In Nancy A. Collins' new novel, Right Hand Magic, a young, aspiring artist named Tate decides to relocate to New York City's supernatural ghetto, Golgotham. Located on the Lower East Side, Golgotham is home to countless creatures from myth and legend, including leprechauns, valkyries and werewolves. Its most prominent citizens, though, are the Kymera, a race of witches who have traditionally been hired by humans seeking charms and curses. Below, Nancy talks about the real-life inspiration for Golgotham.
I first got the idea of creating a supernatural neighborhood within New York City, comparable to such real-life ethnic neighborhoods as Harlem, Chinatown, Little Italy and Hell's Kitchen, back in early 1993, when I had to go to the Chinatown Post Office to pick up a package my mother had mailed me. I had recently moved from New Orleans to the East Village, on the knife-edge of Alphabet City. Since my neighborhood was relatively close to Chinatownand I needed the exerciseI decided to walk.
As I headed through Little Italy towards Canal, I discovered that it was Chinese New Year. There were paper lanterns hanging everywhere, incense burning in the open doorways, firecrackers going off, and people dressed as traditional Chinese dragons and fu-lions performing acrobatics in the streets. It was as if by simply crossing the street I had stepped into a completely alien world, where the language, food, and customs were totally different from my own, yet at the same time vaguely familiar thanks to movies and books. This city-within-a-city feeling was reinforced when I finally made it to the post office and found three separate service lines: Mandarin, Cantonese and English. English was the shortest line, of course, but it didn't mean I got served any faster. It was still the Post Office, after all.
Although I have small-town roots, I have lived in some of the largest cities in this country, often in neighborhoods notorious for being eccentric, lively, and more than a little dangerous. I have used elements from three of these places I once called homethe French Quarter of New Orleans, New York City's East Village, and Atlanta's Little Five Pointsto create the fictional neighborhood of Golgotham on display in Right Hand Magic. The Golgotham series is a love letter, of sorts, to the old school neighborhoodthe kind where you could walk to the post office, the bank, and the grocerywhich is, in this day and age of suburban isolationism, if not dying, then seriously endangered.
During the 18 years since I walked to the Chinatown Post Office and found myself transported halfway across the world simply by crossing the street, I've tinkered with the idea of Golgotham off and on, with a couple of false starts along the way. But for all of that, it's only been in the last year or so that Golgotham has reached its full blossom within my imagination. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much is contained within its boundaries, as each day I discover something new about the neighborhood and those who call it home. Sometimes it feels not like I'm making things up, but that I'm serving as some kind of weird conduit for their tourism board.
For those of you interested in finding out what Golgotham has to offer its visitors, I recommend checking out the tourism website created by the Golgotham Business Owners Organization (GoBOO): golgothamonline.com.