During my the past week, which I spent in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania–more commonly known as The Middle of Nowhere–I discovered a series of books which should be of some interest to Urban Phantasy readers. Pennsylvania Fireside Tales, by Jeffrey R. Frazier, is a multi-volume collection of folklore, ghost stories, hunting stories, and legends from the Native American tribes of Pennsylvania.
If I had been able to justify the expense, I might well have come away from the small bookshop where I found these books with the whole set, but that was not to be. Nevertheless, I’m going to try to lay hands on the books. I put my trust in the public library system on this count.
If you can track these books down, I recommend at least glancing through one or two, even if the prices seem a bit steep for each of the slim hardback volumes.
First and foremost, I want to warn all of my readers that I’m going off the radar for a week starting on Sunday, so this is likely to be my last post until I return.
Second, regarding the concourse map which was featured in my last post, I have since found that there is at least one copy of this map remaining in a public space. The map I know of can be found near the northern stairs in the concourse by the 15th Street platforms for the Market Frankford El and the eastbound Green Line platform. For reference, if you were to get off of the El at 15th street, you would want to walk away from the sculpture of the giant clothes pin after exiting though the turnstiles.
The Map is about three feet on a side, quite a bit bigger than I had remembered it being, and no longer accurately reflects some of the Suburban Station area of the concourse.
Finally, I was tipped off that the program which I posted a video clip from last time is called Secrets Beneath the Streets, and was produced by WHYY TV-12. In addition to City Hall, the program looks at locations such as the abandoned subway platform in the base of one of the columns of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Philadelphia Water Works.
In one of my many moments of research-induced distraction, I recently stumbled across several tidbits which should prove interesting to Urban Phantasy readers. The first is a map which I had, until now, forgotten all about. It used to be that there were maps around the City Hall/15th Street station downtown, which showed the extent of public underground concourse. The last time I remember seeing one such map I think predates the turn of the millennium, though my memory is often far from perfect.
The post which I found this image in mentions a fact that I had previously been ignorant of, though it makes sense and fills in some gaps in what I know about the Penn Center tunnels.
Edmund Bacon’s concept of a hidden, weather-protected concourse connecting urban office, transportation and retail facilities was innovative at the time and influenced other cities, as well as Philadelphia’s subsequent Market East Redevelopment. Furthermore, the Penn Center complex includes an underground roadway that trucks use to service and supply the buildings. This significantly reduces the number of trucks traveling over and loading/unloading on the streets above. The entrance to this no-outlet road (called Commerce Street) is on 19th Street between Market Street and J.F.K. Boulevard.
My second discovery is a video clip from an unknown program that aired on WHYY several years ago, which took a look at Philadelphia’s underground architecture. This particular video is of some of the subterranean portions of Philadelphia City Hall.
If you have any more information on the program this came from, let me know in the comments. I’ll also post any more information I find on my own, for this looks like it was quite an interesting program.
In my recent attempts to uncover more relevant legends to inform a story that I’m working on, I came across an interesting article from 1985 which strikes fairly close to home. The article covers some of the legends which were brought to the Lehigh Valley by 18th Century German immigrants, albeit in fairly broad strokes.
Despite the overall lack of in-depth information in the article, it provides a foundation upon which stories can be built by giving readers an overview of the sorts of legends which were prevalent in the area. This not only allows for improvisation based on suck local themes but also gives a jumping-off point for further research. One such point is the mention of legends concerning Till Eulenspiegel, a German trickster figure.
Such legendary figures, especially tricksters, are handy to keep around to spice up stories.
Reading the article which inspired this post, I was struck by the change in attitudes towards the supernatural since the 18th Century. In some ways, I long for an age where it is both exciting and normal to hear a tale of the devil’s buried treasure or a local spirit haunting a roadway.
For those of you in my audience who are writers, I’ve got a couple of tips to pass along. The first is that Dreams of Decadence has recently been revived by publisher Warren Lapine and editor Angela Kessler.
. . . While previously devoted to vampire fiction, the new incarnation will focus on urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
Submission guidelines are available at the Dreams of Decadence website.
The second piece of news is a little bit more current. Urban fantasy and steampunk author Ekaterina Sedia will be editing a were-creature anthology for Prime Books. Entitled Bewere the Night, the collection is scheduled for a May 2011 publication, and the submission deadline is 31 December 2010. More details can be found through the listing on Duotrope’s Digest.
I hope this provides some added impetus for you to get cracking on your writing and revising.