In 2013 I decided I needed a fictional city. Many of my stories take place in Tampa (or somewhere in Florida) just because I know the layout. I know how long it takes to get to the beach, what the patrol cars look like, how diverse the population is, and other little details that sometimes pop up in a story.
But for the urban fantasy story I was working on I wanted a fake town.
“Aha! Why not a fake universe?” I thought. “I should have my own universe where I can set multiple stories.”
And so, Abdera, Florida was born.
Among the classical Greeks, Abdera was the de facto city of nitwits. A shorthand for a comedic character was to say they were an Abderite. You might signal a joke by starting “In Abdera….” A current analog would be ‘hillbilly’ or (growing up in Texas), an ‘aggie’. (Ironically, Abdera was the real home of Democritus, “the laughing philosopher.”)
Abdera, Florida struck me as the perfect name for a city meant to be a little off-kilter, and full of ridiculous people.
Since then I’ve set four or five stories in Abdera, and at least one NaNoWriMo project.
A few days ago I realized that several stories I set in other locations could easily be moved to Abdera. Maybe I might even have enough for an entire collection!
I don’t. Not even close.
But in investigating this I re-read many of the stories I wrote in 2017 (the story-a-month year), and it turns out I enjoyed reading them. I can see from this distance how to make them better, and there are parts that hold up.
As I read them I realized one of the things missing from my creative endeavors lately has been a sense of play. This pre-dates the pandemic, and goes back to the growing work burnout I experienced in 2018-2019.
My current creative project definitely isn’t playful (near-future techno-thriller!), but since I’m making progress, I’m going to keep plugging away. But I’ve also started going through the stories that take place in Abdera (and the stories that CAN take place in Abdera) and cataloging all the names and locations. Now that I have these characters, it’s probably time to have them start running into each other in new stories. It’s time to put all that work into a blender, hit the pulse button, and see what sort of absurd concoction I can pour out.