Friday, March 11, 2011

The Institute for Advanced Computing

University Buildings in Goettingen, Germany

Was I ever relieved when a check of the Göttingen phone directory didn't turn up any computer institutes connected with the university, freeing me up to invent one. I modeled mine on the gray building in the foreground, typical of many of the older university buildings.  Bet you didn't know that the Brothers Grimm of fairy tale fame were protesters at the university way back when.  Below is the description when Emma sees her "home away from home" for the first time.

            Wayne and I had heard about this Institute for so long that it had the mythic aura of a technical Valhalla where cyber gods programmed the universe. Our taxi hit all the green lights along the Bürgerstrasse, then turned into a long driveway and stopped. A light drizzle was falling on Göttingen, and everything looked gray, especially the old tree-shrouded, limestone buildings of the university.  The university wasn't confined to a campus, but scattered all over town. Signs pointed visitors to the nearby Mathematics and Physical Institutes. Franz paid the driver, and the three of us approached the Institute along a sidewalk of gray paving bricks. Our new home away from home had three stories, with a newer white stucco addition on the side. Franz translated the inscription on the brass plaque by the entrance: “Institute for Advanced Computing.”
            In the foyer, unfurled umbrellas stood drying. A few marble steps led down to a cellar and others up to the ground floor. Wayne and I followed Franz up the stairs. The building emitted an odor recognizable anywhere. Academe. Chalk, dust, floor wax and fusty classrooms. Franz opened a heavy wooden door; we crossed a wide hall and entered a large room cluttered with desks, chairs, CRT's, shelves crammed with binders, all old-fashioned and low tech. Along the windows on the back wall furiously blooming red geraniums trailed over the big wide sills.

Many scenes in The Shadow Warriors are set in the town and the Institute.  I wish that "Warriors" was for sale on, but it's not.  Sigh.  Guess the English speaking world (US and UK) will be the only readers for the time being.  

Monday, March 7, 2011

The University town of Göttingen and The Shadow Warriors

Frau Eisenach, a character in The Shadow Warriors, lives on Geiststrasse, or Ghost Street. She is an old lady in a house dress who wears carpet slippers because of a painful bunion, but she is good to my main character who stops by to visit (and to eat) every now and then. Frau Eisenach cooks up a skillet of "hoppel-poppel", bacon, egg, onion,  boiled potatoes and tomatoes fried together.  An easy, delicious supper, by the way.  The University town of Goettingen is the setting for most of the scenes of The Shadow Warriors.  I made up the "Institute for Advanced Computing," but it was based on a real building.  Over the years, what is real and what I made up have sort of merged together.   Totally weird.

My inlaws lived in the town for years and I visited often, until it was easy to write about.  When I wrote the protest march scene and others I went to the library and found the microfilm of some of the events.  My nephew took me pub-hopping and several scenes resulted from that evening.   It was really fun to put my characters into the scenes and see what they would do. 

In the next post, I'll confess how I found many of my local characters.  

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Here is where the good Frau Eisenach lived.