When Harlan Ellison was asked “Where do you get your ideas from?” he famously answered “Schenectady.” Ellison was commenting on the absurdity of pinning down a process as ephemeral, multi-dimensional and just plain murky as the origin of an idea. However, if the question had been modified to exclude the final word from the sentence then Ellison’s answer would work for me.
I’ve lived in Schenectady. It’s an industrial city on the Mohawk River in Upstate New York. It’s famous for being the site of the Schenectady Massacre of 1690, where French and Native American forces attacked the fledgling settlement at midnight, burning it to the ground and slaying sixty men, women and children who were still in their bedclothes, and also for being the place where Thomas Edison chose to headquarter his fledgling General Electric Company. Schenectady is built on land that was once the territory of the Mohawk nation, and its name comes from the Mohawk phrase, “over the pine plains.”
I wrote a great chunk of Watcher of the Dead within the city’s limits. And as the answer to the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” is always “Where I was physically located at that moment the idea occurred to me,” then my ideas are officially from Schenectady. (more…)