My muse on this project has been my friend Magdalene Veen, singer and bellydancer with the band Abney Park. In her work with the band, and in various of her other secret identities, she has a uniquely retro vision of science fiction. It was her look that gave me the visual hook for IGNITION CITY. The flight helmet.
(Our mutual friend Zoetica Ebb rocks a flight helmet too, as seen in her Mercury Vagabond shoot with Vladimir Perlovich, but the end result has a forbidding chill that I decided to avoid. Too knowingly 21C. Also, Zoe is unmistakably Russian, and I knew I wanted an American girl as a lead. Also also, I didn’t want anyone to have anything in common with the Russian character I already have in the settlement, poor old Yuri.)
There’s a perfect fusion about Magdalene’s look here — antiquitous yet timeless. There’s 18th and 19th centuries in there, and also the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s. An ideal figure for a story that mixes and matches times and fictions (IC opens in a 1959 Berlin that looks like Lang’s METROPOLIS, but also contains the concrete modernism of Tegel Airport).
She even named the protagonist’s beautiful lost rocketship, The Perpetual Teatime. Which has just the right surrealist storybook quality for me.
Magdalene sends me one-line non-sequitur Onoesque notes every day, about being an asteroid gypsy, a Kuiper Bedouin.
The flight helmet speaks to American pulp sf, evokes the beautiful lost word “aviatrix”, summons early Russian film (in his short ode to Russian sf, THE HEART OF THE WORLD, Guy Maddin has his scientist heroine wear a flight helmet, because it simply had to be done)…it was the key to Mary Raven, the protagonist.
(Mary was the most popular name for baby girls in 1930s America.)
And so we meet Mary Raven in 1959 Berlin, talking to Lionel Crabb in the bar of the Explorer’s Club — and I need the German term for “The Explorer’s Club,” please — when a telegram from New York City arrives for her…