I want to apologize in advance -- if this editorial feels a little frantic, it's because I've been a little frantic lately. As I write this, I'm in an airplane somewhere over the central part of the country. Using the map in the in-flight magazine, a quick calculation of how far into the flight we are, and a glance out the window, I'm going to guess that I'm over either Kansas or Missouri. I wish I could say this trip was for something glamorous, or even for something fun, but it's for my other job. Everyone at Strange Horizons works for the magazine on a part-time volunteer basis; in my day job, such as it is, I'm a graduate student in history, and right now that means I spend a lot of time going to document archives in different parts of the United States. Two weeks ago I was in Chicago, and six hours from now I'll be in upstate New York.
So that's part of why I've been so busy. There's also a lot going on at Strange Horizons right now. Last week we launched a new discussion board, replacing our older (less interactive) comments page. We're gearing up for another fund drive in April, and we've been working on a series of grant applications, as well as preparing the next volumes of the The Best of Strange Horizons anthology series. On top of all that, we'll be unveiling a new site design sometime in the next few months. I'll have to confess to a more personal flurry of magazine-related activity, though; my mother has broken her years-long lack of interest in this science fiction side-project of mine, and she's finally taken a look at the site. (Hi, Mom!) What this means, in practical terms, is that I've been fielding a lot of email with her questions and comments about the site. Among other things, she's asked me to back down from my support of a moonbase in order to direct more energy to the imminent water-shortage crisis here on earth. To make her happy, I've promised to alert your attention to the water crisis. Consider yourself alerted.
What bothered her the most, though, was a throwaway line in my staff bio, where I refer to myself as a "Boston-area expatriate living in the Bay Area." She emailed and called (several times) to remind me that I only lived in Boston for six years, and that I spent three times that long living in New Jersey. "Don't forget where you come from," she says to me.
New Jersey is definitely where I come from, but with all due respect to my mother, Boston is still what I think of as home. My sense of my hometown is so rooted in childhood and teenage memories, but the geography of the town has changed so much that it hardly feels like the same place I grew up. The old auto-repair store where the skate-punks used to hang out was replaced by a mini-mall, and the rambling converted Victorian that used to be my favorite toy store is now an upscale ski shop. As a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in the woods behind my house, where our property backed up to a marshy pond and several acres of undeveloped land. We used to build forts back there, but it's a housing subdivision now, and they kicked all the snapping turtles out of the pond when they put in the aeration system and fountain. The little comic-book shop that used to hold new issues of Hellblazer for me, it's been replaced by a "Mommy and Me" pottery-painting studio, and I'm not sure if the Lions Club carnival even comes to town anymore. They even took down the covered bridge near the pond where I used to go fishing with my cousins.
It's disingenuous, though, for me to say that the shifting business demographics make that much of a difference. At twenty-seven, I probably wouldn't be building forts near the pond or hanging out with the skate-punks anymore. In the end, I think it comes down to a particular feeling. I love living in Northern California, for instance, but it doesn't feel like home. I enjoy visiting my family in New Jersey, and it feels comfortable and familiar there, but it doesn't feel like home. I may not have a native's claim to the Boston area, and it's been over three years since I moved away, but there's something powerful and unmistakable about the feeling I still have whenever I go back. Five or six years ago, I was at the Esplanade along the Charles River on the Fourth of July, one of three or four hundred thousand people who had gathered there to watch the fireworks. Somewhere just around sunset, I looked over towards the Cambridge side of the river and saw a Red Line train moving across the bridge, the lights inside the cars running along the darkening sky, the stone pillars of the bridge and the Museum of Science silhouetted in the background and the last of the sunlight scattering on the water, and I just knew. That was it, that was where I wanted to be, that was where I belonged. That was home.
Copyright © 2004 Susan Marie Groppi
Susan Marie Groppi is Editor-in-Chief of Strange Horizons.