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“In a world where cities are personified and history hollows out their bones. What started with Paris Burning is now blazing out of control. Do not expect a happy ending.”
- caption on thecitysmith’s blog
is a Les Misérables
fanfic written by thecitysmith. It imagines a universe in which all cities with a sufficient population and sense of group identity have near-immortal anthropomorphic personifications. Grantaire is the personification of Paris, driven by the accumulated trauma and bitterness of his long life to flee from his role as City and distract himself with drink. The fanfic became the seed for an expansive worldbuilding project by thecitysmith and fans of the story, involving headcanons about numerous Cities throughout the world and a plot dealing with the intense politics amongst Cities, the increasingly fraught relationship between the Cities and humankind, an uprising of vengeful Lost Cities, and an Eldritch Abomination
or five.Paris Burning
can be read here
. The additional worldbuilding can be explored on thecitysmith’s blog
or in the Paris Burning tag
- Adorkable: Washington DC has a massive crush on Canberra and a tendency to pine in his diary.
- London takes on shades of this in her romance with Lisbon.
- Alternate Universe: Whilst obviously originally being a Les Mis AU, the City Verse is more of an AU of history itself.
- Always a Bigger Fish: What is Atlantis afraid of?
- Ambiguous Gender: Tokyo is referred to with “xe” pronouns.
- Ambiguously Human: Though Cities appear, for all intents and purposes, human, they are distinctly Other.
- And I Must Scream
- Atlantis inflicted this upon Roanoke after the latter refused to join the former's cause.
- Conversely, Atlantis also liberated Memphis (the ancient Egyptian city, not the current-day US city) from such a condition, after which Memphis was only too happy to join him.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: The Cities themselves.
- Arc Words: There are rather a lot of these.
- Related to Atlantis and the Lost Cities: "Atlantis lives", "there's something in the water and it knows your name", "singing in the deep"
- Related to the being in Antarctica: "join us", "(cold)" (yes, the parentheses are part of the arc word)
- Related the other Eldritch Abominations of the world: "praise them", "don't fall asleep"/"please wake up"
- Others: "Capitals are not kind", "the Cities are getting angry"
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Upon dying and/or losing their humans, if a City meets their fate with more love in their heart than hate, they may “Transcend” rather than becoming Lost. Not much information about Transcended Cities has been revealed, but they seem to have good intentions towards humankind.
- Assimilation Plot: The mysterious being in Antarctica appears to have this intention.
- Atlantis: A major plot element. The legendary disaster was caused by the City of Atlantis himself, who wanted to wipe out his humans in order to be free of their control. Having succeeded in this, he decided to share his newfound freedom with his fellow Cities… and if they didn’t want it, he would just have to force them to accept it for their own good.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Capital status is usually held by Cities who have won it in Silent Wars, which involve both social manipulation and combat. Part of the reason Planned Cities are frowned upon is because they attain authority without earning it through asskicking.
- Bad Samaritan: Atlantis often positions himself to act as such to ghost Cities and others who seem close to the Despair Event Horizon, purporting to offer them power, the opportunity of vengeance, and a renewed sense of purpose in life as his followers. None of which he's actually lying about, but the agenda he asks them to serve is rather monstrous, and any City who refuses him had best be prepared to defend their decision with their life.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Cardiff is King Arthur.
- Big Bad: Atlantis, and possibly (probably) the Thing Under The Ice.
- Bloodbath Villain Origin: Atlantis, the victims of the bloodbath being his own humans.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Copenhagen.
- Break His Heart to Save Him: In order to maintain secrecy while infiltrating Atlantis' group, the members of Ocean's Eleven had to pretend to those outside the group that they were becoming Lost, thus breaking the hearts of their humans and their City friends and loved ones in order to help save the entire world.
- Cast Full of Gay: A good number of the featured Cities so far are decidedly Not Straight or Not Cis.
- The Cavalry: Arguably the team dubbed "Ocean's Eleven" - Alang note , Bacolod note , Portsmouth note , Galway note , Hamburg note , Seattle note , San Juan note , Cape Town note , Recife note and Maracaibo note , plus Fukushima note as Mission Control.
- The Corrupter: Atlantis.
- Crossover: thecitysmith and her followers sometimes engage in speculation about the Cities of other fictional universes. Examples may be found here.
- Deader than Dead: Death is a multi-layered affair for Cities. Usually, if a City's humanoid body is killed, their Healing Factor allows them to recover within a few days. A City can die permanently if the city they personify is totally destroyed or abandoned, if they suffer a bodily death in circumstances so traumatic that they don't want to recover, or if they stay outside the borders of their city for too long. In any case, a dead City continues to exist as a ghost and eventually passes through one of three "doors" that determine their future:
- If the City wishes to remain in the world in order to avenge their death or otherwise cause harm to the living, they become Lost.
