Metaphor, arguably, is the basic ingredient of culture. Metaphor rationalizes reality by defining it through abstraction, and through abstraction deepens experience and shapes understanding. Abstraction requires engaged perception. Hearing a metaphor is like breathing through your nose: you can’t help but smell the air. To have a living culture, we must actively negotiate the differences in our perceptions. Metaphor provides a conversational approach to negotiate our differences.
Central City represents American culture’s family tree. Planted in the early nineteenth century, Central City sprang from the seed of a ritual sacrifice, sprouted into a sapling of civilization amidst the brush of wilderness, blossomed into an epicenter of industry and manufacturing only to bend beneath the winds of volatile markets and even more volatile politics.
A version of the Central City metaphor appears throughout popular discourse. Politicians point to urban crime, fictional or not, as evidence of the efficacy of their opinions. Activists argue for perpetual improvement through their cause. Movies and popular music depict city life as a gangster’s paradise, a hedonist’s hellscape, or the place where traditional values die dirty deaths. Many of these examples contain a kernel of truth; none contain the whole truth of any city or of American culture.
The city, any city with which we have a relationship, exists in our imaginations as a reflection of ourselves and our community, or perhaps as we wish to see ourselves. We project upon the city our sense of identity and our perceptions of others. Central City, in contrast, isn’t about how we perceive ourselves. It’s about the act of perception itself. Central City is a metaphor for American culture’s family tree, which is a metaphor for historical relationships as understood in the present. We perceive the currents of our past in ways that justify our present, and we shade our present understanding to illustrate our justifications.
The Central City series of novels uses stories of crime and mystery, set in the past, to explore the city as metaphor, to examine how we talk about ourselves, how we understand our motivations, and how our culture functions in daily life.