Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tower of Zag

For those just tuning in, Zaghaven is the forgotten, hard-to-find, pseudo-normal, SIXTH BOROUGH of New York City that (occasionally) exists in the East River between The Bronx and Queens, just above Riker's Island.  It is a borough, out of time -- on one level it's been left to decompose, and on another, it actually is unhinged from the time-space continuum we all have come to know and love.  

Panorama of NYC at the Queens Museum.  NOTE: THE 6th BOROUGH IS NOT REPRESENTED.

That being said, it's not that sci-fi or surreal.  Z-Town is usually only about a day back in time, and it only disappears from the grid once or twice a month.  Sometimes there are normal, very regular ways of getting there, like taking the Carter Tunnel or the Zaghaven Footbridge.  

The Jimmy Carter Tunnel

But alas, these ways are not always present, mostly due to the time lag, and occasionally because of the parameters of Force-field maintenance. Other ways in will indeed remind (boring people) of Narnia, Oz, or that infernal island on Lost, but I assure you, such comparisons are far too flattering.  The Sixth Borough is not nearly so magical, and certainly less famous.  It's shy.  It is more amazing for the variety of product found in its 99¢ Stores rather than its population of fantastic creatures. The Venusians (people from Venus) that have taken over most of the shops on Sorgum Ave. might argue with this statement, but Venusians are just like you and me -- so "fantastic" is a bit of a stretch.  Good-looking, maybe.  Funny, yes.  The Venusian end of Sorgum is packed with Dried-Cheeseburger Stands (a Venusian delicacy -- it's more of a pill, actually), high end glitter merchants (it's so hard to get good glitter anywhere else), and Venusian Pillow Bars.  


There is a tree hole in Dyker Heights, BK, that leads through to a set of garden bushes near the Zaghaven (ZG) Pyramids. Never whisper the phrase "Zaghaven Tout-Suite" on a Tuesday afternoon when it's raining -- you'll wind up in the Zaghaven Library. Of course, the subway is always a good method of transportation. Again, sticklers will access their memories of that dumb train that got Harry and Co. to Hogwarts, but the Zaghaven Line, the 11 Train, can only be accessed at Grand Central Station in Manhattan.  People often think the 11 is somehow connected to the 7 train, but the only way to get it is to barge into the women's room of the Oyster Bar and march to the last stall.  Roosevelt Island offers a bus that guarantees transfer through the Carter Tunnel, but it's very expensive -- the driver only accepts mint editions of #1 Comics.  But I digress, the list goes on.

Zaghaven Pyramids
The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station


Ok, so Mr. Parfenix might have hosed me on my first Zaghaven novel, HIDDEN WORLD, but two years later, once I'd discovered that he was publishing my stuff through a time-portal to the 50s, he asked me to do a follow-up. It turned out there was a very small readership of Hidden World that had gone all Star Trek on the lore of Z.  The weird thing here was that the readership was from the early 70s. Mr. Parfenix, desperate to capitalize on these saps, found a new time-portal, this one into 1961. His plan was to publish my new book, Tower of Zag, and store it in a warehouse in 1961, then have it come out as a sort of recently found "lost" book from 1961. Genius!  If only the warehouse hadn't been completely taken out by a storm in '68. Mr. Parfenix wriggled his way back into the 70's (he is a supervillain after all) to discover a mere handful of copies still existed.  He was gone for almost a year.  When he came back, his hair had turned completely white. He never said, but people think he met his younger self and it scrambled his head a little.  Other people think that the Mr. Parfenix that came back was actually another, older, Mr. Parfenix, this one from the future.   

Tower of Zag, is NOT a sci-fi mind-melter, it is a working-class account of how, in the early 1900's, the Zephyr Candy Factory came into existence, how Alfred Q. Zephyr almost single-handedly settled Zaghaven, how he convinced the Con Edison electric company to bring power to what used to be marshlands, how he figured out
a perfect formula for licorice, and how he created thousands of jobs and with those jobs, a neighborhood. 
It is also about, how, in the 40's, a labor union formed that would, in a few years, shut the doors of Zephyr and
deny many the Licorice that had made Zaghaven habitable. Not that Zephyr was right.  He'd grown old and rich
and conservative over the course of his success. If he'd realized this, my research could find no evidence.
He'd shut down production to strike back at his workers and he died soon after by "drowning in a puddle".
Many cried murder, but I'd advise you not to step into a puddle in Zaghaven.  They go deep.
Rubbish James Garbagetruck, my best friend, a rat, recently read Tower of Zag.  He said he was so
bored with it that his mind did indeed feel like it was melted.  

The book's epilogue jumps ahead ten years.  Zaghaven was licking its wounds after the last great Brawl of the
5-Borough Rumble.  Yes, it had succeeded in emancipating itself, but the cost was its place in time.  My
research is fuzzy on the extremes Zaggers went to in order to win Borough-ship, and how in fact,
a deal was struck with Time itself.  In any event, Z needed an anchor if it was going to survive, and Evelyn
Zephyr, heir to the factory, knew that the Licorice must be made again.  No one knew it at the time,
but Evelyn was a smarter, kinder person than her grandfather.  If you think Mexicans work cheap in the
kitchens of New York, you should think about hiring a Venusian.  Evelyn filled the factory with Venusians,
who all flocked to the 6th, and got the candy flowing at an incredible rate.  But instead of undercutting her
workers, Evelyn paid them well, and gave them all benefit packages that would make your mailman weep.
Now, there are no full blown Venusians anymore.  You're half-Venusian at most.  But some still have the
purple skin.  And many would wear make-up.  Well, by the 80's, that was no more, at least in the Z.
Purple skinned Venusians sometimes glowed at the local diner.  But in the 6th, even the old Italian guys
won't make a racist comment -- cause if you is Sixth, you is down.  That's just Z.  The Licorice still
provides many residents of the 6th with what they need to survive.  But Evelyn would go on to have
many tricks up her sleeve.

I wanted to start using my pen-name, F. Chester Hobbicroft, but Mr. Parfenix wouldn't hear of it.
This bums me out to no end because all really cool writers take on pseudonyms.  I'm way more into the idea
of being a writer, than actually being a writer.  I like all the bells and whistles more than the meat of the
book itself.  For instance, if you can find any of my works, you'll see that I'm very fond
of prologues, forwards, footnotes, and epilogues.  I like dedications, prefaces, tables of content.  A nice
afterword is good, but a glossary -- well that's almost better than life itself.  In my sequel to Tower of Zag,
the epilogue is two times longer than the book.