It had to happen sooner or later . . . someone in the real Bixby, Oklahoma has read Midnighters. Erp.
Her email begins: “Imagine my surprise . . . ” Well, yes, I sort of can. I knew this moment would come, after all. Writers often worry about what their family or friends will think about what they write. But in this case, I was making crazy claims about a whole town and its supernatural underbelly. A town with 13,000 people in itâ€”small enough to be annoyed at any perceived insults, but still big enough to kick my ass.
My Bixbyite continues: “I go to Bixby Public High School. A place I would only send my hated enemies. I was just wondering… have you ever actually stepped into the halls of BHS? its not as bright as you’ve written. even if you have been to Bixby it must have been quite some time ago. the school is dark and cave-like. still a maze.”
Cool image. But yeah, that’s not quite how it appears in the first chapter of Book 1. Which brings us to an interesting question. Have I, Scott Westerfeld, ever been to Bixby?
Let’s see, ummmm . . . no. I mean, I grew up in Texas and have driven through Oklahoma, even camped there once. I know what a snake pit looks like. And one intrepid Midnighters fan went on an exploratory mission this last Spring Break, and took some photos and stuff. But research? Moi?
You see, if I actually went to Bixby, then I’d be all hemmed in by reality. And effort.
The Girl from Bixby has another good question: “I wanted to know why, exactly, did you choose Bixby? not many would give the place a second glance. . . . we’ve always assumed zombies lived under the school or that the principal was really a gnome (he’s too short to be human, I swear) or that not everyone was human. That ‘not everyone’ including me. ^_^”
NOW we’re talking: Zombies! Under! The! School! (I knew I should have Googled.)
So how did I know about the weirdness of Bixby, you might ask? Well, I could say that ALL small towns are weird. But that would be lame. Instead, let me describe my scientific approach: I looked at a map and found the spot at 36N, 96W, both multiples of 12. The two closest towns were called Bixby and Broken Arrow. Broken Arrow has a cooler name, but then I realized that “B-i-x-b-y O-k-l-a-h-o-m-a” has exactly thirteen letters. Clearly, I was on to something.
I was, however, exhausted by my efforts. From then on out, I stuck to using memories of the Texas badlands along with the odd dash of imagination. Didn’t even Google the place, which is why I just found out a month ago that the population is 13,000. (Not subterranean-zombies-level spooky, but still cool.)
Fortunately, my Bixby correspondent isn’t sweating the details. She ends with: “it gives the place a new element, I must admit. Bixby is still crazy boring but… not quite so much anymore. . . . little amusements like that to liven up the place. thank you for adding to my own version of Bixby lore with your Midnighter books.”
You’re a sweetheart. Thanks back at you for writing, and for not busting my chops for all the other details I probably got wrong.
And here’s my question to you, Dear Bixbyite: Are you going to tell everyone about the Midnighters books? Or keep them a secret among a few choice friends, like the blue time itself?