- If the City wishes to remain in the world in order to help and protect the living, they Transcend.
- If the City wishes to leave the world behind altogether, they become capital-D Dead, which is implied to mean Cessation of Existence.
- Death by Despair: This befell Old Rome; the despair of knowing that her own ruler had deliberately set fire to her and that she would most likely die from it killed her before the actual fire did.
- Different World, Different Movies: Discussed here. It has also been established that Atlantis: The Lost Empire was never made in this universe, which is probably for the best.
- Downer Ending: Unsurprising, since it's based on Les Misérables, but it's still pretty upsetting.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Sometimes experienced by Cities. Several examples are described in Paris Burning, and it was a dream that lead Paris/Grantaire to find Enjolras and his group.
- Driven to Suicide: Pompeii threw herself into the volcano after a human lover died prematurely, causing the famous eruption. She is listed as one of the Lost Cities that Sing (Atlantis' faction) on thecitysmith's blog, so it seems that, surprisingly, she did not permanently die as intended.
- Drop the Hammer: York starts off carrying a normal hammer that he uses in his work as a blacksmith; by the time he's killed several other Cities during a Silent War, it's grown into a warhammer that's nearly 1.5m long with a particularly vicious spike out the back of the head.
- Dysfunction Junction: The lives of Cities are difficult, violent, and lonely. An entire cast of them pretty much inevitably falls into this.
- Eldritch Abomination: Several of these inhabit the Paris Burning ‘verse, the most prominent of which so far is the being in Antarctica. The tag on thecitysmith’s blog for posts about the Antarctic thing is “join us”; posts about other abominations are tagged “praise him" or “praise them”.
- Everyone Can See It: Berlin and Portsmouth. See also Open Secret and Everybody Knew Already.
- Evil Former Friend: Just about every Lost City is this to some surface-dwelling Cities. Notable examples include Atlantis to Athens, Ys as St. Malo's Evil Former Lover, and Paris to the French Cities.
- Eyepatch of Power: Lisbon.
- Fake Defector: The members of Ocean's Eleven.
- Fan Verse
- Fantastic Racism
- Many human cultures regard Cities with wariness and seek to control their activities, or expect them to be paragons of virtue and display perfect, selfless dedication to the needs of their inhabitants. Societies that simply treat Cities as people, without unique demands or responsibilities, are few and far between.
- On the flip side, Cities tend not to regard humans as equals, although most are kindly disposed at least towards their own citizens. At the extreme end of things, there's Atlantis' faction, who regard humans as the irredeemable tormentors and enslavers of Cities and intend to wipe us out.
- Within City culture, there's a prejudice against Planned Cities - those that were built as whole cities with a specific purpose rather than growing "naturally" from a small town.
- Belmopan, capital of Belize, is a Planned City who thinks she and those like her are superior to "natural-born" Cities, although she doesn't seem to bear any active ill intent towards them.
- Fighting Irish: Galway - with good reason.
- Gossipy Hens: All the Cities. Usually via text. Usually about Berlin and Portsmouth.
- Hazardous Water: Yeah, thanks for that, Atlantis.
- Healing Factor: All Cities are capable of quickly regenerating damaged body parts and reviving from lethal injuries. Capitals have a superior healing factor; while any City can recover from a temporary death within a few days, Capitals can heal instantly (unless the damage is caused by fire, to which all Cities are vulnerable). This is explained in greater detail on the blog here.
- Historical In-Joke: The premise is ripe for them.
- Humans Are Flawed
- I'm a Humanitarian: Atlantis and his allies took advantage of the Titanic disaster to grab a bite to eat. thecitysmith explains their motivation for this practice here.
- I'm Having Soul Pains: Cities suffer this when their humans suffer on a large scale, such as from a natural disaster, famine, or civil unrest.
- Immortality Hurts: Affects almost all Cities. Particularly applicable to those with human lovers.
- Kill All Humans: Atlantis’s goal.
- Kill It with Fire: The only certain way to permanently kill a City. Because of this, fire imagery, particularly burning buildings, is regarded in-universe as being equivalent to graphic gore.
- La Résistance: Les Amis and Ocean's Eleven.
- Lame Pun Reaction: During the introductory Ocean's Eleven story, an interesting variation, made possible by immortality and the legacy of British imperialism, occurs:
"I’m just saying," Seattle held up his hands. "We’re working in the Atlantic Ocean. There are Eleven of us. Clearly, we should be Ocean’s Eleven."
There was a chorus of groans. Alang punched Portsmouth’s arm.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"Your language. Your fault I can understand that pun."
"Fair enough," Portsmouth rubbed his arm.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Love at First Sight: Berlin for Portsmouth and London for Lisbon.
- Love Redeems
- Bath seems to be hoping to deliberately enact this trope. Plymouth objects.
- Also discussed (in the tags) here.
- Magnificent Bastard: In-Universe example: London admired Henry V because she saw him as being one of these, and aspires to emulate his ruthlessness and political skills.
- Mayfly-December Romance: Human-City romances invariably fall into this. Cities are said to prefer human partners who have established themselves as leaders or public figures of some sort, so that after the human shuffles off this mortal coil, the City will not be the only one to remember and admire their former partner.
- Minion Shipping: Dresden and Rungholt, Lost Cities in love.
- Mysterious Antarctica: you want to know about us? come visit! :):)):))):) join us! :)):))::):))))
- The Napoleon: London, ironically enough.
- Nations as People: Cities, rather, but still under the general "sociopolitical entities as people" qualification.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: Arguably applicable to Berlin and Portsmouth, in the Ocean's Eleven part of their story. Though Berlin's subsequent actions probably could not be called 'brooding'.
- Not Brainwashed: "Galway refuses to believe [Waterford] became Lost willingly. He’s wrong."
- Playful Hacker: Hong Kong.
- Psychic Link: Cities are linked to their inhabitants. This leads to some troubling questions of free will, as Cities are highly susceptible to having their beliefs and opinions shaped by those of the majority of their people. The link goes both ways; a City’s emotional state may influence their people’s moods or dreams, and when a City is attacked their people may experience a psychic compulsion to protect or avenge them.
- Queer Romance: And lots of it!
- Really 700 Years Old: Almost all of the Cities.
- Real Person Fic: Exists in-universe, to mixed reactions from those Cities who are aware of it.
- Scars Are Forever: Cities, despite their Healing Factor, can acquire permanent scars from events of particular emotional weight or historical significance. Scars may come from an injury to the City's human body or be symbolic of damage to the buildings or inhabitants of the physical city.
- Seeing Through Anothers Eyes: Cities can see through their peoples’ eyes if they concentrate.
- Secret Keeper
- London keeps the secret that Paris is still alive after the events of Paris Burning.
- Other than Fukushima, who organized Ocean's Eleven, and the ten Cities actually going into the water, the nature of the mission is known only to Annapolis, Cairo, and Hong Kong (and probably the Internet, though Fukushima may not be aware of this).
- Species Loyalty: While Cities may fight amongst themselves for territory or Capitalhood, they all share a sense of solidarity in the face of the unique hardships and complexities of life as a City. There's a bit of a double standard arising from this: City-on-City violence in some circumstances is accepted as a fact of life, but any human who deliberately harms a City in any way is likely to face swift and violent retribution from fellow Cities.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You
- Time Abyss: Emphasized with the earliest African Cities.
- Too Many Mouths: The Antarctic thing’s text messages often include smiley faces with two or more mouths :)) Some of them also have too many eyes.
- Treachery Cover Up: After Atlantis' first war on humanity ended, the Cities who defeated him destroyed all records of the war and forbade any information about it from being shared with humans, presumably to prevent future human generations from judging all Cities by Atlantis' madness.
- Turn the Other Cheek: Living out this trope is how Jerusalem copes with all the centuries’ worth of violence she has endured.
- Unfortunate Names: It’s been indicated that a couple of American Cities whose names sound like “Atlantis”, namely Atlantic City, New Jersey and Atlanta, Georgia, might be more susceptible to his influence than others.
- The Unintelligible: Aberdeen.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Atlantis intends to create a utopia for Cities.
- Violent Glaswegian: Uh...Glasgow. Subverted in that whilst he is Scotland's strongest fighter, he does it mainly because he likes to win.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Atlantis, making war so that his kind might live in peace and brainwashing his opponents in the name of freedom since at least 360 BCE.
- What Could Have Been: Alternate endings to Paris Burning, most of which are at least as sad as the canonical ending.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Debate over what political and social rights Cities are entitled to, whether or not they have souls, and what their role in society ought to be has persisted throughout human history. Human attitudes towards seem to have grown more restrictive and demanding over time, and the growing frustration of many Cities with this issue is central to the narrative.
- Who Shot JFK?: A City (implied to be Washington DC) did the deed, apparently to prevent the administration from implementing some policy that would have been detrimental to the welfare of the US Cities.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Some of the Lost Cities, with the tragedies that drove them into despair and hatred, could qualify for this. El Dorado, Knossos, and Pompeii come to mind.