Monday, March 8, 2010
Doctor Couney's Island, Redux
(Picture from here.)
Doctor Couney's Island goes up over at Book View Cafe today. You can read it directly from here or go over there and read it.
Back in 1993, my friend Madeleine Robins was working at Tor. She sent me an email telling me about the anthology Coney Island Wonder Stories being put together by John Ordover. So I went down to the Newton Public Library and did some reading.
Coney Island is a pretty strange place.
I found two characters I wanted to write about: John Y. McKane and Martin Couney.
John McKane made Coney Island the corrupt place it became. Both Grover Cleveland and William Harrison carried New York on McKane's falsified election returns. His fall from power in 1894 enabled in the age of the amusement parks there.
Martin Couney was one of the developers of the premature baby incubator. (More controversial material is here.) Couney had what was to all accounts a very tasteful exhibit of premature babies in incubators. The exhibit paid for the incubators and the children benefited. He started at Coney Island in 1903 and finished in 1943. If you click on the picture above, you can see the entrance of the exhibit.
So, I wanted a story to tie these two characters together. Add into this mix I didn't want to use either of them as a character. Both were larger than life figures and would overpower something as small and fragile as a short story. The fact that McKane fell from power nearly ten years before Couney came to Coney Island figured in, too.
I wrote the story using two old men as characters. Old friends on hard times. Their lives spanned both McKane's period and Couney's. That way I could use both McKane and Couney as backdrop.
I'd been kicking a story idea around in my head for a while involving reincarnation so I put that in, too. Then I dropped it in the workshop.
I'd used camellias in the story as a medieval plant. I think Alex, who seems to know pretty much everything important to know in this world, that pointed out the camellias were imported to England much, much later than medieval times.
Uh oh, I thought. That stopped me for a bit.
I have this theory that one should be able to spin the straw of mistakes into gold. So I took advantage of the problem given me and it made the story better.
A thanks and a tip of the hat to Alex Jablokov.
More than that I can't say without spoiling the story for those who might not have read it.
Go there and enjoy.
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