This Place Is a Message: A Spatial Reading of Las Vegas, Nevada in Speculative Fiction
Las Vegas, Nevada, a city of desert and sin, is a site for speculation. The well-known mantra “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” perpetuates the legend of a city of big wins, booze, and good times, encouraging tourists to speculate how they would take advantage of legalized gambling, lavish casino lifestyles, strip clubs, and the city’s promise of discretion. Performers offer tourists a speculative peek into a world where magic could exist and make the impossible happen. Las Vegas as a site for speculative landscapes produces texts engaged with both the cityscape of Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert. Some attempt to peer into futures to predict what Sin City will look like; others imagine alternate presents where magic and illusion exists in a city that claims to make one’s problems disappear. How do storytellers represent and speculate Las Vegas in their work? In reading and writing about the two texts this project focuses on—The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay and Fallout: New Vegas, a video game developed by Obsidian Entertainment—layers are a way of breaking down an extensive landscape to its parts while recognizing the whole. By using the palimpsest, I argue that Las Vegas through the Strip operates as a unique kind of palimpsest because of the way the Strip evokes past versions of itself through memory, represents other cities in its attractions, and blurs the line between reality and fantasy. I also highlight the way Fallout: New Vegas, set in a future post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, represents imperialism and its narratives of progress as identifiable layers in the landscape, as opposed to the totalizing reality imperialism purports itself to be. This thesis argues that these works, by grounding their stories in speculated landscapes of Las Vegas, expand Las Vegas beyond its stereotype as Sin City. What appears superficial about Vegas only covers a history of those subsumed by American imperialism.
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