What's Real?

Originally Posted

I'm adding this as a prelude to another post I am going to do in the very near future. I've been chewing on what might be the best way to add some fine print to this blog. Not my fine print, but, basically, credits; a place where I can give proper credit where credit is due in regards to the various pieces and parts of information and media that I assemble in order to create the mythical town of Carbon Harbor. It seems to me that it makes the most sense to simply just use the regular posting method of this blog in order to do that. So, this is not that post, but I'm going to simply create a "Fine Print" post that eventually will become buried in the archives of this blog, but that I can constantly go back and update when I need to and simply provide a permanent link to that post as being the rest of the fine print. Make sense?

Carbon Harbor is a mythical place, created out of an assembly of real places, real images from those real places, real facts about those and other places and then all blended together with a heapin' helpin' of fiction.

In an early treatment for Carbon Harbor, I described it as "A Fantasy Based on Some Cold Wet Facts." Actually I said, "Cold HardFacts," but it occurred to me just now that Wet was more appropriate. Anyway, that's what it is. It's fantasy, but one small part of it is very fat, juicy and God's honest truth -- at least it is well documented as being so.

Now, I've learned, mostly through others, that there are big traps you can fall into if you want to write something based on a true story. One of them is fairly well understood, that truth is quite often stranger than fiction. In other words, you can stick to all of the facts and still come up with something that is entirely unbelievable to the extent that nobody cares if it's true. They just won't buy it. If you're somewhat flexible you can indulge in some creative license, but then you get beat up by those who know that it just didn't really happen that way. On the flip side of that, you might find yourself coming up with a really great idea, but find yourself unable to use it because it offends your own fidelity to the facts.

Whether or not anyone finds my story interesting, I think I've managed to avoid at least the above mentioned traps because I decided at the outset to attempt to write a compelling piece of fiction, that just happens to contain a factual basis at its very core. Hopefully, some will get to those facts and say, "Holy crap! I didn't know that! Is that true? Wow!" If so, I'll be happy to be able to say, "Absolutely! You can look it up." However, even if a reader/viewer were to say, "That's total crap. That never could have happened," then I hope they can at least add to that, "but it is a good story, though." I'll accept either of those reactions. My worst fear would be if the story made the reader/viewer think, "This is total bullshit! I hate revisionist lies!"

So, what does this have to do with Carbon Harbor? It's this: Carbon Harbor, the story and screenplay, is based on what a real town in the USA actually sold and shipped to a particular country at a really inappropriate and inopportune time, for which the rest of the country payed dearly for. It's all based on what amounted to a single sentence I read in one book and about a paragraph or page or two I read in another. The fact, if it is a fact, and I have researched it enough to believe that it is a fact, took my breath away when I first read it. Now, we live in an age where we are jaded by the Washington/Business Sector scandal of the week. Yet, even some of the most jaded by these scandals seem also to still be naive enough to believe that Watergate was the scandal that started them all. Not so, dear readers. I don't think I am that jaded or that naive, yet when I came across this fat, juicy factoid I couldn't hardly believe it. It wasn't just that it seemed highly scandalous, particularly for its day, but I was fairly familiar with the real town involved, and I just couldn't conceive of them ever having shipped anything to any country, friend or foe. For starters, it is an incredibly tiny little town, but, more importantly, I had been there numerous times and believed that I had seen all that it is or ever had been capable of, by virtue of its very small footprint. Mainly, I saw no evidence, present or past, of its having anything like a shipping port.

However, after lots of research I was 99% a believer, but I still wanted to go back to this town and take another look. When I got there I was quickly reminded that there is a section of town with a fence and a "No Trespassing" sign. So, I trespassed and went exploring. Wow! I found the old docks. They had been entirely bulldozed and pulverized into landfill, but I could still find all kinds of loose pieces of evidence, such as old, rusty tools, light fixtures and markings in cobblestone, and I could easily still see the remnants of old, burned out piers submerged under the water, close to the shore. It is, of course, entirely possible that this scrap heap was simply a victim of "modern progress," since we don't generally export things like we used to. On the other hand, if someone had intended to literally coverup and destroy evidence of these docks, then I can't imagine it looking any different than what I saw. Bottom line, my belief meter hit 100%.

As I got to wondering how all of this little piece of dark history might have played out, I kept coming back to the fact that I knew this town, to a certain extent, though I had never heard or read any of this history when I was there. I figured that the people who still live there either just plain don't know or remember anything about it or, since the historical facts are not of the variety that you would brag about, they just keep quiet about them. The simple question that my mind kept asking was, "What were these people thinking?" Having no answers to that I decided to make one up. Thus, the overwhelmingly fictional aspect of my story of Carbon Harbor.

So, Carbon Harbor is a fictional name of a very real town. Partly because I like it better than the real name, but also because I have no intention on going out of my way to embarrass or point the finger at a whole town. To me, that just isn't the point. Now, I have combined photos and maps of the real town along with another real town, Dutch Harbor, in Alaska, to create the ideally beautiful place I call Carbon Harbor, but it should be clear that Dutch Harbor had nothing to do with any of the facts behind my story. It's just a very pretty town, and people like taking pictures of it, and I have found so many of those pictures on the internet that I can nearly show the entire town from almost any angle.

For the visible, historical aspects of Carbon Harbor, I have been able to find lots of pictures from the California Online Archives, particularly of the Longshoremen's Strike of the 1930s. These are great pictures and there are lots of them, showing all kinds of images of men on shipping docks, piers, old businesses, court rooms, etc., and they all fit right in to the faux history of my mythical town of Carbon Harbor. When I finally get around to my Fine Print post, I will post more info about these.

I have created all of the characters of Carbon Harbor out of whole cloth. None of them are based on any real people, but some of them do work for a real company. That real company really did, from a real location in the USA, export oil to the Japanese as late as the Spring of 1941, after FDR had already imposed an embargo on such exports. And the last oil tanker from Japan to come into those ports for a final shipment of oil, also turned out to be the flagship tanker that provided fuel for the Japanese in the attacks on December 7th, 1941.

And that last paragraph is the nut of Carbon Harbor. That's what happened, but I'm making it all up insofar as how it all played out, who did it and how they might have felt about it afterwards. So, by the way, let me warn any students out there that might ever come across this blog during a fact search for a term paper. There's a lot of real stuff here, but it's all mixed in with pure fiction, so think twice before you copy-and-paste anything or you might make a fool out of yourself.

Original Author
Austin Cates Arrives at the Courthouse
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Chic's Dilemma
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Random Carbon