Posted by: kshayes513 | July 30, 2009

My Top Real Fantasy/SF City: Las Vegas from the air

Shared Worlds asked 5 major SF writers to name their top real life fantasy or SF city. The writers were Ursula K Le Guin, Elizabeth Hand, China Mieville, Michael Moorcock, and Nalo Hopkinson. I’ll let you visit the article yourself to see which city each picked.  At the end, Shared Worlds Assistant Director Jeff VanderMeer invited readers to post their own blog entries naming their own choices, and linking back to the Shared Worlds article. This is my contribution:

Space Colony: Las Vegas from the Air

My one visit to Las Vegas was a layover at the airport on the way from San Diego to Providence.  It was more than enough to convince me that Vegas is actually a space colony. Coming in, we flew straight east from the California coast over the desert. Miles and miles of desert, with nothing in sight even from 30,000 feet, except an endless expanse of lifeless brown broken occasionally by a bony mountain ridge or a parched gully. Truly a Martian landscape.  Then the descending jet slipped over one more mountain spine,  and there was the city, a sprawling cluster of tiny building shapes and street grids and blotches of dark green plant life, dropped in the middle of Mars.

Our jet circled on final approach, and I saw the strangest sight of all: the Strip in daylight, with its gaudy lights dimmed to invisible by the sun.

Las Vegas from the air. Photo: Chris Alexander Photography

Las Vegas from the air. Photo: Chris Alexander Photography

In the midst of dusty suburbs and bare brown mountains stood Onion domes and palm shaded lakes and towering classical facades, the Eiffel tower, the New York skyline, the MGM’s black glass walls, and strangest of all, the Luxor pyramid. It all looked like a backdrop for a Doctor Who adventure, a bizarre alien pleasure colony planted on a desert world.

The terminal only magnified my sense of being a traveler in an alien city. The first thing I saw  was a row of slot machines. They’re everywhere: all along the backs of seat rows in the gate areas, lined up in the middle of the concourses, tucked into almost any unused space. I’d heard about this, but seeing it was another experience.

Have you ever considered how much a slot machine looks like a prop for a low budget Sci Fi movie? Especially the new digital ones, with their bright colored computer displays. I wouldn’t have been suprised to see a little green-skinned lizard person standing in front of one, manipulating the controls, with a Dalek standing guard.

The final stroke of the alien traveler’s  experience came when I reached the departure gate for my Providence connection. After a week on the West Coast, listening to California voices and hearing about Padres games, I heard Rhode Island accents  all around me and saw Boston Red Sox B’s on caps and T-shirts. In the midst of this desert world with its outlandish machines, I was among my own kind again. We were all aliens, passing through this alien city on our way back home.

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