Yesterday, Jill Roberts from Tachyon sent me Paul Di Filippo's introduction to my story collection. It's a lovely introduction, full of graceful compliments and flattering comparisons to writers people have actually heard of (Sturgeon! Bradbury! Emshwiller! Chiang!), and I'm very happy with it.
But Paul did make one big mistake. Describing my story "Going After Bobo," which takes place in Reno, he said that the story was set in Las Vegas.
This error makes Renoites see red. (It's red neon, of course, but it's still red.)
Reno is not Las Vegas. It's not a suburb of Las Vegas. It's not anywhere near Las Vegas. It's three-hundred-plus miles north and four thousand feet higher. Look at the map above. Starting at the top left corner, go down the western border of Nevada until it bends. Right above that bend, you'll find Reno.
Now continue following the western border until you're almost at the bottom of the state. Vegas is way down there, see? Confusing Reno with Vegas is very much like confusing San Francisco with Los Angeles: the cities are about the same distance apart, and have some other rough similarities, too. Compared with their southern counterparts, Reno and San Francisco are both much smaller and prettier. Vegas and Los Angeles specialize in bewildering size and sprawl.
Because Vegas and Reno are the main urban centers in Nevada, there's always been competition between them for money, resources, and respect. Las Vegas residents think bigger is better. Reno residents disagree.
Las Vegas is hotter than blazes all year round. Reno has seasons, including snow. This is ski country. We're in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, an hour from Tahoe. After the first Reno snowfall of the season, I can always spot the UNR freshfolk from Vegas. They're the ones wearing shorts, flip-flops, and stunned expressions.
Note: Nevada is the driest state in the country, with an average annual precipitation of seven inches. I don't think Vegas sees any of that.
Las Vegas, of course, has the Strip. I happen to be very fond of the Strip, which can't be matched for sheer audacity, tackiness and ostentation. You have to love a place so willing to wear its bad taste on its sleeve. At least for short periods, I find the Strip exhilarating, like some surreal theme park for grown-ups. Although I don't gamble, my sister and I once went on a thoroughly satisfying shopping trip in the Venetian Grand Canal, an indoor mall with very classy shops, not to mention an actual canal complete with gondolas -- which you have to pay to ride, of course -- and gondoliers singing arias from Italian opera.
Reno doesn't have the Strip, but that's okay, because if there were more than one Strip on the planet, the entire universe would go into overload and self-destruct, exterminating all life as we know it. Reno has a much smaller collection of much grubbier casinos, which are prettiest at night. For my Reno-native take on casinos and gambling, see this post. The second half of this post covers health tips for casino visits, based on cases I've seen in the ER. I'm sure these points hold true for Vegas casinos, too.
So we don't have the Strip, but we do have the Truckee River, Tahoe, and Pyramid Lake. Rand McNally's Vacation Places rated us the #1 place in the country for outdoor sports. There are also outdoor sports in Vegas, but they need to be approached very cautiously, because if you go outside in Vegas during daylight, you'll get heatstroke and die. Vegas specializes in outdoor sports for vampires.
Are you now convinced that we're talking about two different cities here? I hope so, because then maybe you won't make these blunders:
1. The tactless comment of a visiting Famous Writer who asked me the difference between Vegas and Reno and then, after I'd answered, said, "Oh, so Reno's the podunk version of Vegas?" Response: No, Reno's the smaller, more civilized version of Vegas. My husband Gary calls Reno "the Paris of northwest Nevada."
2. The destination-goof made by some visiting friends of friends, who called their hosts and said, "We decided to fly into Vegas instead of Reno, because it was cheaper; can you come pick us up?" Reponse: Sure. We'll be there in eight hours.
And while I'm on the subject of misunderstandings about Nevada, here are some others: Yes, we have legal prostitution, but only in rural counties, not in Reno or Vegas (where I'm sure there's still plenty of illegal prostitution). No, the word Nevada is not pronounced "Nevahda." The "a" sounds like the "a" in Dad. (For that matter, the "a" in Palwick is pronounced the same way, although people keep pronouncing it Pahlwick.) Nevadans get grumpy when people say the name of our state wrong. And no, Nevada isn't a vast stretch of flat sand punctuated by cacti. We happen to be the most mountainous state in the country. Peruse the topographic map below; then go read John McPhee's Basin and Range.