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Resurrecting Zombie Towns May 6, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in nostalgia.
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No, not the George Romero zombies or even towns filled with same. I am thinking in bigger terms, more sweeping sf terms.

On Roswell’s 50th anniversary of the saucer crash (1997) the festival invited a bunch of sf writers to hold a panel or two, do autographings, the usual. Only a handful of saucer enthusiasts showed up for our panels (you know, panels with nobody you’d ever heard of–Jack Williamson, Jane Lindskold, Walter Jon Williams, me) but the alien abduction survivor rooms were crammed (or so I was told). The autographing sessions at a bookstore, and I don’t even remember which it was but it was big like a Hastings, were moderately ok. I did get to meet the poor kid whose parents named him Zippety DoDah. Zip, as he preferred to be called, was in mid-teens and seemed relatively well adjusted, considering.

The chamber of commerce dude treated us well and dropped a question about what Roswell could do to get away from saucer fests and UFO museums and, you know, get a stable income base. He brimmed with ideas but the best was a national computer art contest. Since Roswell is still known for a UFO crash in 1947, I assume the guy got canned and all his ideas were mothballed or swept away by the spring desert winds.

This morning’s newspaper had one of the usual “dying town” stories that is so common in NM. This was about Lordsburg down toward the NM Bootheel. I-10 bypassed it and the town is shriveling up and dying. No reason to stop except all the state run rest stops are closed now. Most of the motels are gone, except the chains. That close to the border they might have drug and illegal alien problems (not the LGM type such as Roswell banks on, though). The story is repeated a dozen times over throughout NM and the rest of the West.

The town has no reason to exist. So, science fictionally speaking, how do you rejuvenate a town? Roswell got lucky. How does Lordsburg spin a tale to get people there? A national writers fest, novel set there guaranteed to be published? Western appeal aside, there’s nothing much here to draw people so it would have to be created. A writers colony is not likely to happen–choose Colorado or Lordsburg? Not much choosing going on with that one, and I like the desert (I like the mts, too).

Problem. You have a dying town. Remote but near a major freeway. Assume you have some finite amount of money. Call it $50k. How do you resurrect the dead? What viral campaign would be sustainable? (Or is that a contradiction?) Remember, this is just down the road from The Thing, so “desert mystery spots” and “see water run uphill” are not likely to be good attractions. It’s a ways from Spaceport America but that might have some kind of rocket scientist tie-in, though TorC is more likely to cash in there. How do you give a transfusion to a dying frontier town?

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