The DMV In Speculative Fiction

Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia have rich histories, interesting people, and lots of weird nooks and crannies that make a great setting for a story. Panelists discuss their favorite books set in the DMV and the fun and frustrations of setting stories in and around the nation’s capital.

The panelists for the titular panel at CapClave 2022 were as follows: Brick Barrientos, Jean Marie Ward, Martin Berman-Gorvine, Randee Dawn, and T. C. Weber.

What are some of the best places in the DMV – the DC Metro area?

  • Chincoteague and Assateague — When Martin Berman-Gorvine was 11, his Philadelphian class took a field trip to Wallops Island museum and he enjoyed the wild ponies, learning the local legends about the Spanish Galleon Crash, and more.
  • Hagerstown – the Shadow Oaks community where Randee Dawn was raised was effectively a soap opera town. Maryland gets so overlooked unless people are dealing with government conspiracies. But, writing in Maryland opens things up, because the readers come in with no expectations.
  • West Baltimore – Ted Weber gets to use his familiarity with the area to add veritas to his cyberpunk settings.
  • DC’s Air & Space Museum, Monuments, Goddard Space Center – It’s the most science fiction place!
  • The White City in the swamp
  • DC’s Library of Congress’s Peacock Room, with the haunted statues.
  • Alexandria (a DC suburb) – as an analogy to Bath, England. See: Haunted
  • Georgetown – The Exorcist was filmed there.

Books that feature the DMV

Pet Peeves — The Media Gets It Wrong

  • “The 66” or “The 95” – We don’t say “the” here for the numbered roads, just “The Beltway”, which is 495, and loops DC
  • House of Cards is filmed in Baltimore or Annapolis but posits it’s set in DC
  • Many have the characters basically teleport from one location to the other side of The Beltway
  • X-Files…

Greatest Joy and Frustrations Living in the DMV

  • Assateague Barrier Island — Mostly Maryland, partially in Virginia, it’s a very liminal space, both with political borders, and water to land. Towns that have come and gone.
  • Goddard and Wallops Islands
  • It’s fun to write suburbia with actual callbacks
  • DC is always changing — so fast! (New roads, construction, etc)

If you’re from the DMV, what are your pet peeves?

Got any book recommendations for me?


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