 2958

Editor's Note: Andrew Leon Hudson's novel The Glass Sealing will be released as the third Darkside Codex story on May 23, 2014