The best part of the movie Inception was also the shortest. It was the scene when Ariadne, the architect, takes Dom Cobb through the city she has created, when she bends the streets so that the city folds in on itself. The concept of an architect designing dream cities holds a lot of potential. Unfortunately the dream cities of Inception were far less mysterious, fantastical, and imaginative as those I travel in my own dreams, or in the fiction I read.
Charles de Lint is one of my favorite writers. Recently I’ve been delving into the short stories contained in his collection Tapping the Dream Tree. All of these take place in his fictional North American city of Newford. Although not specified, I always imagine it to be somewhere in the North West, in Canada. Newford is a great place to hang out. It is a city where you are liable to stumble across a vuodon ritual, meet up with the Crow girls to help retrieve someones lost soul, sip a pint of ale in one of the many magical music venues, go to an opening where you might meet someone who has Fairie blood, and encounter Pixies who’ve slipped out from the computer screen at a bookstore. The girl with Fairie blood is Sophie, one of the recurring characters who appears throughout de Lint’s Newford books. Every night when she goes to sleep she enters the dream city of Mabon. It is a city she dreamed up herself, and yet it has taken on a life of its own. She has a whole other life going on in her dream city. It’s even where her boyfriend lives. Here we have the fictional city of Newford, and within it a dream city of Mabon. Dreams within dreams, and cities within cities. I love it.
Another excellent book featuring imaginative dream cities is Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente. It is a story of a sexually transmitted city. The city is reached in dreams, but only after the characters have sex with someone who has been there before. Those who have been there are marked forever by a tattoo of the city. This is how the city is transmitted.Don’t forget Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino either, as if you could.
It’s time to start mapping our own internal cities, and bringing the energy from them into waking life. The better cities we will build on earth all have their origin in the imagination. Grown from seeds, they can be woven into the fabric of reality